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“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”  Luke 2:1

“You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”  John 19:11

Power.  The world’s power.  It can surely seem that world is powerful; powerful in the extreme.  It may feel that today you are being swept along in the grasp of the power of the world.  You may feel that you have no power, no influence, no control concerning what is happening in your life.  Maybe it’s a government power, maybe your work or your boss, maybe it is family members or some other power or combination of powers that feels like a flood, sweeping you to a place where you will be lost.

It certainly could have seemed like that for the Israelites during the time of Caesar Augustus when Rome occupied their land.  They had to pay taxes to Rome.  While they could still keep their religious practices, that freedom existed only to the extent that it did not question or threaten the total authority of the Roman leadership over every aspect of their lives.  As an example, a leader over 1400 miles away decides that he wants to know just how many people are under his control; this may have been for taxation purposes or just to boost an ego, a feeling of power.  So it one was one thing if someone was going to come by and count you but no, there was more.  For some reason, you had to go back to your ancestral city, perhaps to keep from being counted twice.  And now we come to the crucial piece; Joseph’s ancestral city; the city he was from, the city he would need to go back to was Bethlehem.

Fast forward 33 years.  In the Roman’s mind, there was a rabble-rouser, a trouble maker, a disturber of the peace; at least that’s what they were hearing from the Jewish leadership.  The Romans were no strangers to conquered troublemakers.  They knew how to deal with these types.  They also had the power to do what ever the wished.  Pontius Pilot tells Jesus just that when he asks Him;  “Do you not realize that I have the power to release you or have you crucified?”.  One wonders if a slight smirk, perhaps a small sad smile did not come upon Jesus’ face at the absurdity of Pilot’s comment.  Here was one of the creation, saying to his creator:  I have the ultimate power to destroy you.  That I need to die and how I will die is far from your control; Jesus is telling Pilot in response.

So here’s the thing Dear Sisters and Brothers.  In each of these cases; the world felt it had the upper hand.  The world and the leaders of the world felt they had they were exercising supreme power.  But wait there is more to the story; and that more shows just how much more powerful Our Heavenly Father is and/or how weak, worldly powers are depending on how you view it.  For you see, 700 years before the birth of Christ, when Rome had hardly even begun, Isiah the prophet was prophesying that a virgin would give birth to The Savior, Immanuel.  One hundred years after that, centuries before Rome thought of conquering the Jews, Micah was predicting that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers; Mary and Joseph needed to be in Bethlehem.  Our Heavenly Father was going to be sure that His Son, to fulfill His own divine prophesy, was born in the City of David.  For all their seemingly worldly power; the Romans were just carrying out the Will of a higher, The Highest Power.  They just had no clue.  Likewise, Pontius Pilot, believes he is the greatest power there in Jerusalem.  He has the power over life and death itself.  In fact, he is a weak, puny man.  Even in the world, he can’t make up his own mind whether to free an obviously innocent man, or placate a hateful, spiteful crowd, with one man’s death.  The decision is not in his hands.  God’s Will be done.

You may feel that you’re being swept along by the powers of this world today.  You may feel that you are powerless.  You may even fear that there is no power to withstand the onslaught of the power of this world.  Yet be open to this.  It may not be the world pushing you somewhere as it is Our Heavenly Father, calling, directing you somewhere that you need to be.  He may be using the world to bring about your change, but He is never leaving you subject to the power of this world.  In bringing you to your Bethlehem destination; where God will richly bless you, will bring about your salvation, He will never forsake you.

You might ask, if I’m being brought to a Bethlehem moment; does that also mean there is a Golgotha moment, a horrible death for my sin moment as well?  No! Never!  For the truest blessing, the most merciful miracle, is that only One could bring about salvation by experiencing death at Calvary.  Only the Perfect, Sinless, Son of God’s death, could and can cleanse our sin from us.  Only through the power of God, is Jesus Christ raised up and by his sacrifice, we are raised up with Him as well.  So in prayer and supplication, if you are feeling swept away by the power of the world; call upon Jesus Christ to give you, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the understanding that no earthly power has dominion over you.  It is not so much about trying to fight the power of the world as it is receiving and moving toward the calling of Bethlehem, knowing that Our Heavenly Father uses all things; whether they know it or not, to see His Will be done.  He loves you.  He is with you.  He will keep you.  Merry Christmas.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father.  We confess that we can become bewildered, confused and even fearful at the strength and power of this world.  Forgive us when doubt Your Power to overcome the world.  Pour out Your Spirit of discernment that will help us to realize that You can and will use all things to bring about Your Will.  Comfort us when we feel overwhelmed or swept away by this world; testifying to us that You are bringing us to our Bethlehem moment; where You have authored our salvation.  That in the midst of all things we would find the joy and peace to praise Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name fo Jesus Christ.  Amen

“…Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders….”  Mark 14:43

Now when He said:  I am He, they drew back and fell to the ground”  John 18:5

I was in the military, the Air Force, for a while and part of my job was to understand and plan for battles.  To think about things such as concentration of force, and overwhelming of resistance by focused superiority of weapons and numbers.  And while I feel that I served for a noble and just cause, it is still unnerving, that amount of energy, thought and planning that can go into the destruction of our fellow man.  So from a human sense, the above referenced arrest of Jesus, makes no sense.

