13 Names of Jesus – The Power of God – Fr. Thomas Hopko

13 Names of Jesus – The Power of God – Fr. Thomas Hopko


We [are meditating] and [thinking] upon the various
names and titles of Jesus in the Scripture, in the New Testament, which titles, of course,
are then used by the Christians, certainly the ancient Christians in their worship, in their
liturgy, in their address to God and to Christ and to the Holy Spirit, or, we could even
say, their address to God the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ, in and by the Holy
Spirit, or relating and speaking directly to Christ as the Son of God who is the only-begotten
of the Father, who is the Christ because the Spirit of God is upon him. We have all these names
and titles. Right now we want to just think a bit about the
title “the Power of God” or “Power of God” or “God’s Power.” In [the] Greek
language, there are several different words for “power,” and there are different
nuances or connotations of meaning of the word “power” in English. We have to know that
if we read the New Testament in English, very often you’ll have the word “power” that
is used, but we [cannot always] catch the nuance except by the context. Very simply put,
the word “power”—in the sense of the usual meaning of the term “power,”
like a powerful person or a powerful animal or “power,” like if we use the term
“dynamite,” dynamite which exudes incredible power; power is a kind of a force—that
word in Greek would be “dynamis.” In the Slavic languages, it would be “sila,”
the power. There’s another term that’s often translated
“power,” and that is the term “exousia” in Greek. In Slavic languages, that word would
be “vlast’.” And that is the term “power,” not like force, like
brute force or dynamite power, but that is power in the sense of authority. Probably it
would have been better and clearer to us who have to read the Scripture in English if
the translators, whenever they had the term “exousia” would translate it
“authority”; and whenever they have the term “dynamis” would translate it
“power.” Then we would have pretty much an idea without having to look at the context,
[to know] exactly, literally, what those words mean. So, for example, when in Matthew it says, the risen Christ says, “All power in heaven and
on earth has been given unto me,” that’s “exousia.” That means: “Allauthority
on heaven and on earth has been given to me.” It’s the power that a king
would have over his subjects, or a ruler would have over his slaves. That’s what
exousia” means. It’s power as authority. Or when it says in Scripture that
Jesus has power over the living and the dead, that as the Lord of the living and the dead,
he has power. Well, that’sexousia, that’s authority. Very often, Jesus is speaking
as one with authority, like: “Who is this man? He’s not like
the scribes and Pharisees. He speaks with…” You could say “power” or you could
say he speaks with “authority.” And then usually in English there, they would have
the term “authority.” So we have to be careful about these two words:
power, meaning power in the usual English sense of the word; and then power as one who sits
in power and has power. But even there, the usage is not totally consistent, because a
powerful ruler can be called someone who has adynasty, and even in the Greek language,
you have the word “to reign” and “to hold power over people” coming from that
particular root: “dynataō” or “dynastēs” or “dynatos.” Here, when it speaks in the Scripture about the one
who is mighty, that would be called “ho dynatos.” For example, in the Magnificat,
Mary speaks about “he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:49):
ho dynatos
, the mighty one, the powerful one, thesilnyĭ boh, in Slavonic. And here it’s interesting to note also that in
[the] Greek language, the word for possible, the word [meaning] that something would be possible,
would be the term “dynatos.” and then impossible would be “adynatos.”
So, for example, when the Scripture wants to say that “with God there is
nothing impossible,” it’s “adynatos.” So the possibility, you see the word “to have possibility, to be able to do something” is
exactly this word with the same root: the one who has the power and the one who doesn’t have
the power. So when it says that all things arepossibleto God, that’s “dynatos,”
and he is “ho dynatos,” the powerful or the possible one. But we have to see,
also, that there’s a couple other words. There’s the word “kratos
which can mean strength or power. That’s where you get words like thePantokrator,
the Almighty One. And “kratos” probably would be best translated as “might.” So, for
example, in church we could say, “For yours is themight, to you belongs all
kratos
,hoti sou estin tokratos kai hē dynamis kai hē doxa,” the
kratos
and thedynamis: the might and the power. So that’s another word.
