“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Those who are comforted by the gospel have been adopted by the Father, thus they inherit the earth.
They stand before the Father, all humanity, the earthly creation, even the entire universe, as sons and daughters of God. It is that dignified standing that makes them “meek.” Thus, they are not pushovers. They walk with dignity, head held high, over the face of the earth. They own it; they are its lawful inheritors. Circumstances don’t determine their standing nor their dignity. The earth and its future is already theirs, regardless of every possible negative against them in the present. They don’t need to recur to violence of any type to claim what already belongs to them. They can turn the other cheek. They can go that second mile. In quietness and confidence is their strength (Isa 30:15). That courage, that trustful confidence, that reserve is meekness.
The nuance for this definition of “meekness” comes from the Greek term used here, praus. It denotes a blend of gentle reserve and strength, a nuance not immediately available from the English term “meek.” But Jesus’ use of praus in this beatitude, combined with the assurance of the earth as the inheritance of those blessed by God’s makarios, leaves no doubt as to the strength of its meaning. The meek have the dignity of lawful heirs, they are children of God, and inherit that which is his. They inherit the earth because they are children of God, not because they are meek. But their standing as God’s children gives them meekness. They stand tall and proud, yet they exercise reserve because they will not cheapen their standing as God’s children. But they are not pushovers.
The nuance for this definition of “meekness” comes from the Greek term used here, praus. It denotes a blend of gentle reserve and strength, a nuance not immediately available from the English term “meek.”
It is within that meaning that we understand the identity of Moses as “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num 12:3). Notwithstanding his stammering and the need for his brother as his interlocutor, he stood up to Pharaoh as God’s spokesperson on behalf of his enslaved brothers and sisters. Pharaoh’s wrath could not push him over. Neither could the wrath of God’s own people. Yet, when pushed to his limit, he recurred to violence, and struck the rock to claim what was already his. That’s when he lost his meekness.
But the meekness lost by Moses, and all other men and women, was regained by Christ.
First, let’s focus on Jesus’ in the desert.
“If you are the Son of God,” was the gauntlet thrice thrown before Jesus by the seemingly powerful and commanding presence of Satan in the wilderness. In today’s terms, the weakened man was being bullied to the extreme. His threat was clear: “Unless you exercise your presumed power as God’s Son, unless you depart from your dignity and reserve, unless you powerfully act on your behalf, you are nothing, and you will have proved it by your inaction. If you ever are to be anything on this world, you must disclaim your Sonship status. You are nothing but one more needy, greedy, power hungry, sinful human being.”
Jesus’ response was swift, but it didn’t emerge from his miracle-working power. Instead, it came from his meekness; from his dignified reserve, nourished by his Father’s word. “Man shall live… by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matt 4:4,7,10). These are not the words of a pushover. These are the words of a mighty man, great in meekness.
Fast forward to Jesus before the highest religious and civil authorities. Questioned by Annas, he responds that he has spoken openly, and not in secret. Thus, he does not need to answer. They’ve had their answer for three years. Such a response comes from one in authority, confident in his position. But his answer earns him a slap in the face – which has been repeated throughout history to many of his disciples. His hands, though, remain at his side. I wonder if he felt that electrical impulse shooting down the arm and twitching the hand to respond in kind. The law allowed it: “tooth for tooth…blow for blow” (Exodus 21:25). But he stood proud, dignified, elegant, and reserved. Meek, yet no pushover.
Then on to Pilate. Even he recognized the meekness of the king before him: “Are you a king?” he asked. Yet Jesus would not be pushed into a political one upmanship. Rather, he elevated the content of the dialogue, and with elegant reserve stated his identity. “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). The purpose? To take all the sinful kingdoms of the earth – rulers, subjects, and all – unto himself, take their place in life, death, and resurrection. His meekness held him to his purpose under Pilate’s pressure to define himself in political terms.
And then he stood up to the cross, literally. He didn’t back away from it. To do otherwise would have been cowardice. Meek: dignified, reserved, courageous. The only one rightful heir of the kingdom of God, inherits from us, our cross, and descends into the kingdom of the damned. But again, meekness is defined under extreme provocation. “Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, he saved others. He cannot save himself. If he is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God. Let him deliver him now, if he will have him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God” (Matt 27:41-43). And yet, he proved his Sonship by remaining meek, and inheriting the earth for us, according to the purpose the Father’s will, “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the beloved” (Eph 1:6).
The only one rightful heir of the kingdom of God, inherits from us, our cross, and descends into the kingdom of the damned.
Blessed are the meek, for they are not pushovers; they will inherit the earth.