John Stumbo Video Blog No. 19

February 12, 2015


Download High-res videoDownload Standard-res videoDownload Low-res video

February's video blog from John Stumbo continues the conversation on power. Follow along with him as he unpacks passages from Luke chapters 18 and 19. This month, John is including a downloadable companion chart to aid in personal reflection and study.


Hey, team, great to be back with you today. I so much appreciate those who interact by way of the survey questions or when I see you face to face on the previous video blogs. And on the particular one from January, I got some fascinating feedback that I wanted to read some of it back to you.

Some of it was affirming as you often are to me. One person stating, “Thanks for a great, godly reflection pertinent to our time, filled with hope.” Another person, “Your comments about power abuse convict me even in the way I try to lead my wife and children sometimes. Wow direct hit! Thanks.” Somebody else said, “Thank you for being courageous to address what needed to be addressed, for wisdom and thoughtfulness and vulnerability. I have shared it broadly with family friends or Facebook and elsewhere.”

So, as any of us, we’re grateful to get some encouraging feedback. I’m also grateful to get the interactive kind of feedback that grapples with what has been said. For example: “Toward the end, you made a statement that said ‘Jesus came to bring justice, equality.’ I felt this was a bit of an overstatement. I believe He came to grant reconciliation; the fruit of that reconciliation is justice, equality, freedom, etc.” A great improvement in what I was trying to say. Thank you for that feedback.

And the kindly spoken, honest feedback that says, “This blog was not helpful, in my opinion.” Or, “I cannot but hear the humanist tone and emphasis in your message. Indeed, the heart of what you said could be and has been said by kind, secular folks, even by some liberal Muslims that I know.”

I was hoping I said more than just a humanistic message, but if that’s what you heard, it’s helpful for me to hear what you heard. So, thank you for that.

I couldn’t however help but feel a bit of a sting as someone wrote, “You are seriously quoting, as a prophetic voice, a womanizer?” Can I gently respond by asking, do you still have Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and half of The Psalms in your Bible?

Because of the kinds of feedback that I received from last month’s video blog, I am using this month’s blog to talk further on the subject of power. Not a subject that I have ever written on or addressed in the past to any significant degree, but in my own devotional reading these days, it seems like the New Testament has been being used by the Spirit of God to reveal some new thoughts to my heart. And so, I want to share some of those with you today, taking us to Luke 18 and 19. It would be helpful for this blog if you would actually review that passage as you watch this video.

Luke 18 starts with the story of the unjust judge. It’s actually the first of five stories that are put side by side by the author—Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—that each of them have a position of power in these stories, power that is misused. Follow me with this outline that I am walking through.

The unjust judge in Luke 18 is not interested in giving justice to this woman who’s coming to him. He’s using the power of his position in a manner of self-preservation. He has no interest in justice or in a fear of God or in her needs, but he is very interested in his own self. He is using the power of his position for self-preservation until she finally wears him down. But in the meantime, he’s blocking justice for this defenseless woman.

The second story is a story of this Pharisee who goes to pray. Pharisees had the power of religion, spiritual authority, and sadly throughout this story, this Pharisee is guilty of self-admiration, where he is so impressed by his own religious activity that he really doesn’t feel himself in need of salvation. And in so doing, the Pharisees at that time actually blocked salvation for others. Jesus had said it in Matthew, “That you teachers of the law, you scribes, you Pharisees, you travel over land and sea to win a convert and make them twice as much a son of hell as you are.” Wow! They were blocking salvation.

Third story is the story of the parents that were wanting to bring their children to Jesus to be blessed, but the disciples get in the way. The disciples are the ones who exert power in this story—the power of being an insider. They were Christ’s representatives and, as insiders, were now using that self-appointed power to rebuke the children and the parents and become Jesus’ handler.

I don’t think there is any place in the gospels that would indicate that Jesus asked the disciples to handle the crowds on his behalf. In doing so, they were blocking the defenseless children from coming to Jesus.

The rich ruler is the next story. It’s interesting that Luke is the only one to tell us the story of the unjust judge and the praying Pharisee, and Luke is the only one to tell us that this wealthy guy was a ruler. It’s inserting a statement of power into this story. This ruler, this wealthy man has the power of wealth.   We have gone from Main Street in the disciple’s story of blocking the children to Wall Street, now, the story of this wealthy man who is self-sufficient. He blocks himself from salvation because he’s not willing to walk away from the power of wealth that he already has, so he actually blocks himself.

Luke 18 concludes with the story that we refer to as the story of the blind beggar. But in this story, the crowd actually exerts power—the power of numbers, where, together, they try to stop this man from getting Jesus’ attention. I think that there is a bit a self-serving that’s going on here.

You may think I’m reading too much into the story, but Jericho, being at a very low elevation—700 and some feet below sea level—it is probably very hot at this moment. A crowd is coming through a busy street. This man is trying to stop the whole thing and get Jesus’ attention, and they want this crowd to keep moving. They don’t want to . . . they have no interest in stopping for this guy that wants Jesus’ attention. So, “Those who led the way”—another power word—“Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet.” Just as the disciples had rebuked the children and the parents, the crowd rebukes the blind man. And in so doing, once again, a disabled person is blocked from having access.

Isn’t it interesting that stories side by side have somebody in power, using their power in negative ways to block somebody else or sometimes themselves from a positive use of that power? I’m intrigued, then, that Luke is the only gospel author to tell us the story of Zacchaeus that immediately follows, because Zacchaeus has power—the power of the system as a tax collector—but he doesn’t misuse his power in this story. Instead, he’s self-humbling, climbing a tree so he can see Jesus. He’s self-denying and self-sacrificing, offering up a significant portion of his wealth, if he has misused his power in any way, and opens the door of his home to the Savior and opens the door of his heart to salvation. So Luke closes with a positive example, this section on those who have power in their positons.

There are many other things that we could do with this passage, and many of you are preachers, and so you’ll do many other things with this passage. I’m intrigued to find out that there is also a theme of prayer running throughout all these. Often there is a promise and a principle, and I don’t have time to go all those places today. Where I do want to go though is that Luke interweaves the idea of Christ’s use of power in this section as well.

Chapter 17, verse 25, Jesus says about Himself, “. . . he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” Chapter 18, verse 32, “He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him.” And in Chapter 19, leads the story of the triumphal entry, where Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt. The One who could have exerted all power for self-preservation, self-serving kind of ways, He did not misuse His power but laid down His rights and authority and always used His power in a manner that built people, blessed others, healed, strengthened, brought salvation.

So I confess that I have given us an hour seminar in way too short a time, hoping that some of us will continue to study these passages and think more deeply about the use of power in our own lives.

Alliance family, I have to ask us: have we fallen into this trap personally or as a broader ministry of a misuse of power? If we combine it with fear, as I said last month, it’ll always be a misuse of power.

But it’s also human nature for us to be blind to a misuse of power, and so, are there voices of people around us who’ve been trying to say some things to us that we’ve not wanted to hear? We have pushed them aside. Have we so closely identified our own person with our position that we are afraid to give something up or release somebody or launch them into ministry? Are we having any sense of entitlement?

Oh, I confess to some of my own worse moments in recent years have been when, in an impatient kind of manner, I have felt like I deserved—I had the right. Oh God, forgive me for my ugliness at that point in time. We follow the Christ who rode into Jerusalem on a colt—knowing full well His divine authority and power, knowing full well that He was loved by the Father, He could humble himself, not need to express His power in any self-serving way but always in ways that blessed, strengthened, and brought salvation. That’s the Christ we follow. May that be the kind of people we would be.



Get Involved...


We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »


Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »


Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »