Matthew 5:5


Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.—Matthew 11:28-30, KJV

Richard Suraci

In the eleventh chapter of Matthew Jesus is speaking to the Jews, chiding them for not accepting his teachings or those of John the Baptist. Jesus said John was the greatest man born of a woman but notwithstanding the least in God’s heavenly kingdom is greater than he. Jesus attempted to shake his people from their complacent attitude so that they would consider his gospel.

His words in verse 15 are crucial to all who desire to learn of him: “He who has ears, let him hear.” Our resurrected Lord used the same words when he conveyed his message to each of the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. The William Barclay translation reads, “It is the duty of everyone who can hear, to listen to what the spirit is saying to the churches.” This translation conveys the thought of paying attention to what is said. When children go to school, we don’t ask them to “hear,” we ask them to “listen” to what the teacher is saying.

In Matthew 11:21-24 Jesus pronounced woe upon the cities in which he preached and performed his miracles because they did not believe him and repent. He said it will be more favorable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for them.

Another important thought is found in verse 25 where Jesus offers rest for the weary: “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children.” During his ministry, Jesus used “little children” to convey the importance of simplicity, teachableness, and humble dependence on others. “Little children” cannot survive without help from others. “Little children” come into this world with blank pages. Their parents write on those pages what they will. Each day God’s children should leave their mind open so that their heavenly Father may write his will and word thereon.

In Matthew 5:3 Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The “poor in spirit” realize that they need help. The word “poor” translated from the Greek means “extremely poor, utterly destitute.” Many who came to Jesus experienced that condition of heart and through his sacrifice were able to find rest.

In Matthew 11:27 Jesus exclaimed, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Jesus also said, “No one can come unto me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

In Matthew 11:29 Jesus invited his people to take his yoke upon them. The Jewish nation was under a double yoke which was Adamic condemnation and the Law Covenant which laws they were unable to keep. The Gentile yoke was Adamic condemnation. Jesus invited those who came to him with a listening ear to take his yoke upon them. The word yoke is taken from a root word meaning to join, especially by a yoke, a coupling, figuratively, servitude (Strong’s 2201 and 2218).

Although Jesus was Lord and Master to his disciples, he was also a servant of all (Isaiah 42:1-4; 53:11). By taking his yoke upon us, we individually become identified with him, side-by-side, and like him, become servants of God and each other. Jesus is the stronger one in the yoke we share with him, and he supplies the strength when we become weak or discouraged.

“Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” The words “meek” and “lowly” are closely related and are used interchangeably. In New Testament usage the word humble (Strong’s 5013) is taken from the same word as lowly (Strong’s 5011). It means to depress, figuratively, to humiliate (in condition or heart). “Lowly” or “humility” would seem to express the heart quality of a cast-down person who recognizes his low estate and need of recovery, whereas meekness may be the outward expression of humility. Peter writes, “Humble yourselves . . . under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). This humility may be expressed in the words of Isaiah: “O Lord thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8, KJV). We need to be kneaded by God. In his hands he will shape us into the character likeness of his son. This shaping process requires a lifetime of learning God’s word and being conformed to his son’s image.

The word “meek” is Strong’s number 4235 and means gentle, i.e., humble. It is a form of number 4239, a prime word meaning mild, i.e., (by implication) humble. William Barclay in his word study on meekness said: “In the Greek prautes [meekness] basically is connect­ed with anger . . . is the quality of the man who is angry for the right reasons, against the right people, in the right way, and for the right length of time. The basic idea of the word is not so much gentleness as strength under control. Plato . . . uses it of the sheep-dog who is gentle to the flock but savage to the enemies of the flock. The word indicates a gentleness at the back of which there is courage and strength. This is further illustrated by the fact that the Bible regards this quality of prautes as the ­distinctive quality both of Moses (Numbers 12:3) and Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:1—see the context of this chapter in the Diaglott, NIV, and Barclay).

Brother John Meggison gave us a similar definition: “The Greek word for meek was commonly used in our Lord’s day to describe wild animals, like horses, who have been made to work with men. Nothing spiritless or empty is meant, but rather the description of an energy which, instead of exploding [jumping up on their hind legs and coming down on thunderous hoofs in a cloud of dust], is now willing to be guided and directed. Their strength is now harnessed and trained to work with men. The meek or tamed are not people who have been born empty and have no inner source to master, no vitality to be taught control. The meek or trained are those whose powerful impulses have been put into understanding. The love of God by his holy spirit has made these realize the blessedness of being guided by the Lord’s spirit of helpful service.”

Paul is a good example of Brother Meggi­son’s description of meekness. Saul, still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, obtained authority from the high priest to apprehend any who belonged in the way, and bring them to prison. Saul was stopped on his journey to Damascus, blinded by a heavenly light, and was asked, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” The answer came: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:1-5). At this point Saul’s meekness comes to the fore: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do.” Saul was teachable. We are happy that Saul, who became Paul “the apostle to the Gentiles,” learned well the word and will of God.

Saul was a misguided “prime mover” for Judaism. It is easy to see the wild horse-like qualities he exhibited. After following Jesus’ instructions, Paul became the “prime mover” of our Lord Jesus! What became of Saul’s strength, education, forward motion, enthusiasm, and zeal? It was re-channeled, brought under control, for the work of the Lord.

