Did you ever wish you had more power? Power to do things that you can’t do. Laurie loves to ride bike, but it has become such an effort lately. That effort has taken all the joy out of it, But she has been saving and saving and like millions of Americans she has bought an electric bike. Now when we ride up those long steep hills, I’m huffing and puffing and my leg muscles are burning while Laurie is smiling, breathing easy and enjoying the scenery as she effortlessly gets all the power she wants from her bike's electric motor. The bike's power is wonderful. It has brought joy to her cycling. I think she is enjoying it more now than she ever did.
The bike’s power is amazing, but it is limited isn’t it. The battery will only take you so far. In the world there are many powers –
The powers in creation - sun, wind, rivers, oceans, fire – sometimes we really see these powers rage and roar.
There’s nuclear power – the power of atoms.
There is political power and military power – of kings, presidents and nations. and there’s the power we have as individuals and groups.
We can recognize all these powers as God’s gifts which can be used to create and sustain life. Each of these earthly powers has conditions and limitations. The temptation for us as sinful human beings is to try to reach beyond our limitations – to use our power to control. Even to use our power to grasp heaven and haul ourselves up there by our own effort. But what if there was a power beyond all these powers - beyond limitations. A power that we can tap into even without reaching beyond our own creaturely limitations.
Today’s passage is Luke’s account of Jesus’ post resurrection appearance to the disciples. In these appearances the disciples are given a promise as well as a task – often referred to as a commission. Luke points out that Jesus had appeared to two followers who were on their way to Emmaus. They didn’t recognize Jesus as they walked along with Him. Jesus opened the scriptures to them and they finally recognized that it was Jesus when he broke bread with them. These two followers are excited and rush back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples and while they are telling them what happened Jesus appears in their midst. Jesus demonstrates to them that it is indeed him in the flesh. He shows them his hands and feet. He shows them that he’s not some spirit or ghost by eating a piece of fish. And, as with the two on the way to Emmaus, Jesus opens the scriptures and shows them that he fulfilled the Old Testament – the law, the prophets, and the psalms. That the messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. And now repentance and forgiveness is to be proclaimed to all nations – to all groups of people - beginning in Jerusalem. And then Jesus tells them that they are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.
So, there is the task or commission – proclaim repentance and forgiveness and they are to witness. And here is the promise – the promise of the Father – being clothed with power from on high. The Greek word for power here in this passage is dunamis. The meaning is to be able. Jesus gave no condition, no qualifier, no limitations concerning the power that was to be given. As we read Luke’s second book – Acts – we see clearly that this power is the power of the Holy Spirit.
The power given to us in the Holy Spirit is the power to become able to do what we could not do before. It is the power to do that which is above our ability to do. Dunamis means to make possible. So in the power of the Holy Spirit we have the power to make possible that which was not possible. Naturally, the Holy Spirit is power for holy purposes not for selfish unholy purposes – It is the power to fulfill the will and calling of God. Earthly powers are limited but God’s power is limitless. Dunamis also means can as in I can. The power of the Spirit is the power of I can or maybe better to say God can working through me. Paul writes of this in Philippians when he says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Then again in Ephesians 3 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
God may give us some tough assignments – more than what we can do or endure in our own strength, But when we are tempted to say I can’t – remember God’s promises and the promised dunamis power that we have been clothed with. We just might find that we can’t but God can. Amen.