Real Power

"Christ washing the Apostles feet" Dirck van Baburen circa 1660

"Christ washing the Apostles feet" Dirck van Baburen circa 1660

I have been thinking about power lately. So much of our society has become convinced that the way to true transformation in this world begins with the acquisition of power. "If we could only get the right person in the right political position we could see real change in our country." I understand why this is a convincing argument because power does affect things in real life. Power used for good can cause good, and of course, power used for evil...well we know what happens. 

So we buy into the search for power, even to the point of using Machiavellian logic to get it. We support ideas, concepts, even people we would never support just to acquire power. Because we believe power is the way to change. 

What if we have it wrong? What if true change doesn't come from having the power to change things? What if true change comes from what is true power? 

Today is Maundy Thursday of Holy Week, that week we lead up to Easter, remembering Jesus' walk to the cross. Traditionally on this day we have remembered and celebrated Jesus' last supper and his washing the feet of his disciples. I re-read John 13:1-17 and was struck with something I hadn't realized before. 
John 13:2-5 says "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power....so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him."

It was striking to me the connection between the power of Jesus with how he chose to use it. John states that Jesus knew the Father endued him with power, and yet he didn't use that power the way the world uses power. He went directly to washing the disciples feet, a culturally humbling act that didn't make sense to the disciples. Rabbi's don't wash students feet. Leaders don't serve in this humiliating way. 

I wonder if the Apostle Paul had this foot washing scene in his mind when he wrote of Jesus "Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing  by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." 

Jesus exercised power through humble service, not through position. He modeled the truth of where real change happens in this world. When we will serve others rather than seek power. What if we that call ourselves Jesus followers would follow the model of the humble Rabbi? What would the world look like then?

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Benjamin Thomas

Husband and father of 4. Founding and Lead Pastor of Nehemiah Project Church in Avon Indiana. Academic Chaplain at Indiana Wesleyan University. Adjunct Professor of Spiritual Formation at Wesley Biblical Seminary.