And then there the word, also, “ischyros” which means “strong.” So, for example,
when we sing the Trisagion in church, we sing, “Agios o theos”: holy God, or the God holy;
agios ischyros”: holy and strong or holy, strong one or holy, and usually
we say “mighty”: holy mighty, but that’sischyros. And then, of course,
in the Trisagion, you have “athanatos.” immortal. So you have “ischys,” which
means strong or mighty, a verb to be able or to have the strength to do something
is “ischiō.” So we havedynamis, we haveexousia,
we havekratos, and we haveischyrosorischys. These are different words that we have. Right now, however, we want to focus on the term
dynamis” because that term, “dynamis” as “power” [is our focus],
power in the sense of force or might, in the sense of… Well, you see, you’ve always
got to say “in the sense of,” but I think maybe in English the best thing would [be to]
say “dynatos” in the sense of dynamite, because that’s where we get our
English word “dynamite,” which means “has incredible power.” Well, that term is used
as a title for Christ in the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, the first letter.
I believe, if I’m not mistaken, it’s theonlytime that Jesus would be
calleddynamis theou, the power of God. Let’s read that part from the I Corinthians again, because it’s connected with the conviction
that Jesus isthe Wisdomof God. In I Corinthians, the first letter to the
Corinthians—we’re familiar with this [or] we
should be—that the Apostle Paul begins the letter by saying that
the Gospel of God that comes to the world is the Gospel of Christ, and that Paul came to preach
this Gospel. And it’s very interesting that he said he preaches
it, “not with eloquent widsom of this world,” and the reason that he says that he
does not preach it with the eloquent wisdom ofthisworld, human wisdom or human
rhetoric, he says, “Lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of itspower.” Actually,
the King James there simply says, “Lest the Cross be,” simply, “emptied” or “made
empty, made vain.” And actually in that sentence in Greek, there is no word “power.”
It just simply says, “Lest the Cross should be of no effect,” like King James,
or “Lest the Cross be empty.” But the meaning is certainly clear: lest it be
emptiedof its power, lest the Cross be renderedpowerless. In other words,
if the Gospel is dependent on human wisdom and human rhetoric and human speech and
eloquence, then the Cross has no power. You don’t need it, and the Cross is actually
emptied of its power. Of course, one of the things that the Apostle Paul
is insisting on in all his letters, certainly, for example, the Letter to the Galatians, is that
the Cross would not be emptied of its power, that for Christians God’s power would
be the power of the crucified Christ, the power of the Cross. That would be where God’s
power would be revealed and shown and actualized and fulfilled and perfected.
In Christ, but always in Christ asstavromenos, Christ crucified. Christ is always the crucified
Christ for the New Testament generally, and for the Apostle Paul, of course, in particular.
In this first Corinthian letter (I Corinthians 1:18), the Apostle Paul says that the word of the Cross is
just foolishness, it’s folly—the Greek word is “mōria” where you get the
term “moronic”—to those who are perishing. But to us who are being saved, he says,
this very Cross isdynamis theou, the power of God. He said, for those who arebeing
saved
—it’s a nice present participle continuing: not who have been
saved, but who are in the process of being saved,sōzomenois hēmin dynamis theou
estin
, the Cross is the power of God. So he calls the Cross “theou dynamis,”
God’s power. But then as we read on, and rooting on in, I’ll
be using here the RSV again, it says, “Has not God, through Christ crucified, made
foolish the widsom of this world, and has he now also made powerless the power of this
world?” That’s its weakness, its foolishness, its silliness. And then he goes on to
say, “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach, namely Christ crucified, to save
those who believe. For Jews demand signs…” and, of course, that means signs of
power. God has to show, by actual acts and signs, that he is the powerful God.
He is theho dynatos, the powerful one, theho krataios, the mighty one, that he is
ischyros
, the strong one. It has to be shown by his signs, by what he acts.
Then the Apostle says, the Greeks, the Gentiles, they wantsophia, they want wisdom.
