Isaiah 42: 1-9 is the Hebrew Text for this week in which we will celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. The passage from Isaiah speaks words of comfort to a people who had been exiled and promises a better day for them. The passage will also be important for Matthew as the words describe the type of leadership that Jesus will offer.
At first glance, the words from Isaiah draw me to thoughts of current presidential debates, caucuses and primaries. Candidates are going all out to try to convey the message that they are the right candidate for the job of President.
So that makes me wonder, what qualities do we look for in leadership? Is leadership (in a president, in a church, in a family) important to us?
William R. Long in his commentary The Baptism of Jesus describes leadership in terms of servant leadership and describes the passage from Isaiah as setting forth a "fourfold role of this servant: (1) he is inconspicuous; (2) he is gentle; (3) he perseveres, and (4) he triumphs.
What stands out to me in this list of servant leadership qualities, is gentleness. In a time when there is so very much violence in the world, what does it look like for a leader to be both strong and gentle?
Long continues: "How do reeds become crushed or oppressed? By the forces of nature and of people. Reeds become smashed because of storms and diseases, because of people stomping over them, because of inadequate nourishment. We are reeds, subject to the forces of life that we cannot control and that sometimes descend on us with frightening speed and mercilessness. And so, we live our lives in a crushed condition."
And so, perhaps, we are ready for a civic leader who is gentle is her or his leadership. And certainly we, like the people of Isaiah's time...like the people of Jesus' time long for gentleness when we feel like crushed reeds. God, in Christ, will prove to be both a strong and gentle leader for all.