When Jesus came to the earth, the world was dominated by the Roman Empire. Israel had been subjugated for 60 years and longed for a reprieve, and most of the Jews looked for the Messiah to usher in the peace. The prophets had promised it and the people wanted it.
The Jewish people were divided about what they expected. The Pharisees were the religious people, and they wanted a miracle-wielding Messiah that would call down God’s power on Rome. The Zealots looked for a military Messiah who would muster an army and overthrow Rome. The Sadducees reveled in wealth that trickled down from Rome and desired a Messiah who would use wealth to influence Rome and free Palestine. But when Jesus came, he defied their expectations and demonstrated meekness.
Jesus lived a radically different life than the people of the Mediterranean world in the first century, and he challenged his followers to do the same. In the twenty-first century, Christian living continues to be different. In a world dominated by selfishness, Christian selflessness stands out. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
Meekness exhibits strength under control. It isn’t weakness, but as one writer put it, “it is the by-product of self-emptying, of self-humiliation, of brokenness before God” (John MacArthur, The Only Way to Happiness, 1998).
Like the poor in spirit, the meek recognize their smallness before God. The two attitudes are very similar, but the poor in spirit are broken hearted because they recognize their sin and its ugliness. The meek recognize their smallness as they gaze upon God’s holiness. The poor in spirit are led to mourn (Matt. 5:4). The meek are led to seek righteousness (Matt. 5:6). Together these traits help separate God’s children from the carnal attitudes of the world.
Jesus is our example of meekness. He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29). We learn meekness from Jesus, who had the power to retaliate, punish, and defeat those who insulted and abused him. But he did not. He “took the hits” of life for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity.
The devil attacks us through this fallen and wicked world. People take advantage of, abuse, and mock Christians daily. But in meekness we learn to take the hits for the glory of God.