He said, but we preach Christ crucified,skandalonto Jews—stumbling blocks, scandal, impossible,
outrageous—and to Gentiles or to Greeks, foolishness, folly. Then he continues (I Corinthians
1:24): “But to those who arecalled, both Jews and Greeks”—and here you have it—“Christ,
God’s power, Christ, God’s wisdom”: “Christos(or “Christon,” in
that sentence; it would be [in the] accusative case) to those who are called—tois klētois
Ioudaiois te kai Ellēsin
—both Jews and Greeks—Christon theou dynamin kai theou
sophian
—Christ, God’s power and God’s wisdom.” In that particular sentence,
if we are being very technical, we see that there is no definite
article. It doesn’t saythepower of God orthewisdom of God. However, it’s
certainly the case that throughout Scripture and of course in the Church’s prayer
and liturgy, it would be said that Christ isthehypostatic wisdom and even
the
hypostatic power of God, thatthepower of God, or God’s own power
is expressed perfectly in his Son. The powerful God expresses his powerin his Son
who is his Logos, who is his Word, who is his Image, who is his exact expression,
who is everything that he is, not being him. And here we have this kind of theological principle
that has been elaborated by the Church Fathers, certainly people like Gregory the
Theologian, in his theological orations, where Gregory would say, with Basil and the other
Gregory and generally speaking this became a patristic teaching of ancient Christianity,
that everything that God is, that is expressed in person, personified or hypostatic form, in his Son,
the second Person of the Trinitywho becomes a man:the manJesus of Nazareth. So the claim would be that Jesus of Nazareth, being
both divine and human, being both God and, as we will reflect in the days to come, being
a real human being, reallyanthropos, really a man, the man, you have God’s qualities
and God’s characteristics, God’sidiomatato use the Greek word, his properties,
shown in personal form in the person of Jesus of Nazareth himself. For example,
even before the Cappadocian Fathers, before Gregory and Basil and the other Gregory and
then later John Chrysostom and the further Fathers, even before them you have Athanasius the
Great, who in some sense was even the teacher of the Cappadocians and the further Fathers.
All Fathers after Athanasius in Christian history consider themselves disciples of Athanasius
and followers of Athanasius, and we even do today! Well, St. Athanasius, in his fights against the Arians who denied the divinity of Christ, and
in his most famous treatiseOn theIncarnation of the Word of God, the fact that
the Son of God and Word of God, God’s only-begotten, his Logos, his Wisdom,literally
becomes flesh and becomes the man Jesus, St. Athanasius makes it a kind of a principle that’s
followed forever by Orthodox Christians, namely, that theone Godis the Father of
Jesus, and who and what and how that one Godisis revealed on earth in the person of
Christ, the Son of God in human form. Then Athanasius would say that one God, the Father of Jesus, is theone God, the only God,
the only God there is. And therefore he would say that theonenessof God, the
unity of God is shown forth in the one Son, and there can be only one Son of God because
there is only one God. And Christ shows the unity of God. And as St. Basil, the disciple
of Athanasius, will say later, “God is one and even Trinity, in nature, not
in number.” One and three being numbers, apply only to created
reality. They do not apply to God, strictly speaking. But we have to speak ofone
God
so that we would know we’re not polytheists. We don’t think that there could
be many gods, and it’s even impossible that there would be many gods. If there was God at
all, that God has to be one. But if that God, who is God, expresses himself perfectly,
then his self-expression has to be one. So Athanasius would say the unity, the oneness of
the one God, is expressed in the one Son, the one Christ. Then he would go further: if that
God is thelivingGod, then the life of that living God is his Son.
So Jesus will be called “the Life,” and we will meditate on this in days to come.