Judas and the group that was with him, held every advantage.  First, they were a numerically superior force.  For Jesus had only eleven men with him compared to the multitude that came with Judas.  Secondly, Judas’ group had superior weapons.  They had swords and clubs.  In the gospel of Luke, we are told that Jesus’ group had just two swords.  Judas group was better trained.  In the gospel of John, we are told that at least a part of the multitude was a detachment of troops.  The gospels do not tell us the professions of all the disciples but we know five of them are fishermen.  A fisherman of that day might have built some considerable strength but that would not equate to training with a sword.  Finally, they had authority on their side.  This was not some mob of the street.  This multitude was gathered at the request of and were carrying out the orders of the chief priests, scribes and elders.  Only the Romans had a greater earthly authority.  Jesus claimed no earthly authority or kingship.

So the arrest should have been an amazingly simple process.  Judas identifies and then the overwhelming superior strength of Judas’ support easily captures and removes Jesus.  It even starts out that way.  Judas indeed comes up and identifies, betrays Jesus by giving Him a kiss.  Now the troops should have stepped in and done their duty.  This is when things go wrong.  For some seemingly unexplainable reason, they freeze.  Jesus has to prompt their action by asking:  “Whom are you seeking?”  They answer “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Now it should be that they already know this because Judas has already pointed Him out.  Yet for some reason they need to hear it from Jesus himself.  “I am He.”  Jesus answers.  And here is where the most incredible thing happens.  When Jesus says this, it is not as if all the sudden His disciples rush the multitude.  It is not as if suddenly the sky is split by the sound of earth shattering thunder, followed by legions of angels coming to His defense.  However, at those three simple words:  “I am He”  the multitude are gripped by fear, fall back and fall to the ground.  Seemingly, it is only when Jesus gives them permission to take Him by telling them:  “this is your hour…..but the scriptures must be fulfilled……therefore if you seek me, let these go their way…., that the multitude gains the courage to take Jesus.

The world may not understand it but you and I do.  Though they did not acknowledge it, consciously even believe it, each of those members of the multitude, spiritually knew they were in the presence of the Son of God.  The power in His declaration that I am He went far beyond just the momentary announcement that He was the one they had come for.  I am He is the declaration that He is the I AM.  He is the one Son of God and as such God.  No wonder they fell back.  To be in the presence of that kind of power would scare anyone, even though they don’t understand it or even believe in it.  No wonder they could not move until he spoke to them in such a way as to say:  do what you must do.

So what are we to carry from that interaction to today?  Earthly power is distributed in many different forms.  Sometimes we measure power by the sheer muscular size of the person or people,  Sometimes we measure power by the title that a person has:  CEO, President, General, Manager, Husband, Wife, Father or Mother.  Sometimes we say those with letters behind their names are powerful:  MD, PhD, MS, EIEIO (couldn’t resist the last one).  And there are so many other ways we grant or measure power:  age, country, race, gender, volume of voice, tendency for anger, weapons possessed, just to name a few.  Sometimes, if we are the ones with any of the above listed characteristics, we try to wield our earthly power as if we are the ones who are in or should be in control.  However, sometimes the opposite is true.  We find ourselves cowering in fear of someone whom we believe to have earthly power over us and give in to their demands.

Jesus needed no earthly trappings of power.  Jesus knew He was and is the very definition of power.  Jesus could have used His power to uterly destroy that mob and any other who would come against Him.  How did He decide to use His power?  Jesus Christ decided to use His power to carry out the loving plan of His Father.  Jesus Christ used His power to lay down His life for us and become the Powerfully Perfect Sacrifice for all of us who were powerless to do so.  In His Power He rose again, defeating all evil powers for ever.  That is a power that is so beyond my comprehension that it is awesomely frightening to behold.  Yet because that Power is rooted in love, it is a power that I so want to be able to tap into, knowing that His power will far exceed any other power out there.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that there is no power that we have which can compare to Your Power.  We praise You, most Merciful Father, that You wield Your Power in Perfect Love, Mercy and Justice.  We thank You, Holy Father, for the Power in the Resurrection, that cleanses us of our sins.  And we pray that we would be drawn to Your Perfect Power, living a life of true worship, honoring Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen


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