The stage had been set. The paths were bound to cross. It would be inevitable. The humble, yet powerful Teacher. The powerful, yet arrogant and antagonistic ruler. Their lives were on a collision course and there would be nothing they could do except prepare for the crash. Jesus held no public office, never had, and yet His notoriety had grown to great proportions. Pilate was the great Roman governor whose title gave him tremendous power. Power is not equivalent to loyalty and such was the case with Pilate and his subjects. His elaborate palace in Jerusalem was despised by the Jewish people because of his continual badgering. Pilate would prove to be a friend, rather than a foe, to the Jewish people who hated him so intensely.

The Jews ill feelings toward Pilate held no consequence since the governor held the keys to both life and death – not just for the Romans, but for the Jews as well. The high Jewish court of the Sanhedrin, with all of their power, could pass no judgment that could not be overturned by Pilate. When it came to the final decision Pilate was judge and jury.

Jesus, on the other hand, was simply a wandering Teacher. No significant political ties. He hadn’t amassed any financial fortune worth mentioning. He had no earthly aspirations for greatness. How could One so powerless by worldly calculations pose such a threat to the Jews and their main nemesis, Pilate? Jesus was instilling within the hearts and minds of all people a Kingdom that superseded the jurisdiction of Pilate and the narrow isolationist Jews. This was a threat to all of those who clung to the status quo.

The uneasiness with this simple Teacher’s simple message continued to grow until the Jewish authorities could stomach it no longer. Finally, a sigh of relief was heard throughout the halls of the pious. The rabble-rouser had been arrested and now all of Judaism could settle back into its complacent and cold chambers. The first phase of the phasing out of the simple Teacher had been completed. Before a sigh grew silent, they were ushering Jesus off to the Sanhedrin. An imposing, intimidating lot they were. They were the high and mighty. They were the letter of the law personified. The assortment of 71 men numbered among their ranks the finest elders, teachers of the Law, and chief priests found anywhere. Just standing in their presence would be enough to cause even the most courageous to lose their courage. It had to have been worse than being in the sixth grade and having the Principal say, “I need to see you in my office.” Who would dare question the Sanhedrin? Who would interrogate the keepers of the Law? Would anyone be so insane as to stand up to the powerful Sanhedrin? Their religious and moral stances had not, could not, and should never be questioned, but Jesus was cut from a different cloth than any other perpetrator who had stood before their watchful eyes. Accusations were issued.

Finally the cross-examination began by the high priest, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” (Mark 14:61b) Now, if I had been Jesus standing before the Sanhedrin, I would have automatically recognized my dilemma. “I can get myself out of this mess by telling just one little white lie. God will forgive me. Besides, if I tell the truth, I’m going to die and my ministry will be cut short. What a waste!” I could have easily rationalized away the “right” answer for the more prudent, preserving answer. “Well, fellas there has been a huge misunderstanding here. I was just teasing when I said all of those things. Me, the Messiah? Yeah right! I didn’t really mean it. You know how you get caught up in the moment when your sermon is really cooking. I just got carried away.”

Praise God that Jesus didn’t respond like we probably would have. Praise God that Jesus stood up and responded to the Sanhedrin – never flinching, never batting an eye – and said, “I am.” He didn’t get mad at the injustice aimed at Him. He didn’t question their authority. He said, “I am” knowing the pain and ridicule that would rain down on His head.

The Sanhedrin didn’t have the authority to dispense with the Teacher who had gotten under their skin. They took Him to Pilate who would eventually sentence Jesus to death. Standing before the governor of all Judea, Jesus was asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:2) Jesus knew Pilate. He knew Pilate’s antagonistic relationship with the Jewish “big guns.” When Jesus heard the question He could have surveyed the improprieties of the Jewish leaders. He could have pleaded for more time to get His defense in order. Yes! That’s it! Just call Johnny Cochran. Shrewd. Articulate. Cunning. A real winner. If not that, then go the route of John DuPont and plead insanity. So many avenues provided for an escape, but they never entered Jesus’ mind. Jesus looked into the cold, steely eyes of Pilate, the man who dangled His life before His eyes and said, “Yes, it is as you say.” (Mark 15:2)

Are you amazed, as I am, at the power of that statement? Knowing full well the hatred aimed at Jesus are you amazed at His control like I am? How did He do it? Power under control! Jesus stood before the trigger happy Sanhedrin and never cringed. He didn’t hesitate. He never flinched. He stood before the judge who held His life in his hands and never looked away. Power under control! The taunts of tyrants couldn’t deter Him. The power of the authorities couldn’t turn Him aside. Power under control! The outlandish injustice could not provoke His outrage. Jesus was power under control!

