Power of Love vs Love of Power

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” These words are often attributed to Jimi Hendrix, but it was actually William Gladstone who said “We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.”

Today Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, with a crowd of followers who shout “Hosanna to the Son of David” and wave palm branches in the air. The Jews are frustrated and angry living under the Roman occupation and are hoping that Jesus will save them from this, and they are cheering him in the hope that the power of Jesus will raise them out of oppression and back into a nation. But Jesus’ mission was to show to the world the power of love over the love of power. He enters Jerusalem on a humble donkey, his procession, unlike that of Roman generals, is one of peace, vulnerability, humility and compassion. Jesus’ followers do not realise that their idea of power is not the same as his.

Only five days later this same crowd are shouting “Crucify him, crucify him”. They feel let down that their plan of salvation has not been fulfilled. Jesus has not formed an army, or led a rebellion and overthrown the Romans; he has been arrested and tried and is now to be crucified. They do not recognise the power of love, the self-sacrifice of the God of love who does not rule by force or oppression or fear. They fail to see the power of love which is poured out on the cross on Good Friday and the power of love that conquers despair, darkness and death on Easter Sunday.

Our world continues pursuing the love of power. We have seen it in our arrogant and selfish attitudes and actions in the world; the plundering of resources, the polluting of our air and seas, the turning of a blind eye to those in need, the constant battle to ensure we have what we want even at the expense of our environment, or at the expense of another’s humanity and dignity. Stories during lockdown that lifted our spirits were those of individuals and communities who were practising love; a 90 year old who offered her ventilator to someone younger; the doctors and nurses who died from the virus they were treating in others; the many volunteers ensuring that those who live on their own had food, medication and a phone call offered to them. These stories show us the power of love in transforming despair into hope, darkness into light and death into life.

On this Palm Sunday, as we hear the followers of Jesus shouting “Hosanna” let us not be tempted by the love of power that will lead us to be part of the crowd that shouts “crucify him” by Friday. Let us open our eyes to the power of God’s saving love for us – the power of love that can heal humanity and the power of love that enables humanity to heal the world.

Edited from a school chaplain’s sermon for Palm Sunday 2020