Ephesians 1:22 “And God has placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.”
When an ancient emperor or conqueror invaded new lands, defeated their king, and claimed the territory, he often demonstrated his complete control in a very vivid way. He would stand on the neck of the defeated king, literally putting him “under his feet,” as a way of showing that he had total domination.
Not everything that is under Jesus’ complete domination and control was fighting him. The forces of nature have always served him. Nor does he humiliate those whose hearts he has conquered by faith. He led those hearts to surrender through love, not violence. Nevertheless, Paul’s picture makes an emphatic point: all things are under Jesus’ power. He has complete control of the universe and everything in it from where he sits in heaven.
But many things challenge our faith in this, don’t they. Every day it seems as though the forces of evil are gaining the upper hand. Do any of us really believe that we can hold back the flood of changes the so-called “sexual revolution” has brought on our country? Around the world fundamentalist Islam is said to be growing faster than Christianity, spreading its message of oppression and violence faster than Christians can spread our message of forgiveness and love. Sometimes Christianity itself seems to be crumbling from the inside as church after church caves in to our secular culture and gives up its Biblical heritage. Does that look like everything is under Jesus’ power?
Look more closely at our own lives, and we run into real challenges to our faith. It might be easier to believe that Jesus has all that power, if we could believe that he chooses not to get involved or doesn’t care about the details and just lets things go their own way. But if he is actively running the show as the head, and he claims that he loves me, would he let my son land in the hospital and the starter on my car die right in the middle of the wedding-confirmation-graduation season of the year?
The answer to our trial of faith is not found in greater demonstrations of Jesus’ power. Power alone doesn’t win converts. Rather, we find our faith, our joy, our peace in his promises and in his love, like the promise that he wields all this power for his church: “God has placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Don’t think of the Church here as an impersonal institution Jesus wants to succeed for reasons of personal pride, or to please the shareholders, or to pad his resume. This is his people, his family, you and I. For a moment, look away from how he has been running our lives. Look at how he ran his own. Jesus has always been for the church, hasn’t he? Why did he leave heaven and become one of us? He wasn’t improving his own living conditions. He did it to save us. Why did he expend so much of his time and energy healing the sick? He didn’t pad his own pockets like the so-called faith healers today. He did it out of genuine compassion. Why did reach out to the outcast and the sinners and the poor? It didn’t do anything for his social standing. He did it because he sincerely wanted them to be his people, too. Why did he let his body be used as a punching bag, and let them rip the skin from his back with whips, and die an agonizing death on a cross? He owed no debt to society that needed to be paid. He did it to redeem us, the church. Jesus has always been for his people.
That hasn’t changed now that he has returned to heaven and secured the universe under his power. I may not understand why he runs the world the way he does. But then, I don’t have to. I don’t understand why he suffered hell for an unappreciative, self-centered sinner like me. It is enough to know that whether he is making the ultimate sacrifice, or securing and running the universe, he does it for me and for you and for everyone else who belongs to him by faith.