“The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way” (Ps. 25:9). What can this mean but that the humble and lowly-hearted are the ones whom God promises to counsel and instruct? “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass” (Matthew 21:5). Here is meekness or lowliness incarnate. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Is it not plain that this means that a spirit of humility is required in him who would be used of God in restoring an erring brother? We are to learn of Christ, who was “meek and lowly in heart.” The latter term explains the former. Note that they are linked together.” Arthur Pink, The Beatitudes, page 10, Kindle Edition.
When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount it was a time of turbulence in Israel and for the Jewish people. Messianic expectations may never have been higher for the yoke of Roman occupation weighed heavily on a proud people. They actually believed that the Messiah was coming soon to liberate them from their Roman oppressors, give the Jewish people their rightful place in the world, inaugurate His glorious Kingdom and give them their rightful inheritance – a position above all the nations of the world, because they were the chosen of God.
All Jews hoped for deliverance of some sort, by some means. Many were expecting deliverance to come through the Messiah. God had directly promised the godly Simeon “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ,” that is, the Messiah (Luke 2:26). As the crowd gathered around Jesus on the mount they must have prayed that the conquering king they anticipated was before them.
We need to understand that God did promise the Jewish people a conquering king, but he also told them of a suffering servant. We need only to ponder Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The crowd would gather to hail Jesus their Messiah, their conquering king. The crowd saw Him as the fulfillment of God’s promises and anticipated His coming Kingdom. Scripture tells us “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
As Christ entered Jerusalem and as He passed this very large and expectant crowd He was riding on a donkey to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 9:9) “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Matthew 21:5). The crowd had to be bewildered since they were expecting their deliverer to be a mighty warrior and all that they beheld was this meek man on a donkey. They had no use for the suffering servant which the first appearance of the promised Messiah was to fulfill. It would therefore not be long until they turned on Jesus.
By Matthew 27:20, the people of Jerusalem did turn on Jesus. He was no longer the promised one, He was not obviously a conquering king. He was not who they thought he would be. So, when Pilate offered Barabbas or Jesus, they chose Barabbas and called for Jesus’ blood.
The idea of a meek Messiah leading meek people was far from any of their concepts of the messianic kingdom. The Jews understood military power and the miraculous power of their God. But they did not understand the power of meekness. The people as a whole eventually rejected Jesus because He did not fulfill their messianic expectations. He had even preached against the means in which they had put their hope. He was after all the Prince of Peace. They desired a king who would militarily liberate them and establish the promised kingdom. They instead greeted a man on a donkey, with no armies behind him and with no means to liberate them.
In their minds Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah, and the final evidence was His crucifixion. The Old Testament taught that anyone hanged on a tree was “accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:23), yet that is exactly where Jesus’ life ended – as a criminal on a cross, and a Roman cross at that. As He hung dying, some of the Jewish leaders could not resist a last taunt against His claim to be Savior and Messiah: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:42-43).
The message of the Sermon on the Mount begins by teaching humility in spirit, mourning, and meekness. It is human nature to view these qualities with disdain. The Jewish people did not understand or chose to ignore their Scriptures that promised them a Messiah who would suffer and die. Isaiah 40-60, clearly and vividly portrays the Messiah as the Suffering Servant as well as their conquering Lord. They could not accept the idea that such descriptions as, “He has no stately form or majesty… He was despised and forsaken of men… He was oppressed and He was afflicted… like a lamb that is led to slaughter … that He was cut off out of the land of the living,” and “His grave was assigned with wicked men” (Isaiah 53:2-3, 7-9). They did not understand that this suffering Messiah was to also be the conquering king they were promised. As they listened to Him on the mount they saw before them a humble and self-denying man preaching to them of those poor in spirit, those who mourn and those who are meek. Their desire was not for a suffering servant because they wanted the conquering king. This could not be the man.
During His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was hailed as the coming King, though He was “gentle, and mounted on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5). Jesus is referred to as gentle and meek throughout the Scriptures. Paul speaks of the meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:1). Meekness and gentleness were, therefore, characteristics that Paul desired to emulate and which we also should seek in our walk.
As we study the Beatitudes we see that Christ purposely ordered them to flow one out of the other. The blessings on those that mourn flowed out of the blessings on the poor in spirit. The blessing that Christ pronounced upon those who are poor in spirit was given to those that had emptied themselves with true humility before the world and before their Creator. The poor in spirit humble themselves by emptying themselves of their pride, self-esteem and self-assurance and by standing empty-handed before God. Those poor in spirit would then mourn because they understood how lowly is their position before God. This is the connection between the poor in spirit and those that mourn.
Poverty of spirit results in mourning and mourning results in meekness. Being poor in spirit causes us to turn away from our old self with mourning, and meekness causes us to turn toward God in seeking His righteousness. The blessings of the Beatitudes are for those who are realistic about their sinfulness, who are repentant of their sins, and who are responsive to God in His righteousness. Just as Christ emptied Himself we are to do so also. Christ is the standard for both our behavior and our character. Meek is not a trait of weakness but a reflection of Christ and the strength that we have in Him. Paul tells us through his letter to the Philippians:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
So, therefore, blessed are the meek.