How do you know, when you work with someone, how strong he or she really is? Indeed, what is strength, what is power in a workplace? You have phrases which you use to describe strength and power. “He’s a strong leader”, “She’s a powerful person”, “She has a charismatic character”, “He lets you know who’s boss”, “She’s in charge”. “He calls all the shots”; “She has a forceful personality” and so you could go on.
The more you think about it the more you will realize that strength and power are words which contain a combination of characteristics. Someone may be powerful because they have a big physical presence. Your eye just goes to them when they enter a room. Some have power because they are educated and their knowledge is their power.
Then there is power that comes from wealth. The word billionaire in front of a name or in the resume creates an aura of power.
Still others have power because of the position they hold and the state may sanction their authority, enhancing their power. You meet all kinds of strength combined with a variety of power every day.
I suggest to you that the use or abuse of power is a driving force in today’s workplaces. It generates admiration along with fear in multiple measures.
Weakness, on the other hand, is not well respected. Signs of weakness are covered up, hidden or obscured in favor of high achieving strengths.
So when the Son of Man describes himself using the words “I am gentle and humble in heart” how do you rate him on the strengths scale? The phrase is sometimes translated “I am meek and lowly in heart”.
When you look at today’s business, political, professional or corporate leaders do the characteristics of gentleness, meekness, humility and lowliness of heart come to mind? Do they when you look in the mirror?
When the Son of Man uses them it is part of a hospitable invitation to anyone who is weary and burdened. The invitation is to come and receive rest. This is expanded using a metaphor of taking a yoke and learning. In other words, to walk linked together step-by-step, in-step, and learn.
The reason you can respond is because he says, “I am gentle and humble in heart“.
That makes sense. If you are weary, burdened, weighed-down and exhausted you would be disinclined to come to someone who says come to me because I am fierce, forceful and high-minded. Such a person would be likely to create more weariness, not less.
So what does the Son of Man mean when he describes himself as gentle and humble in heart?
I want to suggest to you that, far from being words that indicate low levels of power, these are words which describe incredible handling of massive power. Let me explain.
First, if knowledge is power, then the Son of Man has unimaginable power. Just before he speaks the words of gentleness he states, “All things have been committed to me by my Father“. His knowledge base is boundless.
Second, his physical resources are phenomenal. Go forward to his arrest and you find him telling Peter to sheath his sword because, as Son of Man, he can call on 72,000 angels. Since, in the Old Testament, during one night, one angel destroyed 183,000 then that is enough fire power to destroy over 13 billion. (I use this as an illustration only!)
Third, his force of personality, charisma and authority was literally second to none.
So the words gentle and meekness take on a more complex meaning. Meekness is not being too weak to act or react because that would merely be weakness. Gentleness is not the gentleness of a terrified puppy who has no power to defend itself against a wolf or a bear.
Meekness or gentleness is having access to untold, unimaginable, incredible resources and choosing not to exploit them but use them for acts of kindness with patience. The Son of Man could have destroyed, rampaged and obliterated with a word or thought but rather invites you, weary and weighed-down, to come and walk beside him.
He wants you to learn, slowly at a reasonable pace, from his infinite knowledge base. That requires astonishing restraint.
So gentleness is not the absence of power but the tender, retrained use of power for the benefit of the weary. Meekness is not weakness but Herculean control over explosive thoughts.
The humble heart is not the heart forced into slavery but the one that chooses to hold back and stoop down to the place where the down-trodden and discouraged are stuck in the snow.
Now you can see how inviting the invitation is. Come, weary and burdened, and receive rest from the powerful one.
There’s a final thought I would like to introduce at this point for you. The heavy yoke which many of his original listeners were carrying was a yoke of laws, regulations and rituals. The religious and state leaders were breaking the backs of the people with manufactured legality. It was just hard to make it through the day.
What yoke are you carrying? Are you putting unnecessary yokes on the backs of others or even on yourself?
The Son of Man knew he had immense power and all authority, but his gentleness, meekness, combined with his humility, lowliness of heart, created a restrained, controlled energy which redefines all models of power.
Do you want a learned rest?
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
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