The Middle Ages gave us the image of the Ideal Man exhibited in the Medieval Knight (not that Medieval warfare was ideal or virtuous). The Ideal Knight was a combination of Toughness and Tenderness and the greatest of all of the imaginary knights was found in Sir Thomas Malory‘s 1485 compilation of the legendary tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table called Le Morte d’Arthur. The ideal knight, was a man named, Lancelot and in one scene when he heard himself pronounced the best knight in the world, “he wept as he had been a child that had been beaten”. We are amazed at the sensitive heart of this fierce warrior. Upon his death, Sir Ector said to the dead Lancelot, “Thou were the meekest man that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.” This ideal creates an almost paradoxical image rarely exemplified in any human being. CS Lewis wrote,
“The Knight is a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and the ragged stumps of lopped off limbs; he is also a demure, almost maiden-like, guest in a hall ,a gentle, modest, unobtrusive man. He is not a compromise or happy mean between ferocity and meekness, he is fierce to the nth and meek to the nth degree.” ~ Present Concerns, “The Necessity of Chivalry” (1st published in Time and Tide, Aug. 1940)
Admittedly, this ideal knight is only found in the stories of men, but its inspiration is found in Jesus Christ. The medieval ideal brought together seemingly irreconcilable qualities of which we see best portrayed in the person of Christ: He is transcendent and immanent; He is royal and modest; He is bold and humble; He is Tough and Tender, each to the nth degree not a balance between each opposite. The image of the ideal Knight came from christ whose power was expressed in weakness, whose triumph was to be dragged away and killed. He showed that it takes courage to serve, it takes power to submit, to be first you must be last, and to be great you must be humble. This is what Jonathan Edwards meant when he wrote that “there is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.” How does it strike your heart as you find this ideal in your Savior?