“Now it is very remarkable that the only passage in the whole New Testament in which the heart of Jesus is distinctly mentioned is the one before us. . . .
The words employed here include, first, a readiness on the part of Christ to pardon all past offenses. ‘Come to me,’ he says, ‘for however much you may have offended in the past, I am meek and easily to be entreated. I am ready to forgive, to forget and cast behind my back all your provocations. I do not say this to cajole you; my very heart says it, for my heart is full of tenderness and compassion for you.’
The words also include a willingness to endure yet further offenses. ‘Not only do I forget the past but I am ready to bear with you still, though you should still offend me. I will endure it all. Come to me, although you cannot hope that your future character will be perfect. I will help you to struggle into holiness and be patient with your failures. As frequently as you shall grieve me, so frequently will I forgive you. I am meek in heart, ready to forgive the past and willing to bear with you in the present and in the future.’
Beloved brethren, what a heart Jesus has to receive sinners in this divine manner!”
C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of the New Testament, I:177-179.
True Leadership; Qualities of a Leader, Quotes from Servant Leaders, Scripture.
Qualities of a Strong Leader; Quotes of C.S. Lewis
• Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.
• Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
• Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
• Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.
• The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
• We are what we believe we are.
• Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.
• The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
• If a man thinks he is not conceited, he is very conceited indeed.
• There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
• Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.
• The Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.
• No good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights.
• It is not your business to succeed, but to do right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
• You must ask for God’s help. … After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again.
• God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.
• Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.
Quotes on Leadership from Leaders
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd”. – Max Lucado
“One of the problems with discipleship is you can’t hide…You have to be a Godly person”. “Natural temperament always has a dark side because it participates in your idols”. “Unless you’re really a Godly person, discipleship will not work because people aren’t going to believe you”. “You can’t lead them where you are not yourself”. —Tim Keller“
The three C’s of spiritual leadership are Character, Competency, and Confidence. “Character must lead”. “Humility is the most important attribute of character”. “If you lead with confidence, your competency is going to be exposed.” “The hardest person that you will ever lead is yourself”. “The person that God uses the most is the one that asks ‘God, can you use me?” “A good leader is a great listener”. —Tom Holliday, Alexandria Presbyterian Church
“A true shepherd leads the way. He does not merely point the way.” — Leonard Ravenhill
“It takes more than a busy church, a friendly church, or even an evangelical church to impact a community for Christ. It must be a church ablaze, led by leaders who are ablaze for God”. —Wesley L. Duewel
“The devil doesn’t persecute those who aren’t making a godly difference in the world”. —Paul Chappell
“To convert somebody go and take them by the hand and guide them”. —Thomas Aquinas
“Never when in authority rebuke anyone in anger, but only when anger has passed away; and so shall the rebuke bring forth good fruit.” – Teresa of Avila
“The first order of things to be changed is me, the leader. After I consider how hard it is to change myself, then I will understand the challenge of trying to change others. This is the ultimate test of leadership”. – John Maxwell
“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power”. –-John Stott
“The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.” – John Stott
“According to Scripture, virtually everything that truly qualifies a person for leadership is directly related to character. It’s not about style, status, personal charisma, clout, or worldly measurements of success. Integrity is the main issue that makes the difference between a good leader and a bad one”. –John MacArthur
“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me”. —Jim Elliot
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”. —John C. Maxwell
Scripture on Leadership
But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. John 10:2-4
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. Luke 22:26
As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
(God said…) “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.”
But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant. Matthew 20:26
He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30
Select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Exodus 18:21
My dad pointed out to me something that Charles Spurgeon pointed out to him. In the four Gospel accounts given to us in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — 89 chapters of biblical text — there’s only one place where Jesus tells us about His own heart.
We learn much in the four Gospels about Christ’s teaching. We read of His birth, His ministry, and His disciples. We are told of His travels and prayer habits. We find lengthy speeches and repeated objections by His hearers, prompting further teaching. We learn of the way He understood Himself to fulfill the whole Old Testament. And we learn in all four accounts of His unjust arrest and shameful death and astonishing resurrection. Consider the thousands of pages that have been written by theologians during the past 2,000 years on all these things.
But in only one place — perhaps the most wonderful words ever uttered by human lips — do we hear Jesus Himself open up to us His very heart:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).
In the one place in the Bible where the Son of God pulls back the veil and lets us peer way down into the core of who He is, we are not told that He is “austere and demanding in heart.” We are not told that He is “exalted and dignified in heart.” We are not even told that He is “joyful and generous in heart.” Letting Jesus set the terms, His surprising claim is that He is “gentle and lowly in heart.”
One thing to get straight right from the start is that when the Bible speaks of the heart, whether Old Testament or New, it is not speaking only of our emotional life but also of the central animating center of all we do. It is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what we daydream about as we drift off to sleep. It is our motivation headquarters. The heart, in biblical