Meekness and God – John 2:13-17

Whips And Tables And Flying Change – Oh My!

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Body Building

There needs to be a preface to these scriptures.  Jesus was the firstborn child of Mary, stay-at-home mom, and her husband Joseph the carpenter.  However,being conceived by the Holy Spirit, they were not his biologically parents, but rather God’s chosen surrogate parents.  During the life of Christ on Earth, as the firstborn son, He would have been taught His father’s trade.  Carpentry at that time was far more intense than it is today.  Without the use of modern machinery, a carpenter would have to shape each piece wood using rudimentary tools.  This required a LOT of strength.  They would have to move beams and trees into position, cut them to their proper lengths, and further refine the wood into their final shapes, then use them in whatever fashion was required for the job.

There was a man in Pennsylvania who owned his own sawmill.  He was the only employee, a sole proprietor.  A man came in to his workshop one day to see about having some lumber that he and a friend had cut from a felled tree to be quarter-sawn into planks for use in building boxes and chests.  While he was talking, the sawyer picked up a huge tree with one hand that had just been sawn on the head saw, and placed it on the resaw to be cut into planks.  The tree section must have weighed well over one hundred pounds.  Most people would be unable to do this, but because the sawyer did this type of work every day, his strength was amazing.  He wasn’t a towering man, but extremely strong.  Now the stage is set.

Answer to Anger

Jesus never once sinned.  When He arrived at Holy Temple of God, he was the market that was occurring in the court of the Gentiles at the periphery of the Temple grounds.  This was a place where non-Jews could come and worship God.  Jesus became very angry.  But Jesus didn’t immediately go out and talk to the people who were desecrating the holy ground of the temple, like most of us would.  He did something else, something that each of us should learn – and do – when faced with a situation that infuriates us to the point of seeing red.  He paused.

Measured Meekness

Meekness is a word that is often misunderstood.  Meekness means “strength under control”.  It does not mean weakness, but rather a measured reaction proportionate to the circumstance.   The word of God doesn’t say that Jesus burst on the scene yelling and screaming.  He instead took the time to make a whip.  This is not a task that is usually done fast.  To braid a good whip, it takes manual dexterity, time, effort, and patience.  The word of God doesn’t say how long the whip was, but it gave Jesus time to reflect on how He would respond to this mockery and desecration of The Lord God Almighty’s house.

Many people believe that Jesus was merely a soft-spoken, wimpy, gentle guy who just loved everyone and exuded a form of effeminate weakness.  On the contrary – when the situation called for it, Jesus used His strength and powerful words:

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, … 34 “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

Jesus also said:

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Jesus didn’t mince words with those that were self-righteous.  These are not the gentle, kind words of a soft-spoken, timid man.  And when He saw His father’s house being used to cheat the people, and denying the Gentiles access to worship God in the temple, He also said,

Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

Mighty Mayhem

But Jesus didn’t only talk.  Let’s go back and remember the sawyer placing the cut log on the saw for cutting.  Jesus was STRONG.  He put his back into His labor because He never sinned, and everything He did, He did with ALL OF HIS MIGHT to the glory of God.  Years of carpentry would have chiseled His body into that of a bodybuilder.  Jesus, under those robes, would have looked formidable.

Now let’s go back to the court of the Gentiles.  Take a step back, and look at the scene through the eyes of an observer nearby.  All of the sudden, a Jewish teacher of the law appears in his white robe with a whip in one hand driving out the cattle, and the other hand overturning tables.  He was furious!  He wouldn’t have just toppled the tables.  Although the word of God does not describe exactly how He overturned them, it would be easy to picture this: with a whip cracking in one hand, and throwing heavy tables UP INTO THE AIR with the other hand, no one would have wanted to be in His path.  Anyone capable of throwing heavy furniture WITH ONE HAND into the air – and deftly using a whip in the other – would have been an amazing, if not formidable, sight indeed.  Everyone would have scattered – the money they would lose would not be worth the threat of their life with this whip-wielding, table throwing man rebuking them for desecrating the house of Almighty God.

Jesus was no wimp –  He was meek.  His formidable strengths were completely under His control.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I am emotionally provoked, how do I respond?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is amazing.  Thank You for showing me how to temper my anger.  Give me the courage and ability to ensure that the strengths that You have provided to me are kept under control at all times.  Instill within me the ability to react and respond to any situation that I may find myself in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Help me to properly channel my emotions so that they will not control me, but that I would use them in a constructive way.  Help me to always remember that You are a loving and kind God, but that when required, You will show Your strength and power.  Help me to yield myself to Your guidance in all things, that I would not dishonor You with my thoughts, words, or actions.  This I ask in the precious and mighty name of Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Love Like God – Matthew 5:38-42

Love Fulfills The Law

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Remove Resistance

When we are offended by someone, our first human inclination is to retaliate.  the Israelites were permitted by law to do unto others as had been done unto them:

22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

19 Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.