The amazing ability of Jesus to be controlled by God at all times is the important key to living in right-relationship with God and all of those around us. This morning we are going to focus our study time on this excellent element of Jesus’ character – a character quality each of us can greatly benefit from gaining. In Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus preached what we know as “The Beatitudes.” Within this powerful section of Scripture we find Jesus saying, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Mat 5:5 NIV)

Immediately, the thought runs through out minds, “What does being meek have to do with being powerful? Meek is equivalent to weak. Meekness is the antithesis of power.” Oh, how wrong we are. For too long we have associated “meekness” with “weakness,” but the two words have absolutely nothing in common. The little phrase, ‘Gentle Jesus meek and mild…” has painted pictures in our minds of a weak, frail, and fragile Messiah who has no alternative but to suffer and endure the ploys of the power brokers of the world.

There was an underlying strength in the Greek word translated “meek” that made it one of the favorites of Greek philosophers. If we can understand “meekness” in its truest sense this morning, we will see that meekness is one of the greatest, most powerful virtues a follower of Jesus could ever hope to possess. There are three specific components of meekness that we need to understand before we can gather in the depth and power of this often-misunderstood virtue of Jesus.

Meekness is the absense of false pride and the presence of true humility. There is not a father in the world who loves their children more than I do. I can make that statement without hesitation. There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time with my kids. Whether it is playing catch in front of our house, reading a book to Annie, watching a movie on family night, or fishing together – I am in heaven when I am with my children. I must confess though that one responsibility I have as a father is extremely difficult to fulfill because of the infinite wisdom and unending knowledge of the children God has given me.

It is the responsibility of every mom and dad to teach their children all the things they need to know to get along in this world. Tie your shoes. Ride a bike. Remember to zip your pants before you leave the house. Read. Eat your vegetable. How to bait a hook. Don’t hit girls. Build a campfire. Respect your elders. Say “yes mam” and “no mam.” All of these, plus much more, are required for a boy or girl to get a handle on this thing called life.

I have taken this responsibility very seriously, but I happen to be the father of the world’s smartest children. When I get ready to teach my sons the correct way to throw a baseball or how to catch a football it is surprising for me to learn that throwing and catching are their spiritual gifts. There is not much dad can teach them. They know it all already. They were given more insights to the games of football and baseball at birth than Vince Lombardi or Tommy Lasorda.

The great teacher Quintillion once said of some of his contemporaries, “They would no doubt be excellent students, if they were not already convinced of their own knowledge.” That is why my children have such a difficult time learning from their mom and dad. In their overzealous desire to divide and conquer the vast frontiers that rest before them, they have become convinced that they are the founts of knowledge. My children, and possibly your children, come by this trait honestly. I held the same belief about my abilities when I was their age.

Aren’t we all that way to some degree at points in our life? Don’t you find the older you get the more you realize that you don’t know much of anything? When I was my children’s age I had a dad who tried to teach me, but like my children, I knew a better way. I couldn’t acknowledge that I needed help.

Meekness is that ability of a person to fully understand their lack and to be open to another to supply what is needed. None of us has it all together because none of us has it all. Every one of us is flawed from the start and the flaws never become flawless no matter how old we get.

Many of us are committed to convincing ourselves that we have cornered the market on self-sufficiency, but our efforts are futile. It is a blessing to realize that God can, and does, use the ordinary for extraordinary purposes. He will provide His unlimited resources and power if we will provide our willingness and limited resources.

Take for example the young shepherd boy. David was just a young man. His brothers were older, more mature, and preparing for battle. There was a giant mocking the God of the Israelites who would have to be dealt with one way or another. The Israelites saw the giant of a man and hoped someone else would answer the challenge. They drew straws, used reverse psychology, bribed each other, and even engaged in a game of “rocks, paper, scissors” to determine who would have to face the imposing figure of the adversary. These Israelites were the best of the best. These military men were feared by many, respected by all. They were afraid. Then the young boy David arrived on the scene. He rolled onto the scene riding his skateboard. He had a lunchbox full of food for his brothers who were serving in the military.

David heard the dirty words coming from the mouth of the giant and he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. David asked his brothers, “Are you going to let him get away with that?” They said that they had formed a committee and that the situation was being taken into consideration for action in the near future. Meanwhile David saw the king’s tent and went in to enlist. Saul was so surprised, shocked that such a small young man would volunteer his services. Saul was between a rock and a hard place. None of his soldiers would defend the name of God. This young man was ready and willing, but was he able? Only time would tell. Saul offered to arm the young man with any weapon he desired. Shield, sword, stealth bomber – anything the boy wanted Saul would get it for him. David didn’t want the latest in technology, he wanted what he knew. David said, “Give you a slingshot and a couple of rocks – I’ll teach him to never talk bad about my God again.” David took a sling. The rocks flew. Bulls eye! God had made His point through a redheaded shepherd boy. Anyone who underestimates what God can do with the ordinary has rocks in his head.

