It fascinates me how the Star Wars movies have continually captured our nation’s interest, from generation to generation. I remember my grandmother taking me to the Sears that used to be at old White Lakes Mall in Topeka, where she bought me my first Star Wars figure. That was in 1977, and I chose Chewbacca. He was the tallest figure, which was something I equated with power. The next one I got was Darth Vader, who was the tallest villain available.
Darth Vader was a brilliantly complex character, so much so that he was played by two actors. (David Prowse performed while James Earl Jones did the voice.) And in my first fantasy games with my new action figures I had Chewbacca doing combat with Vader. It seemed like the right kind power matchup, but of course that never happened in the movie. The Star Wars script emphasized not being controlled by one’s anger and having strength through the force.
It took me awhile to realize that movie’s message about real strength. It was something that seemed strange and hard to grasp: the power in meekness. Really it’s Sermon on the Mount content. Sheer size and physicality and dominance are not what lasts in this world.
Some of this became clearer to me as the series evolved, when the most powerful hero turned out to be not Chewbacca but Yoda – a little green guy in a swamp, much smaller than all the other figures (and played by the same man who did the muppet Grover on Sesame Street).
All of this came to mind when I studied the third of Jesus’ nine beatitudes (in Matthew 5:5): “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Throughout His ministry, Jesus focused a lot of His teaching on the kingdom of God. The most famous line is the one we pray each Sunday in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (from Matthew 6:10). It’s a prayer that seeks not just the eternal kingdom, but the manifestation of God’s will and rule on this side of eternity as well. Jesus also spoke of the kingdom of God as being like an inheritance. Perhaps the most famous reference to this is in His parable of the sheep and the goats (in Matthew 25:31-46, particularly in verse 34: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you…”).
A healthy part of the Christian life, then, is to have this sense of expectation. We are always waiting on the promises of God, through the difficulties of this present time. This line of thought made its way into this beatitude, where Jesus essentially fleshed out the themes of the 37th Psalm in beatitude form. Some of its dominant teachings include…
This is still very counter-cultural in a world that tends to bless the bold, the aggressive, and the vicious. But it makes sense in light of the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus never said “I am abrasive.” But in Matthew 11:29 He used an identical word as the one in the third beatitude to describe Himself: “…I am gentle (or meek) and humble in heart…”
The meaning of this becomes clear by a contrast: When Mohammed (the founder of the Islamic religion) died in 632 A.D., he was a very wealthy and powerful man. He had multiple wives. He was the political, commercial, and religious leader of a huge section of the globe. But Jesus died penniless and powerless in a worldly sense. He was abandoned by His followers and killed violently, as a criminal. Then He rose up from the grave, lives forevermore, and will return. And He promises us that the meek will inherit the earth.
God bless you,
Andrew McHenry, Pastor – First Congregational Church
The blog of Andrew McHenry, Pastor of First Congregational Church of Emporia, Kansas.