If this one living God is thetrueGod, then thetruthof the true God, personally,
will be shown in the person of his Son, again Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate Son of God on earth,
the incarnate Logos will betheTruth, and we will speak about Jesus being
the Truth
. If the one, true, and living God is thewise
God, then theWisdomof this wise God, thesophiais again personified,
actualized, given to us, in the person of Christ. For today, for now, what we want to see, what we want to try to understand, is that the same thing
is true about power. If the one, true, living God ispowerful, if he is
all-mighty, or, to use the language of scholastic textbooks, omnipotent, if that God is
omnipotent, if he is the one who is potent… And it’s very interesting, by the way, that in [the] Latin language, the word “potent,”
which means “powerful,” also means “possible,” like if you’re “impotent” you don’t have
the power and you don’t have the possibility, and the term “potestas” which means “power,”
also is the word for “being able,” just like in Greek. Remember I told you that
dynatos” means “power,” the powerful one, but “dynatos” also means “possibility,”
having the possibility. So it’s the same thing in Latin with that particular verb, it means
if you are powerful, then you are able, you have the possibility. But what we want to
see here, now, what we’re trying to [say] on our subject, is that the ominpotent
God, the all-possible God, the God to whom all things are possible in heaven and
on earth, is the all-powerful one, but thepowerof that all-powerfulGod,
for Christians, is Jesus Christ. And St. Paul says it specifically; we just heard it:
Christos estavrōmenos
, crucified Christ,Christos theou dynamis kai theou sophia,
Christ crucified, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, God’s Power, God’s Wisdom. When we think about power in that sense, not in the
sense of authority, not in the sense of having authority over creation or over life or
death, not in the sense of strength or just simply being strong, but being powerful,
having that power, thatdynamis, that dynamite, so to speak, we find that many, many times
referred to Christ in the New Testament. That he has power. He has not only authority over
demons, for example, but he haspowerto cast them out. He not only has authority over
the winds and the waves, but he has thepowerto quiet them down. He not only has
authority to forgive sins, but he’s got thepowerto forgive [them].
Has the ability, he has the capability, the possibility ofdoingit, enacting it. He not only has
the authority, but he has the power. This power is spoken of a lot, about
Jesus in the New Testament. For example, an example that cannot possiblynotcome to
mind is when, in the Gospels, for example, in the Gospel according to St. Mark—it’s also in
[Luke,] I believe, but in Mark, certainly—you have this case where Jesus shows that he haspower
and authority over life and death by raising the dead, raising Jairus’ daughter,
raising the only son of the widow. He’s got that power. But there’s also that place
in the Gospel (Mark 5:22-43) where, when Jesus is going to this
house because the little girl has died and he’s going to go there and show his power
by raising her from the dead, this was the daughter of Jairus, when he’s going there,
the story is interrupted in the Gospel narrative when a great crowd gathers around him and
there’s a woman who had a hemorrhage, a flow of blood for twelve years, suffered many
things under many physicians and spent all she had and grew even worse. She broke the taboo
laws of her time by going out on the street when she was unclean with that blood
flowing out of her, hemorrhaging, and she gets into the crowd and she hears about Jesus,
and she thinks, “Well, this is my chance.” So she goes against all convention,
gets out there, and she just touches his garment. She just touches the hem of his garment, and she says,
“If I just touch even his garments, I shall be made whole, I shall be healed.” Or,
literally, it says, “I shall be saved.” Then it says, she does it and
immediately
the hemorrhage ceased and she felt in her body that
she had been healed of her disease. So she felt a kind ofpowercome into her,
right? And then it says: Jesus, perceiving in himself thatpower,
dynamis, had gone forth from him, he immediately turned around and said, “Who touched
my garments?” The disciples said to him, “You see the crowd
pressing around you and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” and he looked around to
see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her,
came in fear and trembling, fell down before him and told him the whole truth.
