What pops into your mind when you hear “the power of God”? I immediately imagine some epic display of supernatural devastation emanating from the heavens. It’s likely filmed by Cecil B. Demille in glorious technicolor or, for 21st century film goers, it would probably be filmed by James Cameron in IMAX 3D. When I think of the power of God, I think of blinding lights, plagues of biblical proportion, large crowds repenting, supernatural physical healing, and angelic armies. Even outside of faith communities, it is common to refer to extreme meteorological or geological disturbances as “acts of God.” When heaven meets earth we typically imagine phenomenal demonstrations or manifestations of power.
Yet when I think of the power of Jesus, I think of something different. Jesus befriended his enemies. He shared meals with his detractors. Jesus seamlessly moved between circles of friends his culture considered immoral, and circles his culture considered religiously devout. He welcomed the poor and marginalized, while still making time for rich rulers, government officials, and religious leaders. Jesus healed people, but often asked people not to tell others about it. When the crowds gathered to unprecedented numbers, then Jesus said just the right words to disperse all but a faithful few. Most Christians would point to the resurrection as the most powerful manifestation of God. Still even there Jesus is often unrecognized, and appears to typically small groups of people with only one recorded exception.
If Jesus had a Twitter social media account, then I imagine it would have fluctuated rapidly in the number of followers gained, and then lost. People would have followed wanting to keep up with the sensational, but my guess is they’d have gotten a lot of mundane. We wouldn’t believe some of the people Jesus would have retweeted or been with in photos. We might hope for numerous links to videos of miraculous healings, and we would find a few. But they’d likely be sparse compared to the daily enigmatic musings about seeds, sparrows, and sheep.
Jesus’ understanding of power contrasts the way we typically wield power. Jesus’ use of power is usually not straightforward. His ways don’t seem efficient, explicit, or popular. Jesus’ power is subversive, subtle, and demonstrated in weakness. Jesus, the Truth, would often rather ask an intentional open-ended question, then make a definitive declaration. I’ve been reflecting on Jesus’ power, because it is so different than mine. I want Jesus to convince others I am right. I want Jesus to help me win. Still Jesus keeps nudging me to pray for my enemies, to bless those who persecute me, to go the extra mile, to speak a challenging word in a loving way, to engage in more conversation starters, than conversation enders, and to see the face of God in an unexpected place or person.