It is surely only woeful pastors who can gladly act like scribes. Do you “load burdens on men’s backs but do not do a thing to lift them?” At the risk of mixing metaphors, refuse to crack the whip to get sheep to jump to attention! Don’t impose a tradition that enslaves the blood-bought, set-free conscience! Refuse to make demands that the Scriptures do not make! Avoid your own hobby-horses! Provide firm warrant for instructions! Be sure to show them how to put into practice what you teach! Do all in your power to slay man-made ‘golden cows’. Crucify your own views to keep flock-conscience clear. Pray down grace from Christ! Grasp the plight and plague of guilt! Peer into your own heart mirror, see your reflection in Holy Scripture, to re-learn fickleness, failure and frailty, and revive the meek mild mindset!
The Meekness of the Master
They say that confession is good for the soul – so I thought I better blog and get this off my chest….
…..I was preaching last Lord’s Day on my 1st ‘I wills’ of Christ. I took for my text Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” When I reached my 3rd point, on the meekness of Christ in v29, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart”, I really didn’t ‘nail it’. I had intended to say that this relief is obtained when we take up Christ’s yoke of discipleship, and learn to serve and imitate a meek, mild-mannered master. So let me try to explain a little of what it means to be meek like the Master.
Defining the Meekness of Jesus
The lexicon defines this attractive characteristic trait in the following way: meek means to possess a “mild and friendly disposition” or be “gentle, kind, considerate.” It is relational word which involves the manner in which we care for, treat, handle and manage others. If Messiah is meek who would not want Him as Master and to be like Jesus as a Leader?
In Contrast to Contemporary Leaders
Jewish Scribes and Pharisees were expert scrutineers and legalistic nit-pickers. The temporary God-given rules and rituals of the Ceremonial Law were already a burden which was too hard to bear for Jews (Acts 15.10). To this these leaders appended their own, man-made, burdensome traditions and set them on the backs of their beleaguered, exhausted disciples. They drew up, over time, a long, tedious, persnickety list of dos and don’ts that tempted their adherents to justify themselves, but in actuality dodged the true demands of love. This microscopic system of self-merit produced spiritual enslavement. The legalists came down like a ton of bricks on those who broke their regulations (Matthew 12.1-2). These sawdustectomy experts strained at gnats, swallowed camels, and were ruthless, thoughtless, callous, whip-crackers with a punishing leadership regime, which was meeklessly imposed upon their crushed adherents. Instead of lightening loads they sought to bind up men. These lifeless, loveless leaders made no attempt to relieve guilt. As Matthew 23.4 makes clear, in both mindset and manner they were a million miles from Christ.
“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”
A Lack in The Disciples
His followers, by nature, were slow to learn from Jesus. Critical and harsh, there was a rough edge to their dealings. Take for example the ‘Sons of Thunder’, James and John. The ‘Boanerges Brothers’ provide a prime example – when Christ set his face for Zion, Samaritans would not receive the Gospel, so the proposed ‘Samaritan Solution’ was to call down fire from heaven (Luke 9.52-55). The meek Messiah understood how history and prejudice can colour human response. He knew Philip would later preach and see Samaria repent (Acts 8.4-8). Sadly at this stage James and John weren’t very meek! The others hardly fared better in the house of Simon the Leper: they mistake an act of devotion for indulgence and extravagance – a little meek analysis would have surveyed this woman more kindly, not a waster as they thought, but a worshipper as Christ knew, as recorded in Matthew 26.6-13.
“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me”.
This same note of ‘meek-lack’ is self-evident in another, whose dim disdain and disgust gushed out against a heartbroken, notorious woman, who weeps and washes Jesus’ feet (Luke 7.37-50). Their meekless mindset resurfaces when they act as human shields to barricade babes from blessing, as we read in Matthew 19.13-15:
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children become to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.”
Messiah understood infirmity, was patient with opponents, encouraged those who halted and pitied human need – sadly in his followers meekness was noticeable by its absence.
In Jesus in Abundance
He shows meekness in forgiving! Jesus expresses his readiness to relieve guilt’s crushing load, that weighs down sinners’ souls, when they understand their plight, and seek relief from God. This same immutable trait viewed Israel’s groans with pity (Exodus 2.23-25 & 3.7-12). The LORD had meekly determined, by His Covenant of Grace, to set free slaves of Pharaoh from their harsh, cruel, Egyptian taskmaster. God resolved to enlist Israel’s redeemed captives in light, liberating service. The same heart that relieved Martin Luther bent double by His unbearable monkish guilt, announces His intention to carry sinners’ burdens to Calvary where he cut guilt off their backs. So meek is our Master he is prepared to be our scapegoat.
He shows meekness in discipling! Despite their many infirmities, mistakes, rivalry, unbelief, lovelessness and outbursts, Jesus was so patient with the candidates he selected for his 3-year training programme. He had pitied them before the foundation of the world. He would bear them on his heart as Great High Priest on the Cross. He drew them to Himself, let their understanding grow, more interested with end-product than temporary glitches and blips. Christ let them make mistakes, he refused to get frustrated, he corrected them when vital, he bore with great meekness & tenderly warmed the hearts of those who he rebuked as very slow of heart (Luke 23.25-27). When they fled in fear, or denied they knew the Master, with delicacy, mildness, compassion & firmness, he confronted the defectors and restored them to their service (John 21.9-19). He gave revision classes on ‘bread studies’, relieved the doubts that haunted Thomas by the marks that nails had left, solved Peter’s ‘foot-and-mouth’ issues, and made failures into successes. Such is His meek love, he understands each case! Our meek Master Jesus is full committed to all His charges – He makes His purchased offer to burdened, weary sinners, to come to this gentle master to avail of blood-bought blessing.
To be Imitated by Christians
It is surely only woeful pastors who can gladly act like scribes. Do you “load burdens on men’s backs but do not do a thing to lift them?” At the risk of mixing metaphors, refuse to crack the whip to get sheep to jump to attention! Don’t impose a tradition that enslaves the blood-bought, set-free conscience! Refuse to make demands that the Scriptures do not make! Avoid your own hobby-horses! Provide firm warrant for instructions! Be sure to show them how to put into practice what you teach! Do all in your power to slay man-made ‘golden cows’. Crucify your own views to keep flock-conscience clear. Pray down grace from Christ! Grasp the plight and plague of guilt! Peer into your own heart mirror, see your reflection in Holy Scripture, to re-learn fickleness, failure and frailty, and revive the meek mild mindset! Point them to the resources, found in our Mediator Jesus, for both pardon and for progress as Christians! Be ready to bear burdens, to unload fallen or failing saints! Be really longsuffering and mildly patient with the saints! Be quick to overlook faults! Pity sheep entangled in sin! Weep buckets for the strays! Labour to direct the burdened and weary to the rest the Saviour gives. Confession is required if lack of meekness is our weakness. Pray for Christ’s power and grace to ease the load of staggering, struggling brothers! ‘Gentle, meek, mild Master – Make me like you Lord!’ The meek heart of Jesus is exalted, perfect, manhood and, as your sympathetic High Priest, a reservoir full of grace, for each believers and pastor! Paul uses the same language that the Gospel use of the Meek Messiah, in Galatians 6.1-2:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness [meekness]. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Make this your prayer, brothers – Make me Meeker like my Master.
Andrew Kerr is teaching elder of Knockbracken Reformed Presbyterian Church in Belfast. This article first appeared on Gentle Reformation and is used with permission.