The reader of the Gospel of Mark must mark the stark contrast between Jesus’ view of His kingdom and that of His immediate disciples. While Jesus descends from the throne to the cross, His disciples only imagine their comfortable ascension to their thrones.
Notice that every time Jesus reiterated His impending death to them (Mk. 8:31; 9:30-32; 10:32-34), they always were busy arguing about who is superior among them (8:32-38; 9:33-37; 10:35-45).
Mark intentionally places Jesus’ death predictions just before the disciples’ preoccupation with superiority and greatness and wealth. In so doing, he paints a picture of the Kingdom-minded Master with His earthly-minded disciples. The point is that Christ inaugurated an upside-down kingdom that wrongfoots all those whose definitions of power and prosperity are earth-bound.
The message of the cross is that God’s power is wrapped in human weakness, and His wisdom is revealed in what men consider foolishness. That is why many missed the kingdom then, and why they miss it now.
How Mbonye’s View of Power Excludes God’s Power
I watched the interview in disbelief. I mean the one Solomon Sserwanja posted. The pomp, the air, the high sense of self. And as I watched it, I couldn’t help but think of the disciples in Mark, before pain plundered their pride and sucked their self-importance. I thought of me too.
In the interview, I noticed how Mr Mbonye’s understanding of discipleship – if such exists in his world – is devoid of death. I saw how his definition of power has no category for weakness, sacrifice, or suffering. His view of authority is Caesar’s rather than Christ’s. For, when God walked this earth in the Person of Jesus, He demonstrated His authority, not through a show of power as the world understands it, but through death, pain, and feebleness. God demonstrated His powerfulness by laying down His life. He conquered through the death of the cross. That is the Christian message.
But while Mbonye boasts in his mystical visits to heaven, he misses the scars in Jesus’ hands. He is strategically silent about the implications of Calvary to the disciple’s journey. His message flees Luke 9:23 like a plague, hiding from any talk of self-mortification or humility. Thus, his prophecies, devoid of the cross, miss Christ.
Mbonye defines power as the world does. He thus misses God’s work in the world through the ‘weak’ Church. For, as he said in this interview when he looked around the Church, he found no power. But in this way, also the Jews missed their God, after rejecting He who hung on a tree. Their messianic expectation was for a conqueror of the Romans. Instead, God came and died a criminal’s death at the hands of those whom they expected Him to conquer.
To be sure, He conquered. Not as the Jews expected, of course. God redefined what it means to demonstrate power: it means laying down our lives for the least. And as it turned out, this was folly to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Cor. 1:23).
God is so at work in and through the weaknesses of many that those whose framework excludes frailty miss Him entirely, since His power ‘is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9).
Spiritual Leaders: Servants or Superiors?
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…’ (Mk. 10:45).
A spirit of servanthood marked Jesus’ life, and it is the disposition of Christ’s slaves. Jesus’ followers lie low. They wash people’s feet rather than a seat on cushioned chairs to receive feet kisses. They think and speak less about themselves. As servants of others, they refuse and diffuse any sense of superiority or self-importance. For, a high view of self often indicates a low concept of God. Their attitude and approach to life and leadership starkly differ from secular ideals (Lk. 22:24-27).
As such, I watched as Mbonye justified people kissing his shoes and bowing to him. I watched him misquote texts while accusing others of being ignorant about the Scripture. I saw how, in citing 2 Kings 2:15, he paid no attention to its historical-cultural context. If he had, he would have noticed that in the Ancient Near Eastern World’s monarchical setting, subjects bowed to express reverence to superiors. That was their culture. He would have seen how we cannot make a theological ‘ought’ out of an ancient cultural practice.
Superiority is not the disposition of the servant of Christ. God’s way is a descent to servanthood, as demonstrated in the ministry of Christ, before an ascent to the seat of glory. ‘Let the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as one who serves’ (Lk 22:26). Mbonye’ idea of how ‘in spiritual matters what you reverence works for you’ is simply wrong and misleading. God did not leave subjective pragmatism as our spiritual guide. He left us His Word.
Our ‘good intentions’ cannot make a wrong action right, as Mbonye suggested in the interview. If Christ insists that there is no superior among us, then there is not. If He says leaders should be slaves of all, then slaves we must be.
All these issues come from a lack of understanding of the upside-down kingdom model of service that Christ demonstrated. When we operate on the worldly power paradigm, there is nothing we will not do to achieve it.
We cannot be followers of the crucified Lord by choosing the way of the world. And we have no honour from God if we seek it from men. I think Mbonye misses God’s power by not finding it in weakness.
As for me, ‘I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me’ (2 Cor. 12:9).