Lin Manuel Miranda’s character, “Sonny” in the musical “In the Heights,” is sensitive to the power imbalance between the haves and have nots. His Washington Heights immigrant community is scraping by. As part of the immigrant working class, he notices societal structures at work around him and against him. For once, he muses (in a crazy fantasy about winning a mere $96,000 in the lottery) he would do something about it.
“Yo, with 96,000, I’d finally fix housing
Give the barrio computers and wireless web browsing
Your kids are living without a good ‘edumacation,’ change the station,
Teach them about gentrification, the rent is escalating (what?)
The rich are penetrating (what?)
We pay our corporations
When we should be demonstrating (what?)
What about immigration? (what?)
Politicians be hating (what?)
Racism in this nation’s gone
From latent to blatant!
I’ll cash my ticket and picket
Invest in protest
Never lose my focus ’til the
City takes notice
And you know this, man!
I’ll never sleep, Because the ghetto has a million promises
for me to keep!”
In a real-life scene that reeked of powerlessness, Jesus taught His disciples what real power was, and where to get it.
Luke 9—as does each of the Bible’s Gospels—tells the story of how Jesus fed at least 5,000 men. In this miracle Jesus literally broke bread and divided fish to feed the crowd, including the massive gathering of women and children most likely in attendance but not counted. (That’s a whole other story, right there.) This power lunch was surrendered willingly by just one boy. This power lunch only came to be in the hands of Jesus.
Yet, look what Jesus said to His disciples before He broke the bread:
“. . . You feed them . . .” (Luke 9:13)
What? The disciples must have been stunned and disoriented in the face of such an imperative. All they saw and all they could sense was their own powerlessness.
Powerlessness. I sympathize with these disciples in this moment. Jesus wants us to perform a miracle. I can’t do that.
In the first place, the disciples and Jesus had gotten in the boat, at the urging of Jesus, for a mental and spiritual refuge. Herod, the local ruler—in a drunken, impetuous, capricious moment—promised up to half of his jurisdiction to his step-daughter/niece/dancer at his birthday party. Herod took John the Baptist’s head because she asked him to.
What we’ve experienced with George Floyd, Philando Castile, and Walter Scott helps us to identify with this kind of powerlessness against the knee of government.
Yes, this scene reeked of powerlessness. Trust. There weren’t 5,000 men in the desert place before Jesus got there! As they watched the little boat bob on the silver water, the crowd began to gather and follow on foot. Out of the homes poured friends and family members, carrying their sick. Dragging with them the possessed of evil spirits. Pushing carts of the elderly. Pulling carts with the kids, to see if Jesus would tell them stories. By the time Jesus and the disciples arrived, the shoreline, the dunes, and the grassy hollows were filled with a meandering mass of desperate, powerless people.
This reminds us today of the people for whom health care has failed. People for whom the educational system has failed. People for whom the criminal justice system has failed. People for whom the elected leaders and watchdogs of fairness and arbiters of justice have all failed.
Yes, this life reeked of powerlessness. The priests of the temple controlled the masses. Priests feared the full-on access to the word, to the Word Himself. Jesus posed a dangerous threat to them—the religious ruling power whose trust it was to impress upon the minds of the people the grace, mercy, and the hour of God’s judgment. It was they who managed to make what was left of the people’s faith so miserable, many folks just had no hope anymore. They found themselves both powerless against the abuses of the priests and still realized no power against sin and its effects in their lives.
It was man versus “The Man.” Man versus the Machine. And, they were out matched. But Jesus said, “You give them to eat.”
“Often we hesitate, unwilling to give all that we have, fearing to spend and to be spent for others,” Ellen White wrote in her book The Desire of Ages. “But Jesus has bidden us, ‘Give ye them to eat.’ His command is a promise; and behind it is the same power that fed the multitude beside the sea.
“In Christ’s act of supplying the temporal necessities of a hungry multitude is wrapped up a deep spiritual lesson for all His workers. Christ received from the Father; He imparted to the disciples; they imparted to the multitude; and the people to one another. So all who are united to Christ will receive from Him the bread of life, the heavenly food, and impart it to others” (Page 369).
Power comes as we teach God’s word, reveal the plan of salvation to people, and invest in them the truths of the Bible. A healing transformation happens. So, my friends, have faith in God’s word, even in, or especially in, the deserts and wildernesses of life (Isa. 43:19). Obey God’s word. Your healing, your supply, perhaps even your miracle is waiting at that crux of faith and obedience. Trust God, only trust Him and His providence, however things turn out. Partner with Him with what you’ve got. Your situation, plus Divine interaction, results in an undeniable reaction. Finally, always remember—in the height of powerlessness—to give thanks to God. Publicly. Let Him know that we know we are indebted beyond imagination for what we are about to receive! Then, we will marvel and declare, as did Paul in Ephesians 3:20, 21:
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (KJV).
This article is part of our 2022 May/June Issue