Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth

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In The Life of Brian we join the outskirts of Christ’s audience for the sermon on the mount.  “The meek shall inherit the earth” filters through to one listener:

“Oh that’s nice innit, I’m glad they get something cos they have a hell of a time.”

It’s a brilliant line.  But Jesus isn’t throwing out a twee consolation to the downtrodden.  He’s preaching revolution.  This is all about world domination.  Who will take over the earth?  Rupert Murdoch?  One World Government?  Militant Islam?  Google?  No, the meek.

It’s a laughable prospect.  It sounds as absurd as yesterday’s blessed mourners.  But that’s the nature of the beatitudes, they turn the world right-side-up.  To the world’s ears though, it can only sound ridiculous.  See this spoof article in the Huffington Post.

Or listen to how Frank Zappa lampooned the phrase in his song: The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing

Some take the bible for what it’s worth
When it says that the meek shall inherit the earth
Well, I heard some sheik has bought New Jersey last week
And you suckers aint gettin nothin’!

Well we laugh because we recognize the picture Zappa paints of this world.  It’s dog eat dog and the strong eat the weak.  Fortune favours the brave.  Only the strong survive right?  Well apparently not.  Jesus is saying that everything we thought we knew about power is wrong.  In fact we’re wrong about the whole way in which the world works.

Jesus is not giving us a verse to be cross-stitched onto wall-hangings.  It’s an infallible prophecy of cosmic proportions. In this dog eat dog world there will be one power that comes out on top.  At the end of all history, emerging from the interplay of a million forces and vested interests, one group will emerge with absolute dominion: the meek.

You could translate it as “gentle” or “friendly” or “humble”.  After millennia of cut and thrust, the winner-takes-all-victors will be the lowly.

Do you have a hard time believing that?  I do.  And an even harder time living it.  Why?  Well I wonder if my problem is that I don’t really believe that this is Christ’s universe.  As we considered at the beginning of the year, we imagine that the power behind this world is ‘nothingness’ or ‘chaos’ or ‘a lonely god.’  And if that really were what was “in the beginning” then the meek have no future at the end.  But if Jesus really is Lord, then the Suffering Servant really is the Power behind this universe.

Jesus describes Himself as “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29) and He meets the power-plays of the earth with perfect peace.  As He lay in the grave on Easter Saturday, nothing looked more foolish than His beatitudes.  And yet on Easter Sunday it wasn’t just Jesus who was vindicated.  His whole project of world-domination-by-meekness was established.  It’s not just that the meek will “get something.”  Those who stop exalting themselves and take refuge in Jesus will be the only ones who get anything. In fact, they’ll get everything.  Because the future really does belong to Christ.

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