1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 2:13-22

We might wish Jesus would do what he does in this passage from John. We might want him to burst into whatever edifice we see as oppressive and drive the bad people out, and we’d defend his right to do it (but then we know we wouldn’t really stand up when it counted, and he knows that about us too).

Jesus, however, doesn’t defend himself. He’s perfectly in the right, and we all know it, but he doesn’t stand up for his convictions in the way we’d think. We’d prefer that he argue down the religious leaders right then and there, because that’s what we’d want to do ourselves.

Jesus acts differently. He submits to human power as proof of God’s power. Not because the world was right to set him in his place, but because God’s power works so differently. God’s power is the power to rebuild, to raise the dead to life, to make new what our power consistently tears down.

That’s why it’s so important that he chose to answer the challenge to his authority with a riddle: “tear down this temple.” He emphatically didn’t rise to the challenge the religious leaders gave him. It reminds me of a woman I worked with. She’s a great hospital chaplain because she consistently takes the role that balances the situation she’s in. She’s quiet when others are angry or scared, and she’s more confrontational when others are being too quiet. Her role almost always works to defuse a bad situation. My tendency, on the other hand, would be to escalate it by meeting the religious leaders’ indignation with my own.

Jesus is able to choose the submissive route because he knows that God’s creative power will outlast human destructive power. He knows that crises will end, oppression and injustice will finally be torn down, and something new will rise in their place.

Jesus’ power is not in powerlessness alone. Christian power comes from standing with the weak. That’s more power than we would have had for ourselves because God with us in that solidarity. God is with us when we turn away from a world that insists on keeping people in their place, making everyone go along with the way of the world. God is with us when we turn to a new and different way of living.

This life is infectious. It looks strange from the outside, but there’s something true about it, something deeper than what the world ordinarily sees. Not everyone will come along with this way of living, but some will: those who are ready to live in a new way with a God who invents new life for us.

So we give of ourselves to this community. We find ways to connect ourselves with those who don’t live here but who are still our brothers and sisters in Christ. We stand with them and stand with each other, not because we can outvote or outfight the powers that stand against us, but because together, with God’s strength, we can outlast and outcreate anything else in the world.