Bethel CRC Lacombe

November 12, 2023 Broken Signposts- Power John 19:1-16

November 14, 2023 Pastor Jake Boer Season 7 Episode 6
Bethel CRC Lacombe
November 12, 2023 Broken Signposts- Power John 19:1-16
Show Notes Transcript

Today we are finishing up our series based on N.T Wright’s book, Broken Signposts. We reflect on John 19:1-16, Broken Signposts – Power. Jesus is standing on trial before Pilate. Pilate has the power of life and death over Jesus; however, Jesus tells Pilate that the only power Pilate has comes from above. What is power? Why are we given power? How is power to be used as a follower of Jesus? These are all important questions in a time when we see many people use power carelessly and even dangerously for their own ends 

Broken Signposts – Power

John 19:1-16


This morning we’re taking a look at our last broken signpost. This series has been all about how our faith guides us. Miroslav Volk writes, “Faith does its most proper work when it sets us on a journey, guides us along the way, and gives meaning to each step we take. When we embrace faith—when God embraces us—we become new creatures constituted and called to be part of the people of God… faith guides us by offering itself as a way of life that indicates paths to be taken and dark alleys or dead-end streets to be avoided, and tells us what our specific tasks are in the great story of which we are part.”

Jesus is on trial before Pilate after being condemned by the Jewish court. Jesus tells Pilate that he is a king, but that his kingdom is not of this world. To Pilate and all those listening in, Jesus’ claim sounds weak and foolish. Jesus is in a position of weakness without any visible power. He’s at the mercy others. The Jewish leaders have power over Pilate and over Jesus, the soldiers have power over Jesus, Pilate has power over Jesus, and in their own ways, thy force Jesus to bend to their will and Jesus accepts it. Pilate even has the power of life and death over Jesus, ultimately handing Jesus over to death on a cross, even though he’s declared Jesus innocent three times. 

Power is a funny thing, funny strange, not funny ha ha. It raises a lot of questions: what is power, how should it be used, and if you have power, do you really have to use it? How does God’s power and the power he gives us fit together—how much initiative and responsibility do we take to make things happen and how much do we leave in God’s hands? Power’s addictive. Many people seek power so they can impose their will on others. It's difficult to hold power and be humble at the same time; it can be done, but it’s hard to do. Power is easily abused, we see examples of it regularly in places like the Middle East, North Korea, Russia, but even in our own country and province. A friend in Quebec City had been abused in the church as a child and had a hard time with the power church leaders have and how they use it. It was only after we studied Jesus and his power and how Jesus used his power to serve, how power to Jesus looks like sacrifice, that he was able to accept Jesus again as his Saviour and Lord, to trust Jesus and his teaching and way.

Jesus is mocked with the symbols of power. Soldiers twist thorns into a crown and place it on Jesus’ head. They put a purple robe on him and verbally mock him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Then they turn around and slap him in the face. Jesus lives out his own teaching and urns the other cheek rather than striking back. They have no idea who they’re mocking and the power Jesus actually holds. Not all power is visible, power doesn’t always have to be used right in the moment; self-discipline and wisdom are important. 

This is a story of power. Pilate is threatened by the Jewish leaders who tell him what Jesus has claimed and how this goes against their laws, but when Pilate tries to set Jesus free, they push back hard, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” They use Pilate’s past failures to keep peace in Israel against him by threatening his with Caesar, using the power of Caesar against Pilate. Pilate is afraid now and so he goes back to Jesus and he goes back inside the palace. He asks Jesus, “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” Jesus challenges Pilate’s power and where it actually comes from, pointing Pilate to God, his Father.

N.T Wright reflects on how we are given power by God already back at creation, “Human beings are given power in the very first page of the Bible. In Genesis 1, various features of the newly made world – vegetation, birds, and animals – are given instructions to multiply, to flourish, and to get on with being themselves and with propagating their own species. When humans are made, however, there is an extra dimension. Humans too are commanded to be fruitful and multiple, but they are given an extra awesome and responsible vocation: to have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Power, in other words, comes from God and is given to human beings.” This power is to be used to help creation flourish, helping us to know who God is through the book of creation, as the Belgic Confession describes it. God delegates his power to us, but we’re called to use it to imitate God who is a generous God who pours out his love to his people, even showing love through the giving of gifts to those who don’t believe in him, a God who shares his power with his people, a God who chooses to work through broken, fallen, weak humans and even becomes human and uses his power to die so that we can have eternal life.

We are God’s ambassadors to creation; stewards over his creation, called to serve God’s desire and plans for his creation, whether it’s over the creatures of the sea, land, or air, and even over the land and the things of the land. It’s a huge responsibility, and a sign of God’s trust in us to use the power he’s given us to bring glory to him and not ourselves. It’s humbling and uplifting, both at the same time.

So how are we to use this power God has given us? When we look closely at Jesus’ life, one of the things that jumps out to me is how Jesus connects the use of power with humility, grace, servanthood, compassion, and justice in powerful ways. Jesus makes his position on the use of power clear in Matthew 20:28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Paul gets it in his second letter to the church in Corinth, “But he, Jesus, said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 

This is why followers of Jesus, and the church as a whole, need to be aware of the dangers of how power can be used in hurtful ways and how power quickly corrupts people. History, including Biblical and church history, gives us so many examples of how power wrongly used led to abuse; how power was too often used for personal advantage. David and Solomon are two examples of how even godly men, blessed by God used power in dangerous and self-serving ways that led to deep hurt and brokenness. 

What does it look like to use the power you have in a way that is healthy and blesses rather than hurts? King David gives us a good picture of what a healthy use of power looks like in Psalm 72. David asks for power to bring justice, especially for those who are afflicted or in distress, “Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice… he will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.” He goes on to recognize that his role as king is to be there to as a deliverer, someone who places the needs of the people ahead of his own, who looks to God’s example of what it looks like to be the protector of the people, “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.” The king serves his people, as Jesus does as our king.

Leadership and power are for serving and sacrifice, just before his death, just after his disciples argued about having places of power in his kingdom, Jesus gives them a living parable of how they are to use the power his giving to give them as his disciples, “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Matthew Bridges writes, “Because Jesus humbled himself, because he endured the humiliation of the cross, including the crown of thorns, therefore God exalted him to the highest place. For Jesus, the path to glory as King of kings included the path of disgrace. Because he wore the crown of thorns, Jesus would receive the crown of universal worship.” Jesus uses his power as God and creator of the universe to save us from our slavery to sin and the oppression our sin puts us under. Jesus frees us by coming to serve instead of rule, and because of his humility and obedience to God, God has now made him King of kings. In Jesus, we see a kingdom shaped by humility, mercy, grace, forgiveness and sacrificial love; a completely upside-down kind of power designed to change people’s hearts and relationships with God and each other.