And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. (Your faith has saved you.) Go in
peace and be healed (be saved) of your disease.” The expression there is very important for our topic right now: “He perceived thatpower
had gone out of him.” In other words, thatpoweris in him. And this is a
very interesting case, because he doesn’t lay on hands, he doesn’t spit, he doesn’t anoint,
he doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t say, “Do you want to be healed?” The woman is
totally anonymous, and she doesn’t do anything but touch—not evenhim, but his
garment, the fringe of his garment, it says, the hem of his garment. And then he says,
“I know thatpowerwent out from me,” so he is a kind of incarnate
power
. He’s a walkingpower. Now, of course, our understanding is
that Jesus regulates that power. He knows when to show it, how to show it, when to reveal it,
when not to reveal it. For example, another example would the the Transfiguration, when Peter,
James, and John are taken up on the mountaintop and they see him transfigured and they
see all the energy and the splendor and the glory and the light of God shining from
him. Well, we could say, that was always in him. That’s the way he always was. And I don’t
think we would say with some people that it was always there, people just didn’t
see
it, that in fact he was always walking around, shining with power exuding from him
and people just didn’t know it. I think you’ve got to [understand], if you interpret
the text the way it’s given to us, it was there but hewasn’tshowing
it.Hewas hiding it.Hewas not giving it, but it was always there. Therefore we would say about Jesus, not only that
he has power, but that he is power, and that the power that he has is the power that he
is
, that the power that he shows forth is the power that actually belongs to him.
It is his own. And in St. John’s Gospel, the theological Gospel, he makes that point several
times. He says, for example… Pilate will say, “I have the power to crucify you.
I have the power to let you go.” Jesus says, “You would have no power at all if it weren’t
given to you from above.” But then he himself says that he has the power to lay down his life.
In St. John’s Gospel he says it specifically: “I have the power to lay down my life.
I have the power to take it up again.” He doesn’t exercise that power in the way that we
usually think he could, simply by raising up the dead person, for example, like Lazarus,
but he’s got it. So when he doesn’t exercise it, it’s because he
chooses
not to exercise it, not because he doesn’t have it. It’s his. In the
theological Gospel of John, he says he doesn’t even have to pray to God for it.
It’s always his. In St. John’s Gospel, he says that he and the Father are one.
He said that the Father has given everything that he is to him, that he reallyiswhat
the Father is in his Sonship and even in and through his humanity, because the Word became flesh
and the Son of God became the son of the Virgin and lived on earth. So he’s got all of
that. And so, for example, I believe it’s in Matthew when they want to take
up swords when he’s in the garden—well, it’s generally in the Gospel—he says, “Put
those swords away.” He says, “Don’t you know I could call twelve legions of angels and
wipe you all out if I wanted?” He’s got that power. In fact, he didn’t have to call
twelve legions of angels; he could just wipe them out himself, as it will say in the
Holy Scripture, in St. Paul, in the Thessalonian letter, and in the Book of Revelation:
he could slay them by the breath of his lips, that his word is even a powerful reality, a two-edged
sword that cuts through the bones and marrow and so on. Everything that Jesus is is
a power. And then, of course, this is extended to all the other qualities:
his wisdom is a power; his truth is a power; his light is a power; his glory is a
power. Everything is filled with power, that very power that he himself is, because Christ
is God’s Power. In fact, in one kind of poetic rhapsody of St. Gregory the Theologian—I
tried to find it, to be honest; I tried to find it and I didn’t want to keep looking, but I
know it’s there—even poetically calls Jesus Christ “the Father’sright
hand
.” He says, “Heisthe Father’s right hand.” Because the right hand of
God is glorified in strength. The right hand of God is filled with power.
The right hand of God overcomes the enemies. In fact, even when the priests in the Orthodox Church,
and the bishops, vest for the holy Liturgy, when they put the cuffs on their hands,
they say, “Thy virtue, O Christ, is glorified in strength. Thy right hand, O Lord,
is glorified in power.” And by the way, the word “virtue” in Latin,
that is the term for power: “virtue has gone out of him,” power, in that sense.
