Responding to the Passion of Jesus (Week 2)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Rest in Meekness!”

Key Verses:  Matthew 21:1-11
Our goal for all of 2020 is to do one thing: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims,
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World! In response to His Passion!
Throughout this series, the word “Passion” has a more technical meaning that in Biblical Studies points to the suffering of Jesus Christ, specifically from the historical events of the Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion.1 As I will teach today, I believe the suffering of Jesus began, with intentionality, well before the Garden scene when it was first put on public display.
The Passion of Jesus cannot remain a once-upon-a-time idea in your head captured in the icon of the Cross, just as our call to follow Jesus and share in His sufferings cannot remain an abstract concept. There are real implications to the Passion of Jesus, not only in what He did to rescue us and give us life, but in how we should live our lives in response to His life, death, and resurrection. As we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, we are walking toward the Cross in order to hear personally, from the Spirit, how each of us is invited to respond to Jesus’ Passion.
Today, we are going to learn: We are invited to rest in meekness because it was the meekness of Jesus that marked His every step to the Cross!
Allow me to define “meekness” for you and give you a short overview of its usage in the Bible: The word “meek” in the Bible has a rich history in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament it was used to describe Moses in Numbers 12:3,
“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.”
And every great person in the Bible, after Moses, is compared to Moses with this being his most exalted characteristic. Just see how the Bible addresses those who are the opposite of meek: those who are proud!
This Hebrew word is found 25 times and its range of meaning is “poor, afflicted, humble, weak, needy. [It] can mean either ‘humble, afflicted’ as a general condition or ‘humble’ as a virtue.”2
Here is one more: Psalm 37:11, “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”
That might spark a memory, something Jesus said in the third Beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:5,
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Jesus uses the same word to describe Himself in Matthew 11:29,
“I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
We’ll get back to this later in the sermon.
Meekness is to live with humility towards God and towards others. Specifically, it is when you have the right or the power to do something but you don’t do it (you cease, you stop, you refrain from acting) for the benefit of someone else.
Meekness is power in reserve! Resting in God’s promises and experiencing the abundance of God’s peace does not come by claiming our rights or exerting the fulness of our personalities to get our way or utilizing all the limited resources at our disposal (the work of our own hands) to fulfill our ambitions. This leads to disobedience to God at so many levels, and it doesn’t lead to a deeper trust in God!
Resting in God’s promises and experiencing the abundance of God’s peace comes by trusting God’s will and patiently waiting on Him to act when every ounce of your being is screaming for control and reaction, to take the bulls by the horn and fix it your way. Meekness is trusting that God’s hand is mightier than your own, that His judgement is wiser than your own.
Meekness is Psalm 46:10 in action,
“Cease striving and know that I am God!”
Meekness is Proverbs 3: 5-6 in action,
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
I know many of you have memorized these promises of God, but I wonder how many of you are living by them!?! Meekness is the life that believes God for His promises!
If we are going to experience the Passion of Jesus beyond the historical story or as an abstract concept, then we must become meek as Jesus was meek—Jesus believed all of His Father’s promises for humanity and submitted His life fully to fulfill them. We must learn from His example as the Meek King—the One who emptied Himself of all of His rights as God to take on sin as a human to become our Passover Lamb (Philippians 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21)!
To explore this thought, let’s read our text for today, Matthew 21:1-11. While this story is classically read on Palm Sunday, we are doing it today as we enter into the Lenten season.
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
This is a commonly taught passage, but today I simply want to bring out one specific point of this story and to a Jewish listener, the point of this historical event. Jesus is fulfilling Zechariah 9:9 which states,
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble [meek], and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Jesus fulfills this prophecy, not just in His triumphal entry as the humble one, but in how He goes about His ministry. The Jewish audience would not have missed this—Jesus was the Meek King in the line of King David—the Anointed One of Israel, the Messiah.
Listen to another passage to demonstrate meekness in action. It comes at the time of Jesus’ betrayal, right after the famous Garden of Gethsemane prayer scene of Matthew 26:36-46 when Jesus prays in great meekness to God,
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (39).
Verses 47-56 show Judas Iscariot bringing a great crowd with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus. When one of those people laid hands on Jesus and seized him, Peter attacked with his sword. Peter was keeping his promise to not forsake Jesus. Jesus responded with meekness to the plan of God in verses 52-56:
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Had Jesus claimed His rights, exerted the fulness of His potential or used all resources at His disposal He would have rescued Himself from His Passion and we would have been left dead in our sins. God’s will would have been thwarted had Jesus not exhibited meekness.
To start pulling it all together for our lives, Jesus calls people into Christian discipleship—to become like Him and to take on His lifestyle. We hear this in Matthew 11:28-30,
“Come to me, all 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 and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Resting in God’s promises only happens when we habitually take on the lifestyle of Jesus Christ and in doing so become like Him at the center of our beings: gentle, humble, lowly, meek. Submissive to God and His will.
Here is a spiritual reality: If you are not humble of heart, meek at the core of your being (heart, Prov 4:23), then you won’t act this way under pressure or when put in a situation where you need to choose between exerting all of your personal power versus trusting in all of God’s power.
If we are not being trained in the easy yoke of Jesus I can predict how we will act—powerless to the knee jerk reactions and quick-tongued responses of our flesh, and not in meekness to the Holy Spirit. That is the reality of the human condition, which means that for all of us, there is a need for discipline in our relationship with Jesus Christ—a training in righteousness that goes well beyond the well intentioned “What would Jesus do?” A joining with Jesus in His Passion!
The following verses illustrate this for us:
James 1:21-22: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
James 3:13-16: “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
1 Peter 3:14-17: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness [meekness in KJV] and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
Jesus invites us to become meek by taking on His life—carrying His cross (His Passion) from morning to night and learning how to live in the abundance of God’s peace by walking with the God of peace in a personal growing relationship.
Interested that it is in embracing Jesus’ Passion that we will find peace when our culture teaches us to spend a majority of our time and money avoiding discomfort/suffering at all costs. Yet, our culture is also without peace of mind or heart at personal and community levels. The cost of not being meek (being proud, self-sufficient, arrogant) is the greatest felt need of our culture!
The church has the answer and it is embracing the person of Jesus Christ and His life of Passion. This is learned behavior, a rhythm or pattern of life that becomes yours from the inside out as you take on the yoke of Jesus. As Paul promised in Philippians 4:9,
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
This is the promise of God from the Old and New Testaments for the meek.
I invite you to join with Jesus on His Journey. It is a journey of patience and trust—of meekness so that you can join with Jesus in not just praying as He taught the disciples, but in living as He modeled for all of us:
“Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9-13).

Listen to the Message here:


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