Preached: January 19. 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA
Today we continue our trip through the Beatitudes and we find ourselves in Matthew 5:5. As always, it is nice to review, especially since these beatitudes build upon each other. We started our journey looking at verse 3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When we examined this text we saw that Christ was preaching the need for us to recognize our need for Him. We saw that in order to enter the Kingdom of God, we must accept the truth that it is Christ alone that provides the pathway to salvation. We do not and cannot add one ounce of merit to our salvation. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith.
Last week we looked at verse 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Here we saw that this recognition of our need for Christ is not only an intellectual understanding, but that it should effect our heart. We saw that a true disciple of Christ mourns over his sin, and the sin of the world. And this mourning is the pathway to the comfort that flows through the cross. We saw that without mourning, there is no comfort.
Today we take yet another step deeper into what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ, verse 5. Let us read it, pray and see what it has to say.
Have you ever heard anyone advocate for this strategy when it comes to world domination? Was this the strategy used by Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Caesar Augustus, Charlemagne, Napoleon, or Hitler? Absolutely not. These men would laugh at such words. Meekness, in their opinion was synonymous with weakness, and weakness meant loser. No what they subscribed to was a display and use of power. Might makes right was their motto.
These world conquerors are not alone in this particular life philosophy. Humanity from the bullies on the playground to the CEOs of Google stake their success on strength. Whether it be intellectual, physical, or charisma, the display of power is what most people accept as the way to succeed in this world.
This was definitely true in 30 A.D. when Jesus was preaching the Sermon on the Mount. At that moment in time, Rome was the most powerful nation on the planet, and they were experts in the display of power. This is one reason they created death by crucifixion. It was to show everyone that they were in utter control, therefore don't mess with them. If you were to use one word to describe Rome, it would be dominance. They would cause nations to submit to their strength. During the life of Jesus, Rome was in political and military control over the nation of Israel.
Having said that, Rome was not the only group that believed in the display of power. The Jews themselves were a nation of conquest. If you recall, after exiting Egypt and wandering in the dessert for 40 years, the nation of Israel was in constant battle with gentile nations so as to secure their borders and provide peace. Every springtime it was the same thing, get out the swords and ride their horses into battle. Eventually the nation of Israel lost, and found themselves submissive to other nations. First it was Assyrian rule, then Babylonian rule, then Persian rule, then Macedonian rule, then eventually around 200 B.C. they were rule by the Seleucid Empire, a division of the Macedonian rule.
During this time, the bloody Maccabean revolt occurred. This was a revolt lead by a family nicknamed the Maccabeus; which means “hammer”. This is because the Maccabean philosophy was one of force. This revolution consisted of the display of the sword. The Maccabean’s strategy to take back the land of Israel can best be described as guerrilla warfare. They would raid towns and kill people in the name of God. Around the year of 165 B.C., there were successful in a battle against the Seleucids and marched into the temple and set up shop. This is what Hanukkah celebrates. However, to be honest, there is not much to celebrate because the Maccabean revolution was extremely short lived, almost as quickly as they conquered one group, they were conquered by another group, Rome. This was the culture that Jesus was born into.
You would think that this failed bloody revolution would cause the Jewish people to rethink there strategy, but it didn't. In fact, I believed it added to their desire for a military Messiah. One that would rise up and by shear strength drive out the Romans and take back the Promised Land with an iron sword. I believe this idea of a military messiah was commonly taught to the young men during the times of Jesus. When children were taught in the synagogues I can imagine the rabbi's painting a picture of a descendant of David that would rise up, and spill the blood of the gentiles and secure freedom for the nation of Israel once again. A song that was sung during David's time is found in 1 Samuel 18:7
In the garden, we see the same old thing, soldiers, swords, torches, betrayal. This was an event that had unfolded time and time again, a display of force. And Peter was in the thick of it. He was ready to kill whomever he had to kill and take matters into his own hands. His only hope was that Jesus would follow suit and watch his back, but Jesus did not. Jesus responded in a way that was unheard of, He gave in to their demands. Jesus who had just knocked everyone over by saying “I am he” was giving up. He told Peter to put the sword away. In this moment he was living out meekness. But make no mistake, this was foreign to everyone around him, including Peter, because the culture of the world is not meek, it is might makes right.
And it is in the midst of that culture that Jesus proclaims on the Mount, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” So what does Jesus mean by this hard to swallow statement?