And by the way, “powers,” like “dynamis” and “virtues,” those are also the names of
one of the ranks of angels: the powers, the principalities and powers. But Jesus is the
Power over all the powers of creation, all the created powers are under his
power, and heisthe power of God. So Gregory the Theologian says, “Heis
the Father’s right hand. He not onlysitsat the Father’s right hand,
but heisthe Father’s right hand. Heisthe very power of God, and he
has
that power. What we also want to see is this: it is certainly
the teaching of holy Scripture, and the Apostles and the prophets in prefiguration, and certainly
the holy Fathers, that when we think of divine power, we have to confess that if it just came to
power—to create the universe or to destroy the universe or to crush the enemies or
whatever—God has it. God has it, God is it, God is not without it. But there’s a couple
things we’ve got to think about when we think of that. Number one is:
God has that power, and he could annihilate everything if he wanted to. But sometimes people
will say that if God does not have the power to do absolutely everything that he would
want to do, then he’s not really powerful. Andthenwhat they do—the new atheists do this, by the way: Hitchens and Dawkins, in their
books,The God Delusionby Dawkins andGod is Not Great: How Religion Poisons
Everything
by Hitchens, and I hope at some point to reflect on the radio about
these books, the new atheistic books—but one of the things that they say, thinking that
they’re very clever, is that they try to prove how illogical belief in God is by saying this. They’ll say, “If God is all-good, and he cannot
make creatures good, then he is not powerful. And so if he is not powerful, he is
not God, according to you guys, because your God has to be powerful.” Then they would say,
“However, if God has the power to make all evil people good, and he doesn’t
use
that power, then he himself is not good.” So they try to build up what they
consider to be a prediction that somehow disproves the existence of God. They’ll say,
“If he has no power over evil creatures, to make them good, he’s not all-powerful, and if
he has the power and doesn’t use it, then he’s not good.” Now, our answer to that
would be, “Hey, wait a minute. You’ve got to understand several
things. Number one is: God is all-powerful, and one of the expressions of his power is to create
people free, to make spirits free, to make human beings free. And once God decides to
have human beings and to have angels, then God is ready to risk having creaturesover which
he has no power
, except, if he wanted to, to destroy them, just to annihilate them.
Oh yeah, he could do that. He could also have power over, well, let’s take human beings.
He could have power over our bodies, to send us diseases or something like that. But [that]
is the Christian teaching, I believe it is the Christian teaching, and not all Christians
hold this, by the way. There are some Christians who believe that if you don’t say
that God can make every rotten, sinful person into a saint by his own power, even against
the will of that person, then God is not really sovereign. Some Christians say that.
I won’t say what their title, their name of that kind of church is, but there are churches
who claim that the sovereignty of God is total. They even say that the impotence
of creatures is total. We’re totally depraved. But then they say that God makes an unconditional
election of some of us that we can do nothing about. Then [they say] that he atones only a limited
number that he wants to, and then he gives irresistible grace tothosepeople,
that cannot be fought against, and then they become holy and they can never fall away again
because there’s the perseverance of the saints. The acronym for that teaching was TULIP:
Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance
of those made holy by God. We ancient Orthodox Christians, following ancient
Christianity,do not accept thatat all. Why not? Because we believe that God,
in his power, used his power to make free creatures. And once he makes those creatures,
it’s not only that hewill notviolate their freedom, once he makes them, hecannot.
He has to onlydealwith them as he can, to try to get them to love him, to follow
his truth, to rejoice in his light, to delight in his life, but he can’tforce by
power
anybody to do that. God has nopowerto make a person who does not want to
be holy and true and beautiful and good to be so. Creatures who have freedom and are spiritual creatures made by God’s power to be free can stand
over against God forever and ever and ever if they so choose. Some people think that
creatures willnotresist God forever. Other people, following Scripture, think
that some creatureswill, and God can do literally nothing about it.
He could take on their sin; he could forgive it. He can die on the Cross. He can do all kinds of
things, but he hasno powerto compel them to believe. And here I think it’s very
important, if we’re really, strictly speaking, not to say God
will not
violate our freedom—or our free will, ouraftexousian, the authority
that we have over ourselves, the power that we have over ourselves—not only he will
not, but he cannot. It would be as illogical as when I was a freshman in college,
taking a course in theology and a Catholic school. There were people who said, “God is not
all-powerful because he cannot make a rock bigger than he can pick up” or “God is
not all-powerful because he cannot make a square circle.” Well, that was the first time
I learned the term “ontological.” The teacher of theology said,
“A square circle is an ontological impossibility. It’s an absurdity. A rock bigger
than God can pick up is also an absurdity.” He called it an ontological absurdity, and I ran to
the dictionary after class and looked up the term “ontological.” “Ontological”
means “according to its being.” So you cannot have a circle that would be square, because
it would no longer be a circle. You cannot have a square that could be circular,
either. You cannot have a triangle that would have four sides. These are all absurdities.
