On easter, I preached about the powerless power of God. This notion came to me while i was preparing my Maundy Thursday Sermon (which i admit I thought was considerably better than my easter sermon). This year, I went against the lectionary and preached from Matthew's account of the last supper. The lectionary year is A, which means most of the year is spent reading passages from Matthew, so why read John for Maundy Thursday, when the goal of Year A is to try and discern Matthew's message for the church.
Suffice it to say, I had gotten so caught up with John's account of Jesus' farewell discourse in connection with the last supper, that Matthew's account startled me. Here was Jesus, knowing his friends were about to betray him, deny him, and fail him in a variety of ways. Jesus, not surprisingly maybe, calls them out around the dinner table, telling them that one would betray him, one would deny him. The disciples don't believe it, but as the rest of the chapter unfolds, readers find out Jesus was on target with his predictions.
He had a right to be upset, to be angry, to not honor them in that moment. And yet, despite all that Jesus knows is about to occur, with the knowledge of his disciples soon-to-be sins, he offers them the Lord's Supper, a meal of deep forgiveness and reconciliation. This is a radical act, he offers forgiveness before the sins occur. He acknowledges their broken-ness, but still offers them this radical act of Love, giving them his body and his blood.
This is a powerfully radical and transformative act, one the disciples couldn't appreciate in the moment, but think of what it must have been like to reflect on such an event, to feel so much guilt and sorrow, and to eventually discover forgiveness was already offered.
This is an act of weakness in opposition to an act of strength.
Let me clarify, and I am relying heavily on the work of John Caputo for this, but an act of strength, it is a physical act. Even in the old testament, the word for power in Hebrew is the same as the word for arm. Jesus, at least in the gospels, rarely practices this kind of power, the exception possibly being the flipping of the tables in the temple. Even as the disciples attempt to fight those arresting Jesus, Jesus stops them with the prophetic: those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
Weak acts, in opposition to acts of strength, are instead acts of relationship, acts like forgiveness, generosity, compassion, reverence, summed up very much as agape Love, the kind of Love Jesus preached about.
Jesus lived into these weak actions, and in those weak action his power was (and is) found. Forgiving his disciples instead of seeking vengeance, in surrendering himself to his enemies instead of fighting them, these acts of weakness, his powerlessness in many ways, were the levers of transformation God was in fact pulling.
That is what is being offered in Christ's resurrection. It is God's way of lifting up an example for being in the world, in defeating the worlds ways of violence and death with peace and life.
It is in weakness that the followers of Christ find their strength, their ability to truly change the world.