Sermon 5, blessed are the meek
Blessed are the meek
I. Intro - Christmas is approaching; don’t believe me, ask the stores who all put out their Christmas stuff this last week.
A. So in the spirit of saving Christmas, let’s think about that first Christmas morning.
B. There is one word that describes the night Jesus was born—ordinary.
1. The sky was ordinary. An little wind, a little chill in the air. A clear night, clear enough to see the stars, especially the big one that had been hanging around for the last few nights. Clouds, the moon, an ordinary night.
i. It was a beautiful night—a night worth peeking out your bedroom window to admire—but not really an unusual one.
ii. No reason to expect a surprise.
iii. Nothing to keep a person awake.
iv. An ordinary night with an ordinary sky.
2. The sheep were ordinary. Some fat. Some scrawny. Some with barrel bellies. Some with twig legs.
i. Common animals.
ii. No fleece made of gold.
iii. No blue-ribbon winners. They were simply sheep.
3. And the shepherds.
i. Probably wearing all the clothes they owned. Smelling like sheep and looking just as woolly.
ii. They were conscientious, willing to spend the night with their flocks.
iii. But you won’t find their staffs in a museum nor their writings in a library.
iv. No one asked their opinion on social justice or the application of the Torah.
v. They were nameless and simple.
C. An ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds.
1. And were it not for a God who decided this night to put an “extra” on the front of the ordinary, the night would have gone unnoticed.
2. The sheep would have been forgotten, and the shepherds would have slept the night away.
D. But God sometimes makes the ordinary, extraordinary. And that night he did something amazing.
1. The black sky exploded with brightness.
2. Trees that had been shadows jumped into clarity.
3. Sheep that had been silent became a chorus of curiosity.
4. One minute the shepherd was dead asleep, the next he was rubbing his eyes and staring into the face of an angel.
5. The night was ordinary no more.
6. The angel came in the night because that is when lights are best seen and that is when they are most needed.
7. God comes into the common for the same reason.
8. His most powerful tools are the simplest.
E. I’d like to look at some other times in scripture that God turned the ordinary into the extraordinary.
II. Consider the rod of Moses. (Exodus 3,4)
A. By this time in his life, Moses had been a shepherd as long as he had been a prince, and he’d grown accustomed to it. Herding sheep wasn’t as lively as living with Egyptian royalty, but it had its moments, especially the moment God spoke to him through a burning bush that didn’t burn up. God announced that Moses was his man to deliver the Israelites. Moses wasn’t convinced he was the one for the job. God said that who Moses was didn’t matter; what mattered was who God was. And God set out to demonstrate.
1. “Moses,” spoke the voice from the bush, “throw down your staff.”
2. Moses, who had walked this mountain for forty years, was not comfortable with the command.
3. “God, you know a lot about a lot of things, but you may not know that out here, well, you just don’t go around throwing down your staff. You never know when …”
4. “Throw it down, Moses.”
5. Moses threw it down. The rod became a snake, and Moses began to run.
7. The old shepherd stopped.
8. “Pick up the snake.”
9. Moses peered over his shoulder, first at the snake and then the bush, and then he gave the most courageous response he could muster.
11. “Pick up the snake … by the tail.” (God had to be smiling at this point.)
12. “God, I don’t mean to object. I mean, you know a lot of things, but out here in the desert, well, you don’t pick up snakes too often, and you never pick up snakes by the tail.”
15. Just as Moses’ hand touched the squirmy scales of the snake, it hardened. And Moses lifted up the rod. The same rod he would lift up in Pharaoh’s court. The same rod he would lift up to divide the water and guide two million people through a desert. The rod that would remind Moses that if God can make a stick become a snake, then become a stick again—then perhaps he can do something with stubborn hearts and a stiff-necked people.
