True Power

Mao Zedong famously declared that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” This accurately represents the modus operandi of the State since the dawn of civilization. In this life, men and women can be led in one of two ways – Persuasion or Force. Invariably, the State chooses the latter. History attests to the failure of the State to rid the world of war, hunger, poverty, and suffering in general. This holds true whether the government is a monarchy, republic, dictatorship, or democracy. Utopian dreams remain just that – unfulfilled fantasies.

The systematic abuse of State power stands in sharp contrast to the “Power and Wisdom” of God as demonstrated in the life and death of Jesus that is described in the Greek New Testament, for God had determined to defeat evil and redeem humanity in unexpected and shocking ways.

Cross seaside - Photo by Soul devOcean on Unsplash
[Photo by Soul devOcean on Unsplash]

Jesus performed miracles, exorcised demons, and taught with great authority, often attracting great crowds. Nevertheless, his contemporaries failed to recognize who he was despite his words and deeds. None of the Jewish religious authorities, high priests, or Roman political authorities recognized him as God’s Messiah and Savior of the world.

In the end, only the Roman centurion at Golgotha identified him as the “Son of God” just as he breathed his last. This man was very likely the officer in charge of his execution squad - (Mark 15:39).

Years later, the Apostle Paul wrote, We preach CHRIST CRUCIFIED, to Jews, scandal, and to Gentiles, foolishness. But to those that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” - (1 Corinthians 1:21-24).

Contrary to politicians and tyrants, ultimate power does not come “through the barrel of a gun,” but through the preaching of the Crucified Messiah. Not because that makes any sense to men, but because it is the way chosen by the God who created all things to display His “Power and Wisdom.”

In Mark, Jesus healed the sick and exorcised demons, impressing many of his contemporaries. Nevertheless, they failed to comprehend who he was, and ironically, only the demons exorcised by him recognized his Messianic status. On the verge of understanding his identity, Peter declared once that he was the Messiah. However, his insight vanished when Jesus explained what this meant – betrayal, suffering, and death.

ONLY IN HIS SELF-SACRIFICIAL DEATH is the Messiah of Israel revealed. In contrast to the Roman centurion, the religious leaders of Israel mocked Jesus and conspired in his judicial murder, even using political intrigue to manipulate the Roman governor into becoming their accomplice. He was not the kind of messianic figure they could stomach.


In John’s Gospel account, Jesus declared that when he was “lifted up, then you will know that I am the one.” Not his supernatural powers or political prowess, but his death by crucifixion was the foundation of his sovereignty. “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to me.” In the end, he died alone, rejected by the Jewish nation, abandoned by his closest disciples, and crushed by the might of Rome.

Contrary to the ways of this world, he instructed his disciples to do likewise – Take up his Cross and follow in his footsteps. “GREATNESS” in his kingdom was measured by one’s self-sacrificial service, not grandeur or power over others. His disciples must become like him, the same Messianic figure who “gave his life as a ransom for many” - (Matthew 20:25-28).

After his resurrection, he was exalted and began his reign, but his exaltation came at great personal cost. As Paul explained to the Philippians:

  • (Philippians 2:5-9) – “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted not the being like God a thing to be grasped, but poured himself out, taking the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him and gave unto him the name which is above every name.

We want power, wealth, and popularity, but only by finding a way around the Cross. In contrast, Paul exhorted believers to “let this same mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” He received the “name that is above every name” BECAUSE he “poured out his life unto death” for others.

Crown of Thorns - Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
[Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]

According to Paul, the proclamation of “
Christ crucified” is scandalous to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. The idea that God achieved victory over Sin, Death, and Satan through the unjust death of a politically powerless man is contradicts human “wisdom” and experience, yet Paul calls this message the very “Power and Wisdom of God,” and the “Word of the Cross.”

Jesus cannot be understood apart from his self-sacrificial death for others, and no man or woman can be his true disciple without emulating his example by living a cruciform life day by day. Spiritual power is obtained only through the Cross of Christ, but this is a way and type of power that is incompatible in the extreme with how State power is wielded in this dark and fallen world.

  • His Path - (Jesus proclaimed a new political reality, the Kingdom of God, one that bears little resemblance to the political systems of this age)
  • Embracing the Cross - (To be the Messiah of Israel meant suffering and death for others, and Jesus summoned his disciples to follow that same path – Mark 8:31)
  • Mind of Christ - (The submission of Jesus to an unjust death becomes the paradigm for the love and service to others that disciples are summoned to manifest)



The Living Word

The Suffering Servant