16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

These rules were designed to help the Israelites think before they acted.  If they had intentionally inflicted harm upon someone, the same harm would be inflicted upon them.  But rather than deter them from doing harm to their neighbor, it was used to exact vengeance upon wrongdoers.  Once the Roman occupation of Israel took place, they faced an interesting quandary:  how would they apply the law to an occupying force that was oppressing them?

Roman Rules

Jesus was trying to address the attitudes of their hearts.  He told them not to resist an evil person – and the Romans were indeed acting evilly towards them.  With regards to turning one’s cheek, it needs to be placed in context:

This specifically refers to a hand striking the side of a person’s face, tells quite a different story when placed in it’s proper historical context. In Jesus’s time, striking someone of a lower class ( a servant) with the back of the hand was used to assert authority and dominance. If the persecuted person “turned the other cheek,” the discipliner was faced with a dilemma. The left hand was used for unclean purposes, so a back-hand strike on the opposite cheek would not be performed. Another alternative would be a slap with the open hand as a challenge or to punch the person, but this was seen as a statement of equality. Thus, by turning the other cheek the persecuted was in effect putting an end to the behavior or if the slapping continued the person would lawfully be deemed equal and have to be released as a servant/slave. (Source)

In the case of being slapped, the person slapping was giving a great insult to the one being slapped.  This was often seen in that time by the Roman soldiers who felt above the ones they had oppressed.  But when a person turned the other cheek, if they were slapped again, they would be seen as an equal.  The Roman soldier would never want that to occur, and the abuse would stop.  Jesus was showing submission as a way to show the attacker that they were not in control of them.  It was meekness in action – strength under control.  It also showed love, in that they did not retaliate – even in their heart.

In the case of being sued, the person suing is trying to cause the other person financial hardship.  Jesus was showing that true righteousness – love – overcomes all.  The cloak was one of the most valuable possessions that people had at that time.  It kept them warm at night, and was supposed to be returned by sunset if it was used in pledge (on deposit for some transaction).  Jesus was showing that if a person was trying to wrongfully take from you what God had provided to you, rather than give it over reluctantly, hand it over to them as well as your cloak, that it would show compassion towards that person.  Now instead of them oppressing you, you have shown them generosity of a nature that was unheard of.

In the case of traveling one mile with someone, Jesus was referring to Roman law that allowed the conscription of subjugated people to be required to carry their equipment for them one Roman mile (Source).  Jesus, in His characteristic approach to things, indicated that the person forced to act as a porter for the Roman soldier should do it for two miles.  This indicated that there was a love and concern for the other person, rather than a dutiful action that could result in bitterness.  Each of these illustrations was designed to both address issues that were unbearable at that time to the Jews in order to show them where their hearts were, and where they needed to be.

After all, the best way to destroy your enemies is to turn them into your friends.

Genuine Generosity

Lastly, the Jews would not lend to people that they didn’t think could repay them.  On the surface, that is just “good business”.  But God had instructed them before to be generous, as He was generous to them.  God also promised to bless them and the work of their hands and all they did if they gave freely:

7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

In each case, Jesus was dealing with an attitude of the heart.  The occupation by Roman soldiers was indeed oppressive to the Jews, but they forgot that God loved them even though they acted as enemies towards Him.  Evil people often try to exert themselves over us, and deprive us of what we have, whether it is out of hate, spite, greed, perceived need, or whatever is driving them.  And the poor will always be among us.  Let us remember that God lifted us out of the mire and muck, and cleaned us off with the perfect, sinless blood of Jesus.  The next time someone throws evil your way, respond in the character of God – Love them as God loves you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I responding to evil with love the same way that God responded to me when I was acting evilly towards Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me great love in that You revealed Your Son to me.  You have picked me up, cleaned me off, and given me access to You.  Your love, mercy, and grace abound.  Father, help me to respond to people who treat me wrongly.  Give me the strength and ability to show Your love to them so that all would see Your character and glorify Your name.  Remember me when I feel slighted, and help me to honor You by acting in love.  Help me to not be a doormat for evil people’s feet, but rather to respond in love to their insults, injuries, and actions.  Guard my heart against all bitterness as I endure the increase in lawlessness that grows every day.  Help me to keep my eyes upon You that Your glory would drown out the tyranny that I face.  This I ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?