To Rule as Jesus

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  January 18, 2014

            Things had started out looking impressive. The popularity of the ministry had been gaining, sufficient money was coming in to support the evangelistic efforts of the team, and everyone’s enthusiastic energy for the mission was at an all-time high. That was before the teacher’s tone shifted. Where he once preached about life and blessing, now his tone was turning to death, suffering, and betrayal.
            Understandably, people began to get a little nervous. Some simply fell away and returned to their old, familiar, and comfortable ways of understanding the faith. Others became entrenched in their support for the ministry, but the fears they felt were beginning to show through. Change is always hard on any group, this small ministry team was no different.
            Amid the chaos and change, one woman felt the need to take some proactive steps and secure the future for her and her children so she approached the teacher with a simple and direct request. In affirming her continued belief in the ministry and support for his cause, she first affirmed that the teacher would prevail. She believed, in all her heart, they were on the right side of the times and then looked to assert her confidence for the sake of those she loved. “Will you,” she inquired of the teacher, “promise me that when you rise to your full power and authority, you will let my two sons join with you in your royal power?” She wanted one to be at his right and the other at his left.
            At this the teacher was incredulous. Looking at her in a mix of disbelief and disgust, as well as his incredible love for her, the teacher told her that she had no idea what she was asking. More importantly, he was telling her and all the followers who were with him, the power she was seeking had nothing to do with the power he was offering.
            Jesus then reminded them of the incredible abuses of power that the gentiles had exercised over God’s people. Political power, the ability to use money, influence, and control to get things done, and the unrelenting authority of the sword were the means by which the Gentiles got things done—often to the detriment of those who followed him. “That is not my way,” the teacher essentially tells his followers. “You will receive my power but only through a life of service, sacrifice, and love.” He goes on to note that his power comes at a great cost and that it is not a price that many want to pay.
            The point that Jesus was making was that people tend to gravitate toward the power to rule, control, and dominate. We like the feeling of being in control and the relative sense of emotional assurance that comes from knowing that the world is going to be just as we can force it to be. Therefore, when conflict arises or divergent understandings of truth emerge, our natural tendency is to use the force of domineering power to control the outcomes.
            Certainty, Jesus had the power to control or force things into being. Even Satan, when tempting Jesus in the desert, recognized that the human side of the Messiah could possibly be tempted to tap into this power and therefore make stones into bread or force the angels to rescue him from death. Yet, even amid the desert beginnings of his earthly ministry, Jesus sought a different understanding of divine power—a Godly understanding of power.
            It is a vital message for all Christians when we feel compelled to force our ways on others or reach for earthly power to control the world and run it as we know God wants it to be run. It is very tempting and, to a certain degree, it is also very effective. Yet, it is not the way of Christ. Amid tumultuous times, the Gospel priority is for love, not control.