CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: All Authority
As I write this, protests have spread throughout the country in response to the unjust death of George Floyd caused by members of the Minneapolis police department. The public outcry speaks to the ongoing list of deaths of people of color in our nation. I join with so many others who are praying for peace, for justice, and for an end to the system of racism that binds and breaks us all.
I also look to Holy Scripture to find a word from God to speak into this moment. I find that word, strangely enough, in the gospel passage for Trinity Sunday, the final words for Jesus to his disciples before he ascends to be in the presence of his Father in a different way.
Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me….” That word, "authority," rings loudly in the ear. In the death of George Floyd, it is not just that he was killed, but that he was killed by people in authority, the very people entrusted to protect and serve him. We have seen so many examples of people, at every level, who have abused their power and authority, for personal gain or for active oppression of others. It is hard to trust many who are in authority.
But Jesus does something radically different with his authority. When the crowds recognized him as one who speaks with power and authority, he did not capitalize on it. When they hailed him as king and offered a crown, he refused it. And now here, after the crucifixion and the resurrection, gathered on a mountain with his disciples, when all authority has been given to him, what does he do with it? He shares it.
Jesus entrusts his life’s work, his mission, to his disciples, to those who follow in his way, to us. And in doing so, Jesus has shown us a different way from the powers and authorities of this world, whose goal is to obtain more power and to keep it. Jesus said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your servant; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Jesus choses to give power. He promises and sends the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us for this work. True power, the generous and life-giving power of God, is expressed in love, embodied by a community, empowered by the rich variety of gifts God has given to each of us. Genuine authority is accountable to the Beloved, to the other, to those whom we are called by God to serve.
The way of Jesus stands in stark contrast to the way of the world. Jesus lifted up the lowly. He healed the broken and infirm. He blessed the dispossessed. He embraced those who were scorned and despised by the people with power and influence. He stood with the oppressed. He died with the convicted. He did this, not as an act of rebellion, but purely to reveal the truth - that the very people the world has rejected are made in the image of the living God. Wealth, power and privilege are not synonymous with God’s blessing.
The instruction to "Go and make disciples of all nations" is not a command to convert people into a faith. That is what empires do. No, this command is to live into the teachings and life of Jesus, to show the world that "God’s ways are not our ways," to proclaim there is a different path than the endless cycle of violence and the abuse of power to preserve a false peace. Jesus shows us the way, and it is grounded in love and guided by the Holy Spirit. This is what they needed 2000 years ago, and we need it still.
Jesus knows this way is difficult. He lived it. He faced it to the end. But in the resurrection, he showed that the powers of this world do not have the final word. Even death is not the end. And so, as he speaks to his disciples, knowing the challenges they face, as well as the ones we face, Jesus promises to be with us always, even to the end of the age.
Tags: Caminando with Jesus