Few things about the life of Christ are more captivating than His meekness, and still fewer things about the incarnation of Jesus are as potent as His meekness. How outlandish is the thought that the very Word of life, the One who spoke the cosmos into existence, lay in animal feed crying, completely powerless to speak any word at all? As with the other things we’ve already looked at in this series, that simple fact should propel our hearts into a surge of devotion and worship. In pondering the meekness of God in the incarnation, it is important to clearly define what meekness is so that we can really begin to partake of the greatest feast of the knowledge of God ever prepared, found only in the person of Jesus the Messiah.
Meekness is the restraint of power for the accomplishment of a higher cause. Though outwardly they may all seem similar, we must not confuse meekness with humility or weakness. When someone is humble, they posture their heart and mind to consider others better than themselves. When someone is weak, they lack strength, power, or options. Yet when someone is meek, they possess power but restrain from using it for themselves. Instead, they operate in humility and use their power for a redemptive purpose. Meekness is not usually considered a positive virtue in our culture today. If one has any measure of influence or authority, it is never exclusively used for the benefit of others and is never encouraged to be used in that way. The glory of Jesus’ meekness is that every time He was presented with an opportunity to use His divine power to shield Himself from the full-brunt of the human experience, He did not. He continually used His power as God for the benefit of others. Not once did Jesus warm himself up on a cold night, subdue His hunger pains when He went without food, or silence the mouths of His accusers when lies were spoken about Him. Paul writes to the Corinthians about the lowliness and meekness of Christ:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV)
In fact, meekness was one of the only characteristics that Jesus testified of Himself:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [meek, KJV] and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
(Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)
As God in the flesh, Jesus had power available to Him far beyond anything we could imagine. Yet instead of using it to pacify Himself, He used it to serve others. The meekness of Jesus confidently declares that God is a Servant. Of course this is the primary way that Jesus is depicted in the well-known “Servant Song” chapters in Isaiah, Isaiah 40-55. The glory of God as the meekest Servant of all has now been wrapped in human flesh. There is no more mystery about His meekness!
Jesus never asserted Himself in any way, and did not consider His equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage (Philippians 2:6-7). The God of Genesis 1 was born in complete obscurity and grew up walking the streets of Nazareth as a young boy, never using His divine power to bring attention to Himself or prove His true identity for His own gain. To all of the inhabitants of that despised town, Jesus was just an ordinary Jewish boy of His age.
Probably one of the most absurd and outrageous verses in the entire Bible is found in the first chapter of the gospel of John:
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
(John 1:10-11 NKJV)
The bread of Life, the Light of the world, the Creator of all, and the One who upholds all things by the word of His power could be found lying in a dim cave in a dirty feeding trough, cold and hungry. What a display of restrained power! Though seen rightly and adored perpetually in Heaven, He was almost entirely unrecognized and overlooked from the moment of His birth. This was the theater in which God’s story would be perfectly told, however, because it is precisely in the arena of unrecognition, misunderstanding, and mistreatment where the greatest display of meekness unfolds.
Beholding the meekness of Jesus in His incarnation and life should set our hearts tottering and reeling with emotion, worship, devotion, and longing to be like Him. Just as He restrained His power, laid down His reputation, and embraced complete poverty, He invites us to be like Him in doing the same (Luke 9:23-26). It should not shock us when we are overlooked, mistreated, and underappreciated. Do we have the same response as Jesus did, knowing the Lord has walled us in with these things for us to grow in His likeness, in His meekness? That is a question to be addressed another day. We can be certain of this, though – that there is truly no one more deserving of our loyalty, love, and affection than He is.