David was not full of pride. He didn’t boast of being a subscriber to Soldier of Fortune magazine. He didn’t wear fatigues or have a tattoo of a skull and crossbones on his forearm. He had never even played paintball, much less seen the frontlines. He was a humble young boy who trusted in God to provide strength in his weakness.

Meekness is power under control. Uncontrolled power is destructive and despicable. We are seeing the results of unconstrained power today in the Middle East. Power used to satisfy one’s lusts, fill one’s personal coffers, and eliminate one’s enemies is the extreme opposite of meekness. The seed of this kind of power is essentially fear. Those who feel the need to control every aspect of their life have the fear that they will lose control. Evil dictators fear that they won’t be in charge of their subjects destiny. They fear that they will lose their image of power among their peers.

The need to control is not just evident in world leaders, but on a much smaller scale the need to control can be found in our homes, offices, and even our churches. Have you ever worked for a power broker? Someone who has a little power, but uses it to crush others rather than console, to enrage rather than encourage?

My summers in high school were spent working at various jobs around Duncan. One summer I learned a valuable lesson working in the back of a Goodyear Tire Store. I was the youngest worker there and so it is needless to say that my job did not come with a smoothly polished red oak desk, personal secretary, or a trophy bass hanging on the wall. I had the worst job of all. Most of my time was spent breaking down flats from the time I arrived until the time I went home each day. Break it down. Patch a hole. Fill it up. Put it back on. Over and over again I followed the same routine.

You have never experienced isolation until you have spent the summer in the blackness of a back room with every bald tire in town. You have never experienced pain until you have had a big diesel truck tire blow up in your face. To make matters worse, my boss was the second in command at the Goodyear Tire Shop. To make matters even worse, the second in command reported to his father who owned the place. Ronnie, my boss, was the Stalin of the steel belted radials. He tried with everything he had to break me that long summer of ’77, but I hated what he was trying to do to me and I wasn’t about to be broken. I would die first. I didn’t make hardly any money, but I was not about to quit that job earlier than I had planned.

Part of the reason I was able to make it through that miserable summer was because of Ronnie’s father, Paul. Paul was the CEO. He had his name on the sign. He even drove a truck that said “Paul Smith’s Goodyear” painted on the side. Paul would come out of his office, when he was not tied up in business, and join me among the chorus of compressors to offer a little encouragement. Not only would Paul encourage me, but he would actually roll up his sleeves and get dirty right along side me. The difference between Paul and the Jr. Executive Son, Ronnie, was the difference between Ghandi and Genghis Khan. Paul had the power, but it was under control. Controlled power can accomplish great things. Ronnie had power, but it was out of control. Uncontrolled power can obstruct many great things, thwart the rise of great potential, and eventually destroy even the control-happy power broker.

Meekness is gentle when it seems right to be rough and harsh. Do you remember the story of King David and his son Absalom? The story is one of the most tragic accounts of a parent/child relationship that you will ever hear. David, the respected King of Israel, loved his son Absalom, but his son’s love had soured to the degree that he wanted to kill his father.

There had been an incident that had occurred when Absalom was younger. A devastating incident where Absalom’s sister, Tamar, had been raped by her half-brother, Ammon. When David found out about what had happened he had failed to respond as a father should have and tried to sweep the injustice under the carpet. David may have wanted to get the horrible experience out of mind as quickly as possible, but Absalom would never forget. He wouldn’t forget what his brother had done to his sister and he wouldn’t forgive his father for failing to act like a father.

Later in life, two years later to be exact, Absalom’s anger set him on a course of revenge against his brother and his father. First he had his brother murdered by his servants. When the news came to David he was terribly distressed. In 2 Samuel we learn how David reacted, “The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his servants stood by with their clothes torn.” (2 Sam 13:31 NIV)

Absalom was afraid so he fled to Geshur. It was three long years of seclusion for Absalom and three long years of mourning for David over the loss of his sons, Ammon, the son who was killed, and Absalom, the son who was alive, but for all intents and purposes, forever gone. Samuel tells us,

Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned for his son every day. {38} After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years. {39} And the spirit of the king longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death. (2 Sam 13:37-39 NIV)

Through the persuasive words of a wise woman David was convinced to allow Absalom to come back to Jerusalem. Absalom lived there for two years, but he never saw his father during those two years. Finally, David’s right hand man, Joab, brought Absalom before King David. Absalom bowed before the king and David raised his son and kissed him. David’s kiss was sincere, but Absalom’s heart was hard and scheming. He worked his way into the hearts of the people of Israel.