And to say that God can’t make a triangle with four sides is to speak gibberish and stupidity.
But I believe it’s equally stupid—excuse me for the word—it’s equally foolish and wrong
to say God could make a creature holy even if that creature didn’t want it. Because if
you have a free creature, like an angel or a human being, then God gives up that kind of
power, bymakingthat person in the first place. Now we could add one other thing, though, about divine power. And that is, that the real power
of God that Christ himselfisis not the power of brute force. It is not the power
of compulsion. What is it? It’s the power of love. It’s the power of life.
It’s the power of light. It’s the power of wisdom. It’s the power of truth. It’s the
power of beauty. It’s the power of mercy. It’s the power of total humility to identify with
these free creatures in order to save them by every possible powerful means that are in
God’s power if that could possibly be the case. What we have to say here in conclusion, when we meditate on Christ as the Power of God, is this
great paradox: that the power of God, for what it really is,vis-a-vishuman beings
and angels and creatures, is not a power of brute force; it’s the power of love and
truth and beauty and glory and wisdom, peace. And that’s why we say in church, “O Christ,
the Wisdom and Word and Power of God, O Christ who is our peace and our power.”
It’s that kind of power. So the paradox is that, as St. Paul will say about
himself and about all Christians and about God himself, “God’s strength, God’s power,
is made perfect in weakness.” And he said that in II Corinthians 12. He said when he
was praying for power over that messenger of Satan that was sent to harass him, the thorn in
the flesh, he asked God three times to take it away, and God said no, and God said,
“My grace is sufficient for you.Mypoweris made perfect in weakness.” And
then the Apostle Paul says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Here we could apply
this to Jesus Christ our Lord himself, the incarnate Son of God, the Logos
in flesh, because what does Jesus do? What does God do through Jesus? He shows through
Jesus the power of his love, the power of his truth, the power of his wisdom, the power of
his glory. And Jesus shows that power by becoming meek and lowly and powerless and identified
with those who are in the power of evil in order to deliver them from that power. So what the paradox would be is this: in the crucified
Christ whoisGod’s power, it is God’s power that is beingshown.
When Christ is crucified and becomes sin for us and becomes curse for us and dies for us,
that is God expressing his divine power. That is God usingpoweras power ought
to be used: to create life and not death, the power to make life and not death.
And when we think of human power, very often we think of the power tokill, the
power to destroy, the power to annihilate, the power to crush, and, alas, we human beings use
that kind of power all too often, the power to shame, to make people squirm, to feel
pain. Well, God uses his power to do just the opposite, and he uses that power, we can say,
paradoxically, by not exercising that kind of power any more. When the sons of Zebedee
said, “Let’s call down fire and wipe out this village that didn’t
accept you.” He said, “That’s over, boys. That’s over. God is going to show his
ultimate power now.” And as Mary says in the Magnificat, the ultimate power of God
is when he looks upon theabjectpovertyand powerlessness of his handmaiden
and becomes incarnate in her womb as a baby and becomes human. Jesus says, “Learn from me.
I ampraïs, meek, andtapinos stē kardia, powerless in
heart, empty of power.” And it even says in the Scripture that Jesus, though he has everything,
has totally nothing. Being rich, he became poor. Being the wise one, he became a fool
as far as this world is concerned. Heemptiedhimself, poured himself out,
divested himself of his powerand—here’s the paradox—that very divesting of
power is the powerful act of God. That’s why we can say that Jesus destroyed Death
by the power of God. The troparion, tone two, in the Orthodox Church: “When thou didst
condescend unto death, O Life immortal, thou didst slay hell by thepower, by the
dynamis
, of yourtheotis, your Godhead.” And by the way, St. Paul says that that
dynamis
and thattheotisshould be seen by creatures in everything that exists,
and the reason we don’t see it and the reason we’re blind and ignorant and in
darkness and death is because we choose ourselves and not God, and refuse to praise and
glorify God. But we sing in church, “When thou didst condescend
unto death, O Life immortal, thou didst slay hell by thepowerof thy divinity.”