16. Perhaps he can do something with the common.
III. Or consider another shepherd from Bethlehem. (1 Samuel 17)
A. There are certain things anyone knows not to do.
1. You don’t try to lasso a tornado.
2. You don’t fight a lion with a knife.
3. You don’t sneeze into the wind.
4. You don’t go bear hunting with a cork gun.
5. And you don’t send a shepherd boy to battle a giant.
6. You don’t, that is, unless you are out of options. Saul was. And it is when we are out of options that we are most ready for God’s surprises.
7. Was Saul ever surprised!
8. The king tried to give David some equipment. “What do you want, boy? Shield? Sword? Grenades? Rifles? A helicopter?
9. David had something else in mind. Five smooth stones and an ordinary leather sling.
10. The soldiers gasped. Saul sighed. Goliath jeered.
11. David swung. And God made his point. “Anyone who underestimates what God can do with the ordinary has rocks in his head.”
IV. Or what about the blind man Jesus and the disciples discovered? (John 9)
A. The followers thought he was a great theological case study.
1. “Why do you think he’s blind?” one asked.
2. “He must have sinned.”
3. “No, it’s his folks’ fault.”
4. “Jesus, what do you think? Why is he blind?”
5. “He’s blind to show what God can do.”
6. The apostles knew what was coming; they had seen this look in Jesus’ eyes before. They knew what he was going to do, but they didn’t know how he was going to do it. “Lightning? Thunder? A shout? A clap of the hands?” They all watched.
7. Jesus began to work his mouth a little. The onlookers stared. “What is he doing?” He moved his jaw as if he were chewing on something.
8. Some of the people began to get restless. Jesus just chewed. His jaw rotated around until he had what he wanted. Spit. Ordinary saliva.
9. If no one said it, somebody had to be thinking it: “Yuk!”
10. Jesus spat on the ground, stuck his finger into the puddle, and stirred. Soon it was a mud pie, and he smeared some of the mud across the blind man’s eyes.
11. The same One who’d turned a stick into a scepter and a pebble into a missile now turned saliva and mud into a balm for the blind.
12. Once again, the mundane became majestic. Once again the dull became divine, the humdrum holy. Once again God’s power was seen not through the ability of the instrument, but through its availability.
V. “Blessed are the meek,” Jesus explained.
A. Blessed are the available.
B. Blessed are the conduits, the tunnels, the tools.
C. Deliriously joyful are the ones who believe that if God has used sticks, rocks, and spit to do his will, then he can use us.
D. We would do well to learn a lesson from the rod, the rock, and the saliva.
1. They didn’t complain.
2. They didn’t question God’s wisdom.
3. They didn’t suggest an alternative plan.
4. Perhaps the reason the Father has used so many inanimate objects for his mission is that they don’t tell him how to do his job!
5. It’s like the story of the barber who became an artist. When asked why he changed professions, he replied, “A canvas doesn’t tell me how to make it beautiful.”
E. Neither do the meek.
1. That’s why the announcement went first to the shepherds.
2. They didn’t ask God if he was sure he knew what he was doing.
3. Had the angel gone to the theologians, they would have first consulted their commentaries.
4. Had he gone to the elite, they would have looked around to see if anyone was watching.
5. Had he gone to the successful, they would have first looked at their calendars.
6. So he went to the shepherds.
i. Men who didn’t have a reputation to protect or an ax to grind or a ladder to climb.
ii. Men who didn’t know enough to tell God that angels don’t sing to sheep and that messiahs aren’t found wrapped in rags and sleeping in a feed trough.
VI. A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps.
A. You can enter the main building and admire the ancient church.
B. You can also enter the quiet cave where a star embedded in the floor recognizes the birth of the King.
C. There is one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t go in standing up.
D. The same is true of the Christ. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness the Savior, you have to get on your knees.
E. So while the theologians were sleeping, and the elite were dreaming, and the successful were snoring, the meek were kneeling.
F. They were kneeling before the One only the meek will see. They were kneeling in front of Jesus.
G. … for they will inherit the earth.