Suppose you asked people, “What does the word meek mean to you?” Here are a few answers I received when I asked that question: “A meek person is a wimp!” “A meek person has no backbone!” “A meek person is timid!” “Meek means flimsy.” “Meek is weak!”

These answers express the feelings of our modern society which emphasizes self-assertion, which consists of self-centered, self-made people. According to present-day standards, the meek top the list of those least likely to succeed. Now consider Jesus’ statement: “Bless­ed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). The only similarity in the words meekness and weakness is that they rhyme.

A horse trainer from Texas was asked about the qualities of a meek horse. Her answers may be helpful to us in our Christian walk and our relationship to the Lord. She gave four qualities. Her comments corroborate the preceding definitions of meekness!

“First: Power under control. Once broken, a good horse doesn’t require much correction. He has learned to accept the reins of his master, and a gentle tug is all that is needed to urge him in the direction intended. The training process does not remove the strength and power that used to make the animal wild; rather it places the same energy under control. The phrase ‘channel their spirit’ is commonly used to describe this process. Properly channeled, the horse is able to jump higher, run faster, and work harder than an uncontrolled animal.

“Second: Learning the Masters’ mind. A special relationship develops between horse and master. After years of working together, they develop a rapport that becomes second nature to both of them. Thus trained, a good horse can sense a bad rider and will resist false guidance. An intimate kinship evolves, and it is not long before the horse acts according to what it knows the master would do, even if the master does not give explicit instructions.

“Third: Partnership. Teamwork is crucial. A rider may leave his horse temporarily. He is not there beside the horse telling it what to do and personally directing every move. The horse knows its job and is capable of working even when it doesn’t feel the immediate presence of its master. They work as a unit even when physically apart.

“Fourth: Loyalty. The meek horse has an elevated sense of loyalty and commitment. In the days of the wild west and the pony express, the lives of the mail carriers depended upon the horses they rode. They needed to be swift and hardy, with a measure of grit that enabled them to keep going, no matter what. Those horses would die in the running if that is what it took. They were bent upon completing the course. And despite the heat, the parching thirst, raging storms, Indian attacks and injury, horses of that caliber never whined in protest.

“These are the qualities of a meek horse. It has learned the secret of submitting to the control of it’s master. It trusts the rider enough to follow uncomplainingly wherever he leads.”

The trainer also added: “Perseverance is very important to the meek horse. A horse doesn’t become that way overnight. It takes a long, hard period of training. Horses must be taken in, trained, and made accustomed to the instruments used to harness their potential and lead them to productivity. It takes patience, sweat, and a view toward the promising future. But with these vital ingredients, the effort pays rich dividends.”

Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets [Isaiah 54:13], And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45, KJV). Herein lies the true formula where­by the meek may draw near to God, allowing God to be their instructor. Meekness or teach­ableness enables us to be taught of God.

God is the source of all true knowledge: “The LORD gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). All things are of the Father and by the son (1 Corinthians 8:6).

The problem we often have is that we are “self taught”; sometimes we even boast of it! In contrast, Jesus was taught of God. He made this very clear: “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10, KJV). “I can of mine own self do nothing: . . . I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30, KJV).

So when we read, “Learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart,” it means Jesus was teachable. Although he was perfect, “He learned obedience from what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

A young man, gifted in music and violin, came to a world-renowned violin teacher to apply for lessons. He listed all the credits and instructions he had received thus far. His teacher said: the first step would be to unlearn all he was taught, and then he would teach him to play the violin.

We must unlearn our Adamic schooling and our downward human ways so we can learn God’s ways. We must unlearn our human ambitions and learn pure heavenly ambition. We must unlearn our human attitudes so that we may learn the “beattitudes.”

We must come to the Lord each day with blank pages asking him to write on them what he will. If we are truly led by his spirit, we will strive to take God’s point of view in every matter of life. Our love for God will beget in us a desire to learn and do his holy will.

Diligence, study, and patience will be required to gain this knowledge. Faith in God will lead to explicit confidence in his word. Humility will cast out pride and self-exaltation, and meekness will combine all these essential qualities and absorb them like a sponge into our lives and conduct.

At consecration we were like a sponge; we couldn’t take in the word of the Lord fast enough. Our prayer should be that God would revive us again, that our “first love” for God and his precious word may be uppermost in our hearts and minds, that we may be open- minded and ready to receive his word into good and honest hearts, that we may truly be meek, teachable.

Meekness is the character trait God’s word invites us to:

Seek after. “Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3, KJV).

Put on. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12, KJV).

Follow after. “But thou, O man of God, . . . follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Timothy 6:11, KJV).

How may we become truly meek? The description of a meek horse may help us define the characteristics of a meek Christian:

1. Willingness to undergo a lifetime of training so that coercion will not be needed, just a gentle reminder by God’s spirit.

2. A special relationship with our master that enables us to sense false and confusing direction from the adversary and to resist it.

3. Faith that is willing to work with the Master even when his presence may not be felt.

4. Unshakable commitment and loyalty.

Martin Luther said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” Luther knew that to let God reign in his life was to give him the “reins.” To give God that responsibility will benefit us during our lifetime, and prepare us for his kingdom!

“Blessed are the meek.” By being teachable we will be led by the spirit of God to relinquish the “reins” of our lives into his hands. By so doing, we grant him the freedom to guide and direct us. The difference between self-guidance and heavenly guidance is that ours is feeble and uncertain, his is never failing and eternal.