And we sing it all the time during the Paschal season: “Christ is risen from the dead,
from among the dead, trampling down Death by death.” So the amazing thing is that God
shows his power by dying, and the power of God destroys Death when Jesus dies, and
that the humiliation of Jesus and his self-emptying as the suffering servant of Godis
the expression of God’s power. Itishow God’s power acts. That is God
doing his thing. That isho dynatos, the mighty one, showing his might by destroying
Death through the act of total humiliation, condescension, and, of course, the most
important four-letter word: love. His is the power of love, and he loves us to the end,
and he takes on all of our weakness and our powerlessness. And he gives up all of his
power. In fact, I think we have to say that if God did not act to raise Jesus from the
dead, Jesus would have stayed dead. Again, that’s an ontological absurdity and a casus
irrealis and it’s just a plain stupidity. He came to destroy Death, and heknewthat
his death would destroy Death, and it would be the power of God that would destroy Death,
and that power of God is who and what he is himself, and he expresses that power ultimately. He shows his other kind of power. He shows it.
He raises the dead; he casts out the demons; he quiets the storms; he calms the winds; he multiplies
the loaves. He shows that he has the power. He shows himself transfigured with
the very power and glory of God on the Transfiguration mountain. But ultimately he wants
to reveal God’s ultimate power, and that is the power of love that’s stronger than
death and destroys Death by dying and taking that death upon himself. So that’s why,
not only do we say, “Christis God’s Power,” but we sayChristos
estavrōmenos
, the crucified Christ, Christ crucified, is the Power of God and the Wisdom of
God. And the Wisdom and the Power of God go together. Just one more thing that we’re going to meditate on, probably the next time, is that when
Jesus was at the Passion, and before Pilate—in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; it’s
in all four Gospels—they ask him, they’re asking him questions: “Are you the
chosen? Are you the blessed? Are you God’s Son?” And he says, “You know that I am.” In
Mark he even says, “I am.Egō eimi.” He uses that term, which is, in fact, the divine
name. When they said, “Are you the Son of God?” he says,
Egō eimi. I AM.” But also, what we want to see—and this is important
when we think of the divine power—is that in the garden, Jesus says, “O Father, all
things are possible to you.Dynatos. You have the power. Don’t let me die. Don’t let
me be crucified.” And God says, “No, you have to die.” In other words, this is
the way that I’m going to show my power. Then when he’s in front of the high priest
and they ask [him], “Areyou the Son of God?” and he says, “I am,” and then
he says… Well, let me just read it as it’s actually written (Mark 14:60-64).
The high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make when I
speak to you? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus was silent
and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of
the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of man seated at the
right hand ofpower,dynamis, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the
high priest tore his garments and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? We have
heard the blasphemy.” So it’s interesting that at the Passion, Jesus
refers to his power. “You will see the Son of man”—and we will talk about what
“Son of man” means—but, “You will see the Son of mancoming in power,
seated at the right hand.” And “to be seated at the right hand” means “tobe in
power
.” And that’s what he says: “You will see the Son of manin
power
. You will see him as God’s Power.” And then they say that’s blasphemy, and they decide
to kill him. The same thing is in Matthew. The same thing is in
Luke. The same thing, in its own way, is in John. Let’s just listen to Matthew (Matthew
26:62-65). The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no
answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” Jesus was silent.
The high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God,tell usif you are the
Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so, but I tell you, hereafter
you will see the Son of man,seatedat the right hand of powerand coming on the
clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his robes and said, “He has stated utter
blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy.” And they crucify
him. So the very last words that Jesus speaks to the high priest [are]: “You
will see the Son of man, seated in power, at the right hand of power.” And that Son
of man, Jesus himself, is indeed, according to the Holy Scripture and the theological
understanding, he is himself the Power of God. Christ crucified: God’s Wisdom, and God’s Power.

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