June 3 | Mark 10:35-45
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The Quest for Power
by Pastor Jeff Morlock
The world runs on power, brute force, and survival of the fittest. In the 20th century, in response to two world wars, the idea arose that we must somehow balance the scales. Since those in power are automatically oppressors, we must stand with the oppressed, who have no power. The problem is that when the oppressed group stops being oppressed and rises to power themselves, then they typically become the oppressors. And the cycle continues. Such is the nature of sin. James and John are power-seekers. Perhaps they want power so they can order God around. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask." Some people treat God like a vending machine. The thinking is that if you give God what he demands, then God should give you what you want. But Jesus taught us to pray, not “my will” be done, but “thy will.” Why do human beings seek power? If not to control God, then perhaps to control others. The brothers’ request for positions of power in Jesus’ kingdom make the other disciples indignant, because honestly, who doesn’t want to be the boss? But the Lord simply says,“You don't know what you're asking." Those who would sit at Jesus right and left when he came into his kingdom were criminals hanging on crosses. In the end, this would be James and John's fate, too. But they don't understand this. You don’t know what you’re asking. Do we seek power in order to get revenge? In Luke 9, when some Samaritans reject the Lord, James and John ask Jesus to use his power to call down fire from heaven and incinerate the entire town. Let's not pretend to be shocked about their suggestion, though. After all, what went through your mind when that person took your parking spot last week, or cut you off in traffic? Was your first impulse to bless them?
In the book of Acts, Jesus bestows power upon all his apostles, who finally use it in the way he intended - to lead and bless others. That sounds easy. But it's not. In fact, Jesus must do this for us as our substitute. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” he asks. Jesus’ cup is God's wrath against sin and his baptism is the flood of wrath that he will experience on the cross. There he will pay for the sins of the world in order to serve others. And pay for humanity's unwillingness to serve. The only reason we're given power is so that we can sacrifice it for the benefit of others. In your family and workplace, in your church and community, you are free to use the power you’ve been given by the Holy Spirit to serve others. Because this is what Jesus has done for you. And promises to do through you.
Confess and Receive: Spend some time in confession, naming the ways that you have sought to use your power wrongly. Receive the Lord's promise of forgiveness and ask the Holy Spirit to give you grace to use whatever power you have to serve others and point them to the One who gave up his power that they might have abundant and eternal life.