One of my favorite icebreaker questions is, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” Or there’s, “If you won $250 million in the lottery, what’s the first thing you’d do with all of that money?” Both situations are getting at this question: what do you do with yourself when you suddenly realize you’ve got power?
One of my favorite scenes in the movie Bruce Almighty is where Bruce realizes he’s been given all of God’s powers. The C&C Music Factory song “I Got the Power” comes on and Bruce walks around town demonstrating his new powers. It’s pretty funny. (It always makes me laugh out loud and then I go around singing the song for the next 3 days.)
Here in John 13, Jesus finds himself in a very similar situation. Verse 3 says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power.” Can you imagine being in that situation? What would you do with yourself if you suddenly realized you had power? And for Jesus in this situation, he didn’t have just a little bit of power, it says the Father had put all things under his power.
It goes on to say, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
In the moment when Jesus knew that he had all power, he got up and took the form of a servant, a slave, and he did one of the most humbling things imaginable: he washed his disciples feet. This wasn’t just a simple good deed like passing Peter the butter without being asked. This was a radical act of service. When the time arrived for Jesus to put all of his power on display, he chose to become a servant. He could have done anything in that moment, and he chose to radically serve those around him.
Usually, when I think about what I’d do with all the power or all the money in the world, washing people’s feet is not the first thing that comes to mind. But according to Jesus, if I want to display my power, getting on my hands and knees in service is the best place to start.
Now, you and I may not have all the power in the world. We may not have superpowers. We may not be ultra-powerful multimillionaires, but all of us have power over something. The best way to exert power, according to Jesus, is to serve.
Do you have power over your parents? Serve them. Do you have power over your kids? Serve them. Do you have power over your spouse? Serve them. Do you have power over employees? Serve them. Do you have power in the community? Serve. In your church? In an organization? On a committee? Serve, serve, serve.
When you find yourself in a situation of power, and all of us do, the first question you should ask is, “How can I be a servant in this situation?”
Where are the places I have power? In the places where I have power, how can I radically serve the people in a way that would be shocking to them? Am I willing to humble myself enough to do just that?
God, thank you for this incredible example of how best to use power. May we follow your lead and radically serve those around us in a way that is shocking.