Saturday, October 08, 2005

Christianity and the Human Desire for Power

In my confirmation class we have been going through the book of Mark. This last week we looked at passages in Mark 8 - 10. I was once more struck by the disciples' lack of ability to actually hear what is being said to them and clue into what Jesus is all about. He tells them 3 times that he is going to die. The first time, Peter corrects him. The next two times, they ignore Jesus and continue to argue about who is going to be in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven. James and John, being forthright guys, even come and ask Jesus if they can be his right and left hand men. When I first read this I was amazed at their audacity.

The more I thought about it, the less I was amazed. One of the things that has always made the Bible beleivable for me is that the Saints are all too human. The disciples probably think they are going to Jerusalem so that Jesus can take over from the Religious Leaders. After all, Jesus keeps talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. He has the power: he can raise the dead, heal the sick and outsmart all the religious teachers. He has been in an escalating power struggle with the religious leaders of his day. Surely at the end of this Jesus, the son of God, will win the power struggle and take over Jerusalem. Once he has that part of the Kingdom well in hand,he will spread out to Rome and then the World. James and John just want a spot on the Comittee that will head the New World Order. Is that too much to ask?

But in one of those paradoxes that makes me love Jesus and my faith, this is not what happens. Jesus warns them well ahead of time that he is not going to be a hero or a world ruler. He will lose the power struggle and go to the cross. He will die. He will lose the physical, political battle in order to win the spiritual battle. He will live and die his words that "the first shall be last and the last shall be first". He will be a true friend, and give up his life for those he loves.

This is one of the things that makes Jesus supernatural. He has the courage, in the end, to lose. To set aside power, reject the ego, and serve mankind. Imagine if more of the powerful people in our world took this seriously; if they, ironically, used their power to serve the weak and helpless of the world. Imagine if each one of us did this in our own life. What a beautiful place this world would be. One might almost call it something close to the Kingdom of God.

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