Summary: Based on Isaiah 9:1-4 & Matt. 4:12-23 this discussess the use of power by Jesus with illustrations from the movies of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Pay it Forward.
“There is no good or evil, just power and those too weak to use it.” If you have seen the movie or read the book of HP and the philosopher’s stone, then you will have heard that phrase. In a last ditch attempt to win Harry’s cooperation, the evil wizard Voldemort asserts “There is no good or evil, just power and those to weak to use it.” And when I heard it, I thought that probably many people in this day and age believe that is true. Certainly Israel’s response to the Palestinian suicide bomber attacks is one of power, military power: we have the power and we are not afraid to use it.
And when I read today’s reading from Isaiah, with its images of great glory: God’s people multiplying, great joy and victory, and freedom from oppression, it is easy to imagine why, in Jesus time, the Jews were expecting God to act with great power and force to free them from the Romans. After all none of us wish to be forced to live under the power of a foreign government.
Yet, in our New Testament reading Matthew quotes this very passage from Isaiah, making it clear that this light that came into the world was Jesus and Isaiah was referring to Jesus ministry. And certainly in our Matthew reading we see Jesus acting with power. He proclaims with a voice of authority “The kingdom of God is near.” He calls to Peter, Andrew, James and John, “Come follow me”. And thought they are busy working for their families, they down tools and leave immediately. Then we see him teaching with authority in the synagogues and using his power to heal every disease and sickness.
Surely if anyone had the power to rule and control people it was Jesus. Surely if anyone could use power to control people for good purposes, it was Jesus. Surely if anyone had the power to defeat tyranny and oppression it was Jesus. And in the minds of at least some of the people who followed Jesus around there must have been an expectation that one day he would act decisively, one day he would take control of their world, one day he would use his obvious authority to rule and bind, and they would be free of the Roman oppression at last.
Another movie I saw recently was the Fellowship of the Ring. It too is about the use of power, in particular a magic ring that gives its wearer the power to control all living things. “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” Godlike powers available to the user of the one ring. And a number of times in the story people ask questions like: ‘Can we not use the power of this ring to defeat evil?’ ‘Cannot those who are strong in wisdom and goodness use this ring to bring about peace for all?’ Indeed the ring-barer himself twice offers to give the ring away to beings who are powerful, wise and good and they are sorely tempted by its power. Yet recognizing that such absolute power corrupts even the most pure heart to evil, they refuse it.
In a different way, the same temptation was offered to Jesus, just prior to Him beginning His ministry. After 40 days of fasting and wandering in the wilderness, Jesus was offered the kingdoms of this world to rule, for that is Satan’s highest jurisdiction. And by such a trump card surely at least the humanity of Jesus was sorely tempted. To the one who was a simple carpenter from Nazareth, surely this would’ve seemed like an easier way than the cross. Yet Jesus too refuses this offer of power and control, the rule that would bring humanity into the darkness and bind them. This is not God’s way, says Jesus, and it is God alone I serve.
So if Jesus had power, as undoubtedly Matthew claims that He did, just what sort of power did He have and what did He do with it? How did He use it? What was this light in the darkness power that was present in Jesus?
Yet another film I have seen recently is called Pay It Forward, and in that story some year 7 students are set a social studies project in which they are to think of a way that one of them could do something which would change the world. No easy assignments for this class! Yet one of the students does think of something and tries it out. It is a scheme he calls Pay It Forward which this year 7 boy begins.
He looks for three opportunities to do something helpful for someone else that they could not do for themselves. Some way of helping three other people do things that by them selves they could not achieve. And instead of thanks or reward, he asks that they do the same for three other people. He gives of himself, his time and his property, only asking in return that these people do likewise to three other people. The idea being that if his three people helped another three people each, then there would be now be nine people looking to help another 27 people and so on; a chain reaction of giving which could change the world.