First what does meek mean? The Greek word for meek is “prays” (prä-ü's). This word can be translated as meek, but it also can be translated as gentle or lowly. Another common way to view meekness is mildness of disposition. In common Greek usage “Prays” was used to describe a tamed animal. So a good way to understand the meaning behind meek, is not to think of it as the lack of power, but as restrained power. This helps somewhat, but not enough, in my opinion. Turn with me to Psalm 37.
The statement by Jesus that the meek shall inherit the earth is not original. This phrase has been proclaimed before in Psalm 37, and there is no doubt in my mind, that when Jesus spoke these words he was pulling together old testament truth and new testament reality. With that said, lets read the first 11 verse of Psalm 37.
When we examine Psalm 37 we are given a picture of what it means to be meek. And what we see is that the foundation of meekness is trust. Verse 3, “Trust in the LORD.” Verse 5, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him.” Verse 7, “wait patiently for him.” Trust is at the core of a person who is meek. Without trust, meekness does not exist.
Next we see how what this trust produces in a person life. Verse 1, “Fret not...be not envious.” Verse 7, “Fret not yourself.” Verse 8, “Refrain from anger...fret not.” A person who trusts in the Lord is someone who does not get tossed back and forth by the waves of circumstances. A person who trusts in God is not one who is takes matters into their own hands. They don't demand what they what they believe they deserve. Whether it be blessings or vengeance. A person who trust in God and has set their life on the rock that is God is able to withstand whatever attacks Satan or anyone else throws there way. A person who trusts in the Lord, sheaths their sword and drinks the cup that God has given them. A person who embodies these things is a person who is demonstrating restrained power, it is a person who is meek.
And as we have already shown, the greatest example of meekness is, Jesus Christ. In fact, he described himself as meek in Matthew 11:29.
I like how one author I read put it, Jesus was the incarnation of meekness. So how was Jesus meek?
Think about this. Jesus was God, the second person of the trinity. It was through him that everything was made that was made. He holds together the world with the word of his power. Everything that is exists on this planet is made for him. Yet, he became nothing and became a man. He was born in a stable to a 15 year old girl and lived under the radar until he was about 30 years old. Talk about power under control.
Once he revealed himself as the Messiah he filled his days with teaching, healings, feeding thousands, casting out demons, walking on water, and the occasional raising from the dead, and he did this without ever once committing a sin. You would think that he would be the most loved man on the planet, but we all know that he wasn't. He was despised. He was hated. Even in his home town, Nazareth they tried to throw him off a cliff. Everywhere that Jesus went he was harassed. His presence produced worship and war. However, despite the hate of him and the regular attempts to murder him, he stayed unbelievably calm. This is what Peter said about him in 1 Peter 2:23.
We already looked at one example of this when Jesus was arrested, but another example that I find extremely helpful is Jesus before Pontius Pilate.
What an interesting picture. Jesus, the God of the Universe, the Creator, shackled by chains made by men, standing before one of His creatures. Pilate thinking that he has the power over the life of Jesus, yet he has none. For it is Jesus who lays down his life, not PIlate. Yet Jesus lets him play his game and strut his stuff, and He does not fret. For he trusts in his father's plan. It is stories like this that make me admire Jesus so much. What amazing strength under control. His meekness is a display of his Godness.
And as Peter said earlier, Jesus is to be our example. The disciples are to learn from their Lord, and be meek as He is meek. We are trust in the Lord to the extent that we are not a victim of our emotions. We are not to fret, we are not to be offended, we are not to become angry and sin, we are to trust.
I am always amazed by Christians that get bent out of shape. Whether it be someone making fun of them at work, cutting them off on the road, or being passed over for a promotion. Really? These things make you mad? Why? Don't you know who your father is? Your dad is the Creator of the universe, and he has promised you all things through Jesus Christ.
Because we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we are heirs to the kingdom. Listen to what Romans 8:16-17 says.
When we are God's children we will inherit the earth. It is ours. This is what our future holds for us. It is a sure as sure can be. When this is our future, does it make sense to get bent out of shape because you are mistreated or misunderstood? No, it does not. This is meekness.
So how doe we get this? The first step is to recognize your need for Christ and accept him into your life. If you have not been born again, then meekness is unattainable. However, if you have accepted Christ, you must realize and remember that the same meek spirit that was in Christ now lives in you. You have the capacity, you just need to get out of your own way. This week pray that God would help you trust in him more deeply so that you will not fret and you will not be angry, butthat you will be meek, as Christ was meek.