In today’s reading (Mark 11), Jesus sets his face resolutely to Jerusalem and triumphantly enters the city. In Mark 10, Jesus anticipating the days ahead, shares with his disciples that in Jerusalem he will be mocked, flogged, and killed. They did not hear the message of the cross. They had seen too many miraculous works, including raising the dead. Their minds were captivated on the glorious things to come.
Two disciples, James, and John were imagining and inquiring of Jesus about positions of kingdom power and glory. The other disciples were angry with James and John not because they grasped the spiritual power of servant leadership. They desired the same things as James and John except they had not been bold and foolish enough to ask Jesus.
Jesus does not focus on the disciples bickering and maneuvering but instead patiently teaches the truth about spiritual power and authority. Jesus acknowledges the way the world works. “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them” (Mark 10:42). The world’s mark of authority is “authority over people” and the measure of power is how many people are “under them”.
Of course, history and current affairs illustrate how this view of authority and power does not lead to personal, relational, and societal flourishing. It is the source of politicking, conniving, manipulating, deceiving, and undercutting, resulting in bitter divisions leading to the pursuit of more power and deeper divisions and disorder. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. (Lord Acton)
“Not so with you”, Jesus teaches his 1st and 21st century disciples (Mark 10:43). Followers of Jesus, indwelt with His Spirit are called to a different perspective and practice of power and authority. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44) As followers of Jesus, we believe in the influence of power and the practice of authority. We are empowered to live a countercultural, counter-intuitive, inside-out-kind-of-Kingdom life in which authority comes through servanthood, power through gentleness, greatness through humility, wealth through generosity and salvation through grace alone.
Jesus not only instructs his disciples on power and authority, but he also exemplifies it. Jesus set his face resolutely to Jerusalem on his way to the Cross. Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) A servant power that triumphed over all spiritual powers of darkness and achieved our salvation. “Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)