5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
I wrote yesterday of the promise that the humbled shall receive from God’s hand what has been taken from them. I talked about Psalm 37 and the use of the word “meek” to refer to the poor and oppressed. But there is more in this declaration than just the promise of God’s vindication of those whose lands have been stolen. The Greek word does mean gentle. It is used in ancient Greek of mild horses, tamed animals, and gentle souls.
This word translated ‘meek’ shows up two other times in Matthew’s Gospel: in Matthew 11:
28“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
It is hard to separate the two dimensions of meaning: gentleness and poor. Jesus is the master who knows life’s adversities and so his demands upon his servants are gracious. He has been wounded and can treat the wounded with care. He knows our brokenness and receives us kindly. It’s a different Lord than the conquering hero who has never known defeat and rewards only success.
We live in a competitive world. I don’t know if parents let their children play “king-of-the-hill” anymore. Perhaps my mother wouldn’t either if she had known what we were doing on the dirt pile in the construction site behind our street. But the parade of trophies for soccer and dance and band, and the bumper stickers advertising a child’s success, are kind of the same thing. Who’s up? Who’s ahead? Especially now, we seem to live in a culture of self-promotion, tweeting our successes and adventures. We rank football teams and eligible bachelor/bachelorettes and fortune 500 companies and we measure who has the most ‘friends’ or ‘followers’.
Into this world of our constant scramble up the dirt pile, Jesus speaks of a gentleness that doesn’t push others down but lifts them up – a gentleness that forgives seventy-seven times, a meekness willing to serve, a humbleness that bends to wash feet, a love that lays down its life.
Such a gentleness is honored in the sight of God.