With these words Jesus turned the expectations of the Zealots of his day upside down.
Anticipating the coming of Messiah, the Zealots expected a political leader. They taught and led others to expect someone who would lead them in an overthrow of Roman rule. Living under occupied rule, they anticipated the day they would "inherit" the land. Many were ready and willing to join in what they anticipated would be a physical battle.
Speaking to His disciples - at least one of whom was a Zealot - in the hearing of the larger crowd, Jesus explained that the path to inheriting the land did not lie in military conquest. Instead, those blessed with this inheritance would be individuals characterized by meekness (also translated gentleness) - a meekness that Jesus modeled.
What is meekness? The Greek word praotes literally means "mildness of spirit; gentleness of disposition." Zodhiates expands upon this definition and the balance needed to accurately understand its interpretation:
Praotes was used in classical Greek to mean essentially mild or gentle. Aristotle defines it as “the mean between stubborn anger and that negativeness of character which is incapable of even righteous indignation.” However, while classical Greek used this word to mean outward conduct only, the Biblical usage refers primarily to an inward quality related toward God. Essentially, A.T. Robertson notes, “The meekness of the Christian springs from a sense of the inferiority of the creature to the Creator, and especially of the sinful creature to the holy God.” Kay Arthur summarizes: "At the heart of meekness is trust in the sovereignty of God."
Why would persons with this trait be blessed to "inherit the earth"? Praotes is a balanced power or strength that comes from submitting to God’s will. It is that attribute which enables us to handle responsibly the authority God has given us, because we are submitted to His authority. Praotes reflects that aspect of love which does not seek its own; instead, it is entirely focused on the will of God and the good of others. Jesus drives home the point that only those who are prepared to seek God's will and focus on the needs of others are true leaders.
Most of us aren't seeking military conquest, but we can still experience the blessings of meekness. Remember the "prayer of Jabez" popularity a few years back? Jesus' challenge to those who prayed that prayer in expectation of success is that true spiritual victory comes to those whose hearts are meek.
Meekness has been described as complete surrender to God’s will and way; not fighting God; and having strength under control. The word picture frequently given is that of a horse which is broken and able to be ridden - we call such a horse "gentle".
Meekness does not mean having a "martyr" syndrome; parading selflessness to impress others; or becoming a doormat. In fact, meekness doesn’t withhold strength in an effort to be meek; rather, the ability to be meek reveals strength. It includes a righteous anger at what is wrongly done to others. Walking under the control of the Holy Spirit, meekness can be manifest in a reaction to evil. This is anger "at the right time, with the right people, for the right reason" (Kay Arthur).
Scripture tells us much about meekness in the other passages in the New Testament where praotes is used. (Many of these passages use "gentleness"; the original word in these cases is praotes.)
· Meekness should characterize relationships in the body of Christ.
· Meekness is teachable. We should receive God’s word with “meekness” – humbly submitting to it.
What about in the lives of ordinary humans? John the Baptist was considered “great” by Jesus and yet his ministry was extraordinarily brief and he ended up dead because of his adherence to truth. Through John’s life we can see some more principles of meekness (John 1:6-39; 3:23-30; Matthew 11:2-11).
Meekness usually goes against our natural inclinations. How can we become authentically meek?
God does not forsake the earth; he made it, He sent His Son to it, and on it He built His church. Thus a begining has already been made in this present age. A sign has been given. The powerless have here and now received a plot of earth, for the have the church and its fellowship, its goods, its brothers and sisters, in the midst of persectuions even to the length of the cross. The renewal of the earth begins at Golgotha, where the Meek One died, and from thence it will spread.