Power play

In team sports a power play occurs when one team is penalized by temporarily reducing its number of active players due to a rules infraction. It’s a common occurrence in ice hockey and lacrosse, for example. In rugby union it’s called sin binning. In business, politics, and social dynamics, it refers to a tactic used to magnify power or influence.

How about cutting off someone’s ear to protect your friend? Would you consider that a power play? It happened. What’s more, the fellow swinging the blade was Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples. If you think the Bible is boring, check this out.

1After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. 2Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. 3The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.

4Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.

5“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.

“I AM he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.)

6As Jesus said “I AM he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! 7Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?” (John 18: 1-7)

The situation is that Jesus has proclaimed His true identity as the Son of God on several occasions (I AM refers to God’s response to Moses’ question “Who should I tell them sent me?” at the burning bush,  Exodus 3:14), so the religious leaders want to kill Him. The night of these events precedes the day when Jesus would be tortured and killed by crucifixion, being nailed to a cross and left to hang until death by shock, blood loss, or suffocation.

Jesus knows all this, but impetuous Peter does not.

10Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. 11But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” (John 18:10-11)

Peter sought an advantage through a show of strength. We typically do the same. Jesus chose a much different approach. His power play relied on submission and sacrifice. He submitted His own desire for life to God’s unbelievable plan for our rescue from sin: that the blameless One, His Son Jesus, be offered as a physical sacrifice for each of us. Jesus took our sin penalty and died so that we may live.

How do we respond? We properly react with our own power play, one that’s very different than the world teaches. We admit our guilt. We accept Jesus as the only path to salvation (Acts 4:12), providing freedom from our sin debt. We choose God’s will over our own. The astounding result is true love, true peace, true joy. A power play score!

Peace to you. Love you.



About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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