The Power of Jesus
Being empowered by the work of Christ.
In a Season 3 episode of his show, No Reservations, the late travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain visited Washington D.C. He opens the show, interestingly enough, by referring to D.C. as America’s “Visible Invisible City.”
As Bourdain points out, Washington really has two sides to it. On one hand, D.C. is a city with a rich and diverse cultural history, made up of lower and middle-class people who often invisibly fly-under-the-radar of most Americans. On the other hand, it’s a city of great power and influence; the center of American politics. This is the highly visible city that people see on TV (and many people detest).
Bourdain’s observation helps put into perspective one of the dominant factors of why people come to Washington: power. While creative types might move to Los Angeles or Nashville, and people wanting to make a lot of money might move to New York or Silicon Valley, people come to D.C. seeking power and influence; they want to help shape our society for the better. Of course, it is this “society-shaping” aspect of D.C. that is often the source of derision, contempt, and fear amongst Americans.
However, the Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians that Jesus Christ is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion” and that his power is “incomparably great” (Ephesians 1:19-21). In other words, Paul is saying that, compared to Jesus, all the powers of this world are minuscule; they are “far below” the kind of power that Jesus has. Indeed, compared to Jesus’ power, all of Washington’s power looks more like a boy playing with a lego set.
In the same passage, Paul says that he prays for the church in Ephesus to have knowledge of Jesus’ power: “that having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you might know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19). Here, Paul is saying that he wants Christians to move through this world with a great awareness of the kind of power that Jesus has, which is “incomparably great.” He wants us to be empowered by this reality.
Many Christians struggle to feel empowered by such truth. We look out at the world and feel anxious and fearful. We look at our lives and feel uncertain and powerless. Many Christians look at the political landscape today and feel relatively hopeless and cynical. For those of us who work in Washington, we also feel the weight and importance of our work. Often it is simply hard for us to feel or to trust that God is at work in our lives or in the world around us. Why might this be?
In the Lord of the Rings, there’s a place where Frodo the Hobbit is given a special set of chainmail by his uncle Bilbo, which is made from a precious metal called “mithril.” Frodo doesn’t think much about the chainmail at first, wearing it under his normal clothes and concealing it from others. But later, Gandalf the Wizard says that Bilbo’s chainmail had a worth that “was greater than the value of the whole Shire [Frodo’s home] and everything in it.” Frodo, we are told, “felt staggered to think that he had been walking about with the price of the Shire under his jacket.”
In a similar way, many of us are walking around with only the slightest awareness of the power and riches that we already have in Christ. That’s why Paul prays for Christians to have “the eyes of their hearts enlightened” to the realities of Christ. He knows that we often fail to grasp the nature and scope of Jesus’ power or how that power is active in our lives. And how is Jesus’ power active?
The Psalms tell us that all power “belongs to God” (Psalms 62:10), which means that anyone in power has been placed there by God and that nothing happening in the world is outside of God’s will. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus says that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.
Romans 8:28 says “that for those who love God all things work together for good,” which means that you can trust that God is actively at work in your life right now to bring about goodness. There is nothing that happens in this world in which God will not bring a good outcome from it.
2 Peter 1:4 says that, because of Christ, we have become “partakers of the divine nature,” which means that the very nature of God has come into our hearts as Christians. In other words, God’s power is in us; “the life of God in the soul of man,” to quote Henry Scougal. This power enables us to overcome sin (2 Peter 1:3-4), to grow in holiness and spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), and to experience the peace of God’s presence with us at all times (John 20:21-22; Philippians 4:9).
For Christians, the secret to spiritual empowerment lies in coming to grips with the realities of what you already have in Christ. The power of Jesus must become more visible to us than the powers of this world. If we are to move through our lives and in this world empowered by joyful hope and expectation, then we must become more aware of the power of Jesus.
Adam Smith is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.