There are two ultimate questions that I believe all leaders need to answer. Two questions that we must confront and wrestle with. Two questions…and Jesus asks them both.
“But, who do you say that I am?”
The question “Who is Jesus?” is one that we can be tempted to let others answer. We can be tempted to let tradition, culture, our church, our small group, and even our family answer. In fact, Jesus does just this in Mark 8:29 when he asks Peter, “But, who do you say that I am?” A moment earlier Jesus asked, “‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’”
But a leader is not afforded these easy off ramps. No, a leader must answer for themselves. “But, who do you say that I am?” asks Jesus. He goes straight to the heart of Peter. He has heard what others have said, but he wants to know Peter’s answer. It is the same for us.
Every leader must answer because it is one we must all answer. This question is required of everyone in every generation. It is foundational because it is relational. If we are not in God’s family, if we do not see Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior…then we have no foundation for our leadership because we have no one calling us for it and commissioning us to it.
The truest leader is first a follower.
Anyone can ask “What do I want to do?” But leaders must ask “What have I been called and commissioned to do?”
Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.’ (Mark 8:29 ESV)
If we are to be servant leaders. If we are to be spiritual leaders…we must be followers first.
“Do you love me?”
The second question Jesus asks of us as leaders is, “Do you love me?”
Peter answered the first question correctly, but now Jesus is calling Peter to leadership and commissioning him to the work of leadership. And Jesus, three times asks a qualifying question that Peter must answers.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17 ESV)
Did you see it? Three times Jesus asks, “Do you love me.” Before Jesus gave Peter responsibility for leading, before Jesus commissioned Peter to the task He asks if Peter loves him. Jesus is clearly making the point that leadership begins with love.
It is much the same way when we look at the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. In Matthew 22 Jesus give us the Great Commandment.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV)
The foundation is love. Only after Jesus ensures the foundation of love is present does the command to lead the work “to come in the Great Commandment come. Jesus again, starts with love.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
The commissioning of leaders, the giving of authority to leaders to do the work of Jesus in Matthew 28 only follows the command to love in Matthew 22. Without the love of the Great Commandment there can be no leadership of the Great Commission.
Every leader must wrestle with and ultimately answer the two questions Jesus confronts us with. Who do we say Jesus is? Do we love Him? Only after we have answered the questions Jesus asks of us can we lead…and leadership begins with love.