People want power. When we cannot have power ourselves, we at least want to be connected to people who have power.

Jesus was condemned to death in the midst of a drama of conflicting powers.

There was the power of the religious officials of Jesus’ day. They had the power to control the crowd. They could order the arrest of Jesus and arrange to have him turned over to Pilate prefect of the Roman province of Judea.

Pilate certainly had power. The Roman prefect was authorized to condemn Jesus to death. Pilate himself confronted Jesus claiming,

Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you? (John 19:10)

The crowd had power to sway Pilate to comply with their wishes and order Jesus’ execution.

The one person who appears to be utterly powerless in the story is Jesus. Jesus is arrested, bound, turned over to Roman guards and imprisoned until he was subjected to the mockery of a trial.

But Jesus seems oblivious to the fact that he is powerless in this situation. He challenges Pilate’s claim to power by appealing to an authority higher than the Roman prefect. Jesus says to Pilate,

You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above. (John 19:11)

In other words, “You Pilate have no power!” The power to execute the Son of Man is not given by God; it is power that is seized by human means and is therefore, no power at all. Pilate’s power does not derive “from above”; it only has the illusion of power.

The real power in this story is the power that comes from the divine reality living at the centre of our being and this power is only accessed by laying down our determination to seize power and exercise it in our own interests.

It is important to recall words Jesus is said to have spoken at the time of his arrest. When one of his followers tried to take power by striking the servant of the high priest with his sword, Jesus rebuked him asking,

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels. (Matthew 26:53)

Jesus has absolute power. But, Jesus refuses to use his power for his own self-interest. Jesus chooses to lay down his power. In laying down his power, Jesus reveals the path to true power. The one who has real power has the power to give it up in the interest of a higher power. This is perfect freedom.

As Rowan Williams has written,

the God of the stable and the cross is free.  His weakness, his wordlessness, is his power. (Open to Judgement, p. 36)

True power has no need to protect itself, no need to be proven right. True power can embrace its own weakness; it has nothing to fear.

As Paul says,

power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The only one with real power is the one who has put to death the need for power. To walk the way of the cross is to choose to die to the powers of this world and lay down our lives along with Christ, so that the powers of this world may be defeated by the love that was embodied in Jesus.

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