Perhaps also like many, I was disappointed with what I heard. Not only did the word “sorry” not feature at all in his six-minute speech, but there was a general air of bitterness and resentment at how (he felt) he had been unfairly treated by the Westminster “herd” – a phrase which many media outlets picked up and debated over the course of the day. One online publication summarised it this way:
“do not expect humility . . . He wants to ensure history blames “the herd” . . . not his own atrocious behaviour . . . he will no doubt present himself as . . . martyred by brutal bureaucrats.”
Whatever your views on Mr Johnson’s portrayal of himself, he is certainly not the first leader who comes to mind as persecuted by those around him. Perhaps the most well-known historical figure to endure such treatment is Jesus Christ. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and death clearly record that during His “trial” Jewish leaders stirred up the crowd to cry out for His execution (Matthew 27:15-26), an outcry entirely undeserved as He had been found not guilty by Pilate (John 18:28-40). Despite the injustice of the situation, Christ not only submits to it but on His way to be crucified and during His crucifixion twice calls out compassionately to those around Him rather than accuse them or defend Himself (Luke 23:26-34).
Yet it would be an incomplete account of Christ’s legacy if we assumed He was simply a victim of the herd who rejected Him and nothing more. His death was prophesied in the Bible in staggering detail many hundreds of years before His birth (Isaiah 53), and the manner of it was alluded to long before crucifixion had been introduced as a form of capital punishment (Psalm 22:14). Prior to His death, He Himself told His followers:
“No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again” (John 10:18 NLT).
And, to the Roman governor presiding over His trial, He explained:
“You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above” (John 19:11 NLT).
Christ’s death was not that of a helpless victim but that of a willing sacrifice; His life was given up in response to the will of God, not the wiles of men. We humans had been separated from God by our failure to come up to God’s perfect standard (the Bible calls that failure sin), with no way to redeem ourselves. Christ paid the necessary price for us by bearing God’s judgement, dying in our place and rising again to an endless life.
We face uncertain times ahead in this country as we look for a new leader. Inevitably, though, whoever is chosen will be a flawed individual, as we all are, and will eventually fall victim to their own failings. In stark contrast, the man Christ Jesus is one who never fails, one who can and will fulfil all His promises, one who can save you from your sins, reconcile you to God and lead you faithfully through this life. Far from being a victim, He is a victor, and so too are those who trust in Him for salvation. They can say:
“overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us . . . neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow . . . indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39 NLT).