How Should God’s People Be Led? What is Meekness? #98
Happy Lord’s Day, Friends! I trust that, even if you are among the millions who are sheltering in place, that you know that your heart and your Spirit are not shackled. This is the day that the Lord has made – let us REJOICE and BE GLAD in it. Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again – REJOICE! Easter Sunday – when the church celebrates the glorious resurrection of Jesus – is one week away. It is looking like many hundreds of thousands of churches will not be able to meet in person in sanctuaries, and that might mute our together-celebration of the greatest event in history, but let it not mute your proclamation. In fact, allow me to encourage you this year, in 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, to AMPLIFY your proclamation. Decorate your house. Your sidewalks. Your car. Your windows. Fly the Banner: HE IS RISEN. SHOUT it to the mountaintops. Maybe our gatherings will be less, but may our PROCLAMATION be the LOUDEST ever!
Today’s Bible passages are Leviticus 8, Psalms 9, Proverbs 22 and 1st Thessalonians 2. Our question is all about ministry to people, and it isn’t just applicable to pastors. All Christians are ministers in some way or another. Perhaps teaching Sunday school, or kids, or youth, or adults, or whatever. How should Christians minister to each other? Let’s read 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, and pay particularly close attention to verses 5-11.
5 For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives—God is our witness— 6 and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. 7 Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nurse nurtures her own children. 8 We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 9 For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers and sisters. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers. 11 As you know, like a father with his own children, 12 we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to live worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.1 Thessalonians 2:5-11
Interesting wisdom there, right? We usually think of leaders as bold, brash, loud, confident, and charismatic, but Paul uses words here like gentle, nurturing, comfort, care and encourage. The overall image of a leader is a gentle/soft/meek leader. I am reminded here about two descriptions of Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords:
Tell Daughter Zion, “See, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”Matthew 21:5
15 Jesus was aware of this and withdrew. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them all. 16 He warned them not to make him known, 17 so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:Matthew 12:15-21
18 Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not argue or shout,
and no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 He will not break a bruised reed,
and he will not put out a smoldering wick,
until he has led justice to victory.
21 The nations will put their hope in his name.
Jesus is Lord of all, and yet He did not ride on an ostentatious war-horse entering into Jerusalem, but a humble donkey. He was so gentle, that He would not even break an already weakened peace of stubble, nor blow out a struggling candle. Paul, likewise, ministered among the Thessalonians as a gentle nurse might take care of a child. In fact, no less than 5 times in the letters of 1-2 Timothy and Titus, Paul required and commanded pastors and leaders in the Body of Christ to be GENTLE. In a world that looks for leaders with the characteristics of a Lion, the Word looks for those who follow the LION and behave like LAMBS. So – let’s talk about meekness. The meekness of Jesus, and the promise of Jesus that the meek will inherit the Earth. To lead us in that talk, I’d like to tag in Pastor Tim Keller from New York City. The following excerpt on meekness is from a sermon he taught on the woman caught in adultery:
Today we’re going to look at another one of the traits of character Jesus Christ reveals in himself that is given to us as well as characteristics of the heart we should be cultivating in ourselves. If you go to Paul’s famous catalog in Galatians 5, which is called the fruit of the Spirit, near the very end you get to a little word that, in the modern translations, is usually translated gentleness. I’m going to show you why … Even though it’s a worse word, it’s a little bit of a better word. In the older translations it’s called meekness.Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
Paul says one of the fruit of the Spirit is meekness. Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek.” Why? Why didn’t he say, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall be comforted”? When you think of meek people, you think of poor, distressed, anxious, meek little milk-toast people, and you think, “Oh yes, Jesus is going to say, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall be comforted.’ ” No. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Then Jesus says in his most famous of all invitations … He says at the end of Matthew 11, “Come unto me all ye who are weak and heavy-laden.” He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” When you think of meek people, you think of troubled people, people with low self-esteem. You think of people who are depressed and anxious and who are always wringing their hands or their Bibles. You think of people who are filled with turmoil in their hearts. Jesus says, “You will never, ever, ever get rest until you learn from me how to be meek.
