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  • Writer's pictureDavid Shipley

All that Power

Before Jesus is King, Power was the only Kanye West song I was familiar with.

At the time of my first introduction to Kanye, the online game of choice among my friend group was Conquer Club, an online platform for the game of Risk. During one game, a member of our group rose to power quickly. Naturally, we responded by focusing our attack turns on him. In exasperation, the now powerless victim-friend posted Kanye's Power music video in the group chat as an ode to what Risk has done to friend groups for the last sixty-plus years. As Kayne declares: “No one man can have all that power.”

The idea of voluntarily giving up one's power, rather than amassing armies and defeating opponents, is, in a game like Risk, nonsense. It is as odd as seeing grade-school students refuse to argue over who is first in line. In games and in school, we don't trust anyone else to give us first place.

The truth is, building trust in relationships requires a giving up of power. Joshua 19 gives us a glimpse of giving up power as a display of trust.

In the Old Testament book of Joshua, in chapter 19, the tribes of ancient Israel line up to get their inheritance in the Promised Land. However, by the time Joshua's name is called, all the land has been promised.

This means the great warrior Joshua, Moses’ successor, did not say “I’m the leader, put me at the front of the line for my inheritance.” Joshua was first but became the last. He was the leader but allowed himself to be treated like a servant. For all his victories, he still placed his faith and trust in his God.

This is the image of Jesus during the Lord’s Supper just before His trial and crucifixion.

The world’s Messiah, the great Teacher, washed the dirty feet of His disciples. Jesus' actions declared: “I’m the leader, put me in the position of service so I can know my people and see to their care.”

One of the challenges of leadership is losing touch with the people you lead. The more power you have to effect change, the more distance you find between you and those with less power. The servant leadership of Jesus closes that distance. He exercises His power to care for His disciples where they are dirtiest. He knows them down to the scars and blisters and dirt on their feet. He uses his position of power to ensure they are cared for; he acts like a servant fully trusting his master.

Think again about Joshua. He led a nearly unstoppable military. Only Achan’s greed & a one time neglect to seek God’s advice temporarily stopped the army of Israel in the book of Joshua. In the end, Joshua was not forced to resign his power. And yet, at the height of this power, Joshua walks away as a military leader.

The Roman general Cinncinatus “became a legend to the Romans. Twice granted supreme power, he held onto it for not a day longer than absolutely necessary. He somehow knew it was not good for man to rule alone. He didn't want to be trusted with that kind of power indefinitely.

Cincinnatus, Washington and Joshua gave back their power and sought no further conquest or control. These men with power used their power with prudence and skill, as a tool. They then put the tool down when the goal was accomplished. Cincinnatus, Washington and Joshua walked away from their army and into retirement. At the cross, Jesus walked straight into slander, humiliation and death. What was the goal of Jesus, the glorious Savior of Scripture?

Go see Jesus, after the Last Supper, and on the cross! Jesus exercised great power in creating the heavens. He displayed that power on earth during His Incarnation. But always in accordance with what God, His Father, asked. He trusted what happened next to God. He set aside His control and power to trust God. And that is what Jesus is teaching.

George MacDonald, the Scottish poet, novelist, and minister says it well:

He trusted God so that He might reveal a God worth trusting. The Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day is a moment to reaffirm the One we trust. Because we believe He gave up His most basic power for mankind, the power of life in His body and blood, we can trust His intentions. Because He was raised to life again, we can also trust God's power to accomplish His good plans.

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