For forty years Absalom wormed his way into power, working covertly behind his father’s back until he came out into the open. Samuel gives us the account.

Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.'” {11} Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. {12} While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing. {13} A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.” {14} Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword.” (2 Sam 15:10-14 NIV)

David fled with his men. During the next three chapters we find Absalom continuing his forward march while David tries to figure out some way to stop the uprising while sparing the life of his son. Many times in the next three chapters we find words used to describe David like “weary” and “weeping.” David’s soul is crying out because of what has happened.

Folks, there was no question about who would win in a war between David and Absalom. David was the greatest warrior the world has ever known. The real issue at hand is a father’s love for his wayward son. David would have been justified in crushing the young man. After all, Absalom was a threat to the throne. How many times today have we heard stories of the Saddam Husseins of the world having their relatives killed when they failed to tow the line? David was justified, but his heart was to spare his son’s life.

Finally, David’s men put together a plan to defeat Absalom’s forces. David listened to the plan and said, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” (2 Samuel 18:5)

David waited for his men to return to him with the news. The war was waged and Absalom’s forces were defeated. Joab sent a runner to deliver the news to David. Then he sent a second runner. When David saw the runner coming he was anxious to hear if Absalom was all right. The runner approached David and was asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” The runner avoided the question by saying, “I really didn’t see what was happening.” A second runner came to David and was anxiously asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” The man told David that his son had been killed and David collapsed. Samuel tells us what happened,

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you–O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Sam 18:33 NIV)

The brokenness of David dumbfounded the people of Israel. It was a great day of victory and yet David was crying like a little baby. One of the people went to Joab and told him,

“The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” {2} And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” {3} The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. {4} The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Sam 19:1-4 NIV)

Joab said, “You’ve got to shape up David! You are disgracing us by this sissified behavior of yours!” Joab couldn’t understand the tenderness of David’s heart.

If there was ever a time when a person was justified in flying off in a fit of rage it would have to be David. His own son had threatened his throne. Absalom brought about Ammon’s death. David tried to win his son back. He let him come home after he had murdered one of his sons. David was gentle. Gentle because his gentleness was provided by God rather than by amnesia.

There is not one of us that has not wronged someone and been wronged by others many times in our life. There is no way to forget what has been done, but God can provide for us and enable us to be gentle and forgiving even to those who have wronged us. If we had no access to God, amnesia would be a good alternative, but God has entered into our existence through His Son Jesus. God is a continual source of meekness in situations that would otherwise arouse a fit of rage within us.

Does this understanding of meekness set on end your old “mamby pamby” weak understanding of meek? I sure hope so. Meekness is one of the most powerful virtues of all, but there is a key to possessing the meekness of Jesus. The meek who will inherit the earth are those who are “controlled” by God.

We can watch Jane Fonda tapes and firm up our flab. Push away the salt shaker and reduce our blood pressure. Drive 55 and save gas. We convince ourselves that we can control the variables and gain the outcome we desire, but we can not become meek simply by thinking right. We must confess our need for God to take over command and control of our life. God alone can produce the genuine virtue of meekness.

Milk doesn’t come from a bull. Blood doesn’t come from turnips. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Meekness is not involuntarily produced in folks who are more concerned with justice than grace, fairness instead of gentleness, and equity rather than humility. I would dare say that if we took a poll this morning and asked which side you find yourself standing on this morning I would find most of you standing next to me on the “justice, fairness, and right” side of the building. Don’t tell them, but those on the other side, those confessing their meekness, are fooling themselves.

It is the meek, those controlled by God, who will confront all situations in life and come out on the other side strong, fully conscious of their lack of self-sufficiency, controlled by God, humble, and gentle people. It is these folks who will inherit the earth. Nothing in all the earth can deter the meek from serving God and humanity full speed ahead. Not kings, not dictators, not Hussiens or Hitlers, not the threat of death or destruction – none of these can turn back the meek from serving the King with gentleness and resolve.

The meek need not simply endure their sentence of suffering on the earth, because God has given them the earth already. The Psalmist says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” So many “little people” are found hunkered down in hiding today because of their fear of the ferocious, but God calls the meek to stand strong, just as Jesus stood before Pilate, and serve the King who has given them the great inheritance of the earth.

A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps. You can enter the main edifice and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave where a star embedded in the floor marks the place of Jesus’ birth. There is only one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t go in standing up. The same is true of the King. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness the Savior, you have to get on your knees.

Power Under Control
Matthew 5:5
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