Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s a saying we’ve probably all learned in school. And we probably all would agree. We’ve seen people in power. We know how they get there. And is seems that the more power someone has the more they want. Worst of all the longer someone stays “in power” the more likely they are to be corrupted by it. The more likely they are to do something self-centered and self-indulgent. We all want power don’t we? Whether it is power to tell our boss that the project that is being done is stupid, or the power to make it rain on our own beans. We’d like the power to change the way our children act, or even the power to bring ‘peace’ to the world. But we know how we use power when we do get it. As someone once said, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Today we are going to look at God’s power; especially God’s power in Jesus Christ. God’s power is different from the power we are used to. In fact, God’s power looks like weakness to the world.
If there is one thing that we can say about Americans, it’s that we really appreciate power. Just look at our army. It is the most powerful military force ever assembled. We are proud of the men and women who make it what it is. We are proud of their ability to do whatever is needed for our safety. We also appreciate financial power (maybe even more that military power!). Every year we look over the top ten richest people in the world and envy those who are there (probably wanting just a tiny fraction of their wealth!) And there is power in numbers…
King David was a powerful man also. Even though he was surrounded by hostile nations, he became a very powerful king. Even if you don’t remember much about the stories of the bible, you probably remember King David. We usually remember him for his power. The truth of the matter is that David wasn’t chosen to be the king of Israel because he was a powerful man. In fact, he was a lowly shepherd boy. He was the youngest son in a large family with a bunch of stronger older brothers. When the brothers of Jesse lined up to be considered by Samuel, David wasn’t even a contender. God had already chosen David. He was the very unlikely choice, the one no one else would consider. David was the king of Jesse’s Stem.
Jesus Christ is called the “rod of Jesse.” That’s a reminder that He too wasn’t the obvious choice for the Messiah. He wasn’t born the way kings should be born. His family didn’t have any power. Joseph, Jesus stepfather, was a regular blue-collar worker. He didn’t rule with an iron hand from a jewel-encrusted throne. Instead, His reign is from a cross. Instead of the kind of power people expect in a king, Jesus power is shown to us by His suffering and death. Jesus was selected by God for a specific task, just as David was. That’s why we call him the rod of Jesse, instead of the rod of David. Clement of Rome, one of the churches early preachers said it this way:
The scepter of the majesty of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared not with pomp of pride or arrogance, though well he might, but in humility (Clement of Rome, 16.2).
God’s power doesn’t work the way we expect power to work. It doesn’t even work the way we experience power, armies, money, or prestige. God’s power does something the world’s power can never do; it destroyed our greatest enemy, Death.
Worldly power, in reality, doesn’t get us too much that is of any real value. Think about the rogue nations of the world. They strut around showing force trying to project power. What has their show of power really do? Threats of war; People starving because the rulers of the country spend so much on the military. Greater division among the countries of the world. All that show of power doesn’t really gain anything. Worldly power rarely makes things better.
King David learned that lesson the hard way. He let his power go to his head. He thought he was above the law. Even though God said that David was a “man after God’s own heart” David let the temptation of power control him. He used his position to sleep with another man’s wife and then had her husband killed to cover up his sin. David’s heart was stained with sin, just like you and me. There was lots of good that he did as king; he worshipped God faithfully; and built a strong kingdom for his people. But just like any human, power corrupts. Really, in David’s case, just as it would be for any of us, power goes to our hearts when we are able to act on the sin that lives there. David misused even the power given to him by God’s choice, the power given to him for God’s purposes.
Is there anyone who could really use God’s power for only good? It is only God who can do it selflessly. Jesus Christ is the true Key of David. He succeeds where David fails. If we had God’s power, what would we have done with it? There’s a movie called “Bruce Almighty” with Jim Carey. That’s exactly what Bruce finds out when he gets to play God for a time. The power corrupts him. You and I would do the same. We’d take revenge on our enemies. We’d work out things to benefit only ourselves. But that is not Jesus. He even allowed himself to be put to death. We would have called down the angels to save us. But Jesus did not.
He used God’s power perfectly. He used God’s power in peace. He used God’s power in love. That’s why He has now “gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God” according to St. Peter. And he goes on to write “angels, authorities, and powers [have] been subjected to Him.” That means that heaven is now open to Him and it is open to us. Every one of us! Jesus is the perfect key of David. He used God’s power to open heaven to us and undo the power of death for us. In his cross, Jesus Christ brings to us the forgiveness we need for sinful use of power.
So we thank God for Jesus Christ; the Rod of Jesse and the Key of David. He used God’s power for us. He defeated death for us and opened up for heaven’s door. Amen.
The Peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.