Real Power Expressed in Weakness

16 Aug
from Google Images

from Google Images

Years ago I watched a striking film in which Cliff Robertson won his Academy Award for best performance by an actor. It was Charly.[1] The film is about a retarded man who becomes the subject of a scientific experiment to increase his intelligence. While it is styled as a love story, it is most moving as the film records Charly’s journey from being mentally challenged to becoming a genius, who is able to answer any question put to him. However, when he poses the question: “Who is Charly?”, no one among his doctorate admirers is able to reply. Then he discloses to a surprised audience of scientists and would-be supporters what his experimenters had hidden from everyone—Charly’s intelligence was temporary! He would soon journey backward to his mentally challenged state!

In John 13:3 we find that Jesus, “knowing his Father had given all things into his hands,” rose from the table, poured water into a basin and stooped to wash the feet of the disciples (John 13:4-5). Imagine for a moment what the disciples had witnessed. This is their Messiah; they hoped that he was the one who was promised to Israel (Luke 24:21). The King of Israel had stooped to wash their feet! Washing the feet of a guest fell to a servant or slave. It was never done by a person of any importance. Yet, Jesus “knowing his Father had given all things into his hands…” stooped to do the task of a servant or slave. Imagine!

What should this tell us? Perhaps everyone at the supper felt uncomfortable, allowing Jesus to perform this task, but Peter was the one who expressed the undignified nature of Jesus’ service. Anyone of Jesus’ position should never be permitted to stoop to do the service of a slave, and Peter would have none of it (John 13:6). Nevertheless, Jesus’ reply leaves Peter dumbfounded! Jesus says we cannot have any part with him, unless he is allowed to serve us (John 13:8)! This is the whole point. Jesus came to reveal his Father to the world (John 1:18), so when all things are placed in Jesus’ hands, instead of commanding and giving orders to his followers, he stoops to serve them. God is who he is (Exodus 3:14). When Moses was permitted to catch a glimpse of him moving away, he saw:

“…The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished; visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and grandchildren, to the third and to the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7)

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie for me is when Charley was at the peak of his mental power, knowing there was no cure for him, one of his final acts as a celebrated genius came when a mentally challenged waiter carrying a tray of glasses was bumped and the glasses fell to the floor. The crowd of people laughed, as the poor man nervously picked up the fallen glasses. Charly, however, saw what had occurred and stooped to help him recover the remaining glasses. The laughter immediately stopped when the crowed witnessed what Charly had done. They were ashamed, but Charly showed everyone that his increase in mental power didn’t change who he was. The final scene of the movie has his former teacher and love interest, Alice Kinnian watching him in a playground, swinging on a swing with the children, grinning, and except for having lost his incredible intelligence, he was the same Charly throughout the story.

God overflows with love toward us, expressed in “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23; cp. Exodus 34:6-7), and when he became man (John 1:7) God was the same in flesh that he had always been as Spirit (John 1:18; Hebrews 1:3). As he had always been in power, so he continued to be in flesh. Therefore, we need to allow him serve us, because, if we don’t, we cannot know him as he is and can never hope to be his disciple (John 13:8), allowing others to see him in us (1John 3:1-3). Jesus is our Lord and Master, but he comes to us as one who serves, and, if we wish to offer him more than lip service and truly follow him, we must treat others as Jesus treats us (John 13:13-14). The real me must be changed into a real image of him (2Corinthians 3:18).

Real power is expressed from a position of weakness, not authoritative commandments (or advice). When I was a young man working on the job, I constantly witnessed illicit humor, patronizing speech, innuendos directed toward passing women etc. What I didn’t need when I came to a worship service was more of the same: sermons cursing my darkness, belittling a well intentioned act on my part, or implying (telling) the women seated in the room needed to dress more appropriately. Rather, what I really need in a worship service is to have my feet (where I’ve been) washed. I need to see brethren treating one another with loving-kindness, actually caring for one another. I need to hear sermons of encouragement (not correction). I need to see my wife and my daughters and the other women in the church treated with the respect that is due a sister in Christ. Those who do such things are not only washing the feet of others (where they’ve been and what was done to them in the world), but such folks wash their own hands in this act of loving-kindness. The truth be known, none of us are perfect—we all have behaved badly and have witnessed others behaving badly, and we long to have where we’ve been washed away.


[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about the person of Jesus is based upon the book: The Jesus Style by Gayle Erwin. They are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Gayle wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read about Jesus.

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Posted by on August 16, 2015 in Jesus


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