An Easter Reflection for Leaders: Triumphant Entry and Sacrifice at the Cross

By Sosamma Samuel-Burnett, J.D.
Founder, G.L.O.B.A.L Justice

The week that stretches from Palm Sunday through Easter is the most significant week of the Christian’s year. Historically and spiritually, this week marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, His ultimate sacrifice at the cross, and eternal victory over death. While the theological and historical importance is apparent, these same events teach some marked lessons on leadership – through the example of Christ.

In one sense the triumphant entry is just that – Jesus enters Jerusalem as King and the throngs of people receive him with palm fronds and calls of Hosanna, traditional symbols to recognize the ruler. But Jesus’ entry was not about triumph in that moment. He did not make a glorified entrance into Jerusalem but rather a humble one. He could have rode in on a war horse indicating victory over his enemies. But instead He rode in on a donkey that reflected humility, and symbolically demonstrated a commitment to peace.

Jesus demonstrated a character and fortitude far beyond the narrative of the triumphant entry. His concern was for a higher cause than the circumstances at hand – He was not arriving as conqueror, but rather as Savior.

And while the people were welcoming Jesus like a king, He knew that his entry was about relinquishing that authority to the will of the government and the people, and ultimately to God’s will. The same adoring people a few days later would become the mob that would call for his crucifixion. And He knew that would be the case. Thus Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem was not as the victorious, powerful ruler, but rather as the sacrificial lamb. Jesus demonstrated a character and fortitude far beyond the narrative of the triumphant entry. His concern was for a higher cause than the circumstances at hand – He was not arriving as conqueror, but rather as Savior.

While the deep spiritual significance of Jesus’ experience and example leaves much to consider, Jesus’s triumphant entry also demonstrates important implications for leaders. When leaders are recognized and honored for their roles, they must understand the heavier weight of their responsibility. They need to understand that their arrival on the scene, their turn in the spotlight, requires a certain and informed humility. A leader must know that the same crowds that raise him/her up can also tear down. What matters most is that the leader is true to his/her mission and purpose, and alert and aware of the costs of that mission/purpose.

Transposing that lesson to a global context, we see a disturbing number of leaders in local, national, and international settings, in political, social and economic arenas, that make their triumphant entries on war horses. They are prepared to trample the enemy and ensure their victorious standing. They want the crowds, not for their accurate approval or disapproval, but rather for their skewed endorsement. While certain leaders may demonstrate humility and character, neither of those traits is generally lauded in the media or among the masses. Many leaders don’t step into the arena to be sacrificial about serving those who placed them there. Their entry is to draw attention to their own significance.

Global issues, however, require leaders that reflect the example of Christ. The kind of leadership it takes to stand up for the rights of those who are oppressed, downtrodden, struggling, requires a kind of humility that comes from a full awareness of the myriad of issues that they face. The kind of character that a leader must possess requires not only an ethical base but a spiritual one that centers, directs, and fortifies the leader’s reasons, approach, capacity, and ability to serve and solve issues of justice.

With approximately a dozen wars across the globe and several dozen more armed conflicts, with poverty and disparity heightening as the global population booms, with an increasingly secularized society that emphasizes ethical relativism, it is imperative that leaders who model Christ step forward and into the arena – whether that arena is government, education, business, advocacy, sciences, or arts.

The story of Christ’s triumphant entry, sacrifice and victory is intertwined with our own story. For global leaders, that story takes on a heightened importance. Victory over global issues and wrongs are addressed through sacrifice, not for our own sake but for others, and not by our own will but by His.