There will be no rest in your life until you get meekness. There will be no rest in your life until you come and learn meekness and humility of me.” So let’s do it. We’d better do it.
Obviously, we have two problems. Not only do we not have meekness in our lives, we obviously don’t even understand it, because the way Jesus talks about it isn’t even the way it fits in our minds. We don’t even have a good definition of it. So let’s go, and let’s see a place where Jesus Christ’s own humility, what he called his meekness and lowliness of heart, is exhibited. (And then Keller begins to talk about John 7:53-8:11 – the woman caught in adultery. I’m going to skip a bit until we get to the place he begins to talk about Jesus doodling on the ground when the Pharisees want to have the woman stoned)…
What is he doodling? Everybody wants to know. All sorts of people have come up with all sorts of ideas, but it doesn’t tell us. Therefore, there’s only one thing the writer is really trying to get across here, if anything at all. That is, he is unflappable. He is poised. He is calm. He is fearless. One of the things you have to recognize (I already alluded to this) is this word Jesus says … “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” “I am meek and lowly of heart.”
It’s the same Greek word every place. Unless you understand the word, you’ll never begin to even get the hang of what Jesus means when he talks about meekness. The Greek word is praus. It has different forms. Do you know what it means? It comes from the word for an animal, a powerful wild animal, that is now submissive and receptive to the rider, a tamed wild animal. If Kathy and I ever feel like just crying for joy … You know, sometimes you say, “Hey, would you like to cry for joy?” “Yeah, let’s do that.”
So we put on the video of The Black Stallion, and we watch Kelly Reno jump on the back of this enormous, incredible, powerful beauty of a horse that’s called “The Black,” and he rides through the surf. Unless you look at that, unless you see this enormous power that voluntarily has submitted, this huge, huge power submitting to this little kid … I mean, let’s face it. If they’re going to have a battle, who’s going to win?
This enormous beauty and this enormous power is now submissive and responsive to the desires of the little boy, of the rider. Until you get a grip on that, you don’t understand meekness. Jesus Christ did not give up his power. Jesus Christ did not give up his greatness. He’s a moral beauty. He says, “I can command angels right now to come down and do this.”
He still has his power. He still has his glory. He’s not exercising it. Why not? Because he has put it all under. He is submitting everything he is, and he’s receptive to us (we’re the riders), to her, and even (as we’re going to see) to them. He should just wipe them out. He doesn’t. He tries to teach them. He tries to open their eyes. He tries to wake them up.
Now what is the point? You are not humble unless you’re gentle, but you’re also not humble unless you are absolutely fearless. Fearlessness is a sign of humility. What an unfortunate thing that meekness and weakness rhyme in English. Maybe the Devil did that. I don’t know. It could have been. In our minds they go together now, and in the theology of Christ they are utter opposites. Meekness and weakness are opposites. In biblical understanding, the meekest would be the strongest. Why? I’ll tell you why. Humility. Meekness is not thinking less of yourself. Jesus knows who he is, that he’s being so gentle. He doesn’t say, “Oh dear, who the heck am I?” Jesus never talks like that.
This is the thing that’s so scary about Jesus. He walks on through, and he says, “I am the Lord of heaven and earth. I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Before Abraham was, I Am.” He makes these incredible claims. “I’m judge of all the earth. I can forgive sins.” He never, ever, ever knocks himself down and says, “Oh, I’m nothing.” He never says that. Get this. He acts like nothing, but he knows he’s not.
See, that’s the exact opposite of the world’s understanding of humility. In fact, that’s the opposite of most of us. Most of us feel inferior and act superior to compensate for it. Jesus Christ knew he was superior and acts the inferior. He puts all of his power and glory under the interest of other people. Real humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less. Real humility is being free from needing to focus on yourself. It means freedom from self-consciousness.