The Treasure of Powerlessness
Once in a while somebody comes along who models for us the absolute TREASURE of powerlessness. For powerlessness can be a choice – a choice made on behalf of love. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandala, Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama – all these folks chose the way of self-emptying. They chose not to hate, not to do battle, instead to work for reconciliation and forgiveness. They understood what it means to willingly participate in powerlessness. They humbled themselves for the sake of those who needed them – speaking truth to the powers that be – putting their lives on the line for love.
When Jesus tells the rich young man who comes to him asking about how to receive eternal life that he must give up everything he owns and come and follow Jesus, Jesus is instructing him in the way of this chosen powerlessness. And later, when he talks to the disciples about the seed falling down into the ground and dying, he is giving us the blueprint for it.
Dying, self-emptying – choosing the way of the cross – that’s the powerlessness that is a priceless treasure to us all. And it’s something that isn’t just Christ’s to do. It is the treasure of all of us.
And so it follows that in today’s Gospel reading Jesus stages an entry into Jerusalem that puts everyone on notice that he’s there. Though he and his little band of followers have come by foot to the capital, now he grabs himself an untried colt and makes a parade of his entry. He symbolically enacts the scripture that predicted his arrival – how the Messiah would come. His people shout “Hosanna,” and sing hymns in which he features as the king.
And yet, what a king! He doesn’t take on the sort of power that emperors were displaying in that era. No thousands of marching cohorts of armed men. No siege engines or chariots. Just a band of rag-tag followers, the majority of whom don’t have a weapon among them – don’t even have an extra coat. These folk who had followed him across the miles enter the City not armed with anything but palm branches and cloaks and their voices raised in song.
Thus he declares himself: The paradoxical Messiah. He will conquer without raising a sword. He calls out for all to be guided by him, but he does not march. Instead he is captured without a fight, betrayed by a kiss.
He is the One. But this powerless love that he demonstrates again and again, even unto death, is hard to understand, hard to stomach. Who wants to be that way?
At heart? All of us do. This is the way of hope and healing and a new possibility for a whole and joy-ful life. Christ shows us a new path, a new Way.
The powerlessness is a gateway. Self-emptying for the sake of love is a gateway. It is Christ’s gateway. The gentle letting go of everything – the spilling of pain, of life itself – for love – we’re called to do it in just the same way as he did. We’re called to do it for love.