Summary: Although Jesus appeared to be the least powerful man in Palestine when he was on the cross, He was actually the one in control.

Last week, a U.S. surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet. The Chinese plane was lost. The American plane was able to make an emergency landing at a nearby air base. Once the plane landed, the Chinese military immediately took the crew into custody. That was eight days ago, and our service men and women are still in custody. By all accounts, they are not being mistreated [aside from the fact that they have nothing to do all day but play Chinese checkers and watch Jackie Chan movies]. However, they are prisoners. They are being held against their will. No one wants to use the term ’hostages’; the Chinese say they are in ’protective custody’ [protection from what?], the U.S. government refers to them as ’detainees’. But the fact remains that they are not free to leave.

Isn’t that frustrating? As an American, don’t you find it just a little infuriating that the Chinese government is thumbing their nose at us like this? And not only do they refuse to release our people, but they are demanding that we apologize! Doesn’t that make your blood boil? Their hot-dogging jet jockey crashes into our plane, and yet they have the gall to insist that we should apologize!

Now, I don’t think I would make a very good diplomat in a situation like this. My first instinct wouldn’t be to talk in polite diplomatic language, and negotiate, and look for a middle ground. My first instinct would be to blow something up. Launch some missiles. Sink one of their ships. Shoot down a few of their jets. Blockade their ports. Send in a team of commandos to rescue the hostages. However, I realize that as satisfying as that would be, it probably wouldn’t be the wisest course of action. The most prudent thing to do, at least for the time being, is just what the President is doing. Exercise restraint. Be patient. Let events play out. And so here we are. The most powerful nation in the world, and yet we can’t make these little tin dictators in Beijing return our people.

It’s frustrating to feel powerless, isn’t it? To feel as if you’re not in control. To feel like things are happening to you, without your consent. No one likes that feeling. And sometimes when people feel this way, they get the urge to do something dramatic, just to prove to themselves that they’re not powerless. And so they do something foolish, or dangerous, or even harmful. For instance:

· A man feels powerless at work. His boss is always telling him what to do, controlling him, boxing him in. So one day, he tells his boss to "take this job and shove it."

· A woman feels powerless in her marriage. Her husband is a tyrant. So she quits -- she leaves, file for divorce. Or she has an affair, just to feel that she has some kind of control over her own life.

· A teenagers resents her parents’ authority and control, and so she rebels in destructive ways. Taking drugs, or getting involved in sex, just to prove her independence.

· How about you? Where do you feel that someone else has control over your life?

We don’t have to feel this way. We don’t have to feel powerless, "boxed in," trapped. Because the truth is that we are not under the control of other people. We are not powerless, we are not victims. We are the sons and daughters of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. And when we understand that, our attitude will not be one of frustration and anger, but of peace, and joy, and confidence.

But appearances can be deceiving. Consider Jesus Christ, hanging from a cross. By all appearances, he was the least powerful man in Palestine. He had been arrested, beaten, tried and convicted, sentenced to death, and then stripped of his clothing and brutally nailed to a cross of wood, naked and bleeding. He was exposed to the elements. He was completely at the mercy of the Roman soldiers guarding him, completely under their control. He had no army, no military power. He had no friends in high places, no political power. He had no money or land to offer in exchange for his freedom. All of his followers had deserted him. At that moment, He lacked control even over his own movements, the ability to wipe sweat away from his forehead or brush away the flies that buzzed around his open wounds. He couldn’t even raise his hands to protect himself from the garbage and rocks that were thrown at him by hostile onlookers. Can you imagine anyone more powerless or more lacking in control than this man?

And yet, at that very moment, Jesus Christ was the most powerful man in Palestine, the most powerful man the world had ever seen. In spite of how it appeared, He was not at the mercy of the Roman authorities; on the contrary, they were at his mercy. And it was only because of his mercy that they were not destroyed on the spot. Because it wasn’t the nails pounded into his flesh that kept Christ on the cross. It was his love that kept him on the cross. Jesus had the power, any time he wanted, to come down off the cross and annihilate his enemies. Listen to what he said He was first arrested:

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