Intro: Matthew 11:28-29– 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Jesus words are familiar and are often referred to as the invitation of Jesus. What is the appeal in these words? How is Jesus calling us to come to Him? The word “for” introduces Jesus’ approach – “For I am gentle and lowly in heart”. Jesus makes His appeal through a description of His own character.
Some words are so close in meaning that they seem to be married to each other in scripture. Jesus tandems two such words in this passage. Gentleness (meekness) and lowliness are nearly synonyms. Last week we studied from another scripture where these twin words appear. Ephesians 4:1-2– I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love. We examined “lowliness” (or humility) last week. It is low-mindedness, characterized by a humble view of oneself, in relationship to God and others. We noticed Jesus’ lowly mind as described in Phil. 2.
I. What is Gentleness? (ex. – Fred’s pony, JoJo.) He was a gentle pony, meaning you could put your kid on him. He acted mildly and did not buck or run off. You did not have to worry that some unseen circumstance would spook him and cause him to run or jump suddenly. He was dependable because he was gentle. Just the kind of pony you want.
A. The Greek word translated gentleness or meekness is the Greek prautes (prah-oo’-tace) and the lexicon tells us it means: Mild, soft, gentle; Of things, mild; of sounds, soft, gentle Of persons, mild, gentle, meek, especially after having been angry; of animals, gentle, tame, Of actions, feelings, etc., mild(Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon.) There are some difficulties in translating this word into English, as it tends to suggest a position of weakness, especially as it relates to responding to adverse circumstances. Let me read the foments found in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of N.T. words:
1. “It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was ‘meek’ because he had the infinite resources of God at His command. Described negatively, meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all.” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Volume III, pg. 56). One scholar stated that meekness (gentleness) is a position of strength, not weakness.
B. Meekness is strength under the control. JoJo, the pony, was not the weakest of the bunch. In fact, he was the undisputed leader of the herd, often keeping the others in check. But when a child was on his back, that strength and aggressiveness was under control. He was a gentle pony, not a weak one.
C. In a sense gentleness is the fruit of lowliness or the outcome of true humility. When one has the ability to not focus on himself (low-minded toward himself) he can react meekly, or gently.
D. Meekness (Gentleness) is not only a response to others (especially those who oppose us), and a response to circumstances (when they are difficult to understand or bear), but also a response to God. Meekness (praiotes) is that temper of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good, without disputing or resisting them. The meek man will not fight against God, but will submit to His will and obey His commands.
II. Gentleness (meekness) in action: What does meekness (gentleness) do? What does it look like in our daily walk? As we mentioned earlier, it should not be confused with weakness, cowardice or apathy. There some who may appear to be easy-going, and gentle, when actually they are simply afraid to confront anyone about anything. In the immediate context of Matthew 11 (where Jesus invites us to come to Him because He is gentle) He rebukes those who had witnessed His miracles and were unwilling to repent – more tolerable for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah than them. (Matthew 11:20). He was not meek because He refused to confront others, or adopted a Live and let live approach to life.
A. The church at Corinth: Paul’s letter of rebuke to this church reveals a true lack of biblical meekness. (gentleness)
1. Meekness and sin: It was no small matter that they were exhibiting tolerance toward an open fornicator. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 – “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.” Paul says that their willingness to be non-confrontational toward this brother was the result of their pride rather than any humility or goodwill. In fact, what they needed was a mournful attitude toward themselves (lowliness) and the sin. This was a church that did not understand true meekness.
a. In the case of the adulterous brother, true meekness demanded action, not inaction. Paul calls on them “in the name of Jesus” to discipline the sinner. Satan is happy to see Christians do nothing in the name of humility and so-called love. Paul’s rebuke of the sin and call for discipline was in fact an indication of his meekness (willingness to submit only to God when others were unwilling to obey.)
2. Meekness and my brother: In the next chapter he rebukes them for taking each other to court, and suing each other. Again, what they needed was meekness. 1 Cor. 6:6-7 – But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! 7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? They were interested in defending their rights, and protecting themselves. Again, we see that meekness is often viewed as weakness or foolishness. But the calling that we must walk worthy of is of a different character.
B. Meekness and God’s Word: As we have already discussed, true meekness is the product of real humility and a proper perspective of our position before our Holy God. As His children God desires that we submit to His will and form under His discipline. As in the human relationship, the discipline of the father is a trial for the child. How we respond to God’s discipline is then becomes a true test of our meekness. If the calling of God leaves no room for me to defend myself before my brother (who is a sinner just like me), how much more does it demand that I not try to defend myself before a Holy God.
1. Hebrews 12:6 – “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” Although God does use the events of life to teach important lessons, the force of His discipline is contained in His word. When His word convicts me I have a choice. I can attempt to defend myself, and resist, or I can meekly submit to God’s words. James 1:21 – Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. We often apply these words to the unconverted sinner, but James is writing to Christians.
C. The Gentleness the calling demands. Matthew 5:5 – 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. In commenting on Jesus’ words, Matthew Henry writes, “The meek are those who quietly submit themselves to God, to his word and to his rod, who follow His directions, and comply with His designs, and are gentle towards all men” (p. 1629). Meekness is the opposite of self-will toward God and of ill-will toward men. Jesus has called us to Himself through His complete submission to the Father’s will. He does not coerce. He does not harshly demand. He says come to me for I am meek and lowly, and you will find rest. How do I walk worthy of that calling? Meekness in the most difficult circumstances.
1. When my brother sins against me personally, what does my calling demand?
• Colossians 3:12-13 – 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
2. When I am called upon to correct another who is caught up in sin, what does my calling demand?
• Galatians 6:1-2 – 6 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
3. When disagreements arise, and the temptation to defend myself is strong, what does my calling demand?
• 2 Timothy 2:24-25 – 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, NKJV
4. I have always been impressed with Aaron’s response to God’s execution of his two sons. How would I react? Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.'” So Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:1-3). He was called upon to react to the most difficult circumstance with no regard for himself. It was all about God.
Conclusion: Zephaniah 2:3 – 3 Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the Lord’s anger. There is only one blessing that really matters in the end. How will fare in the judgment of God? Receive with meekness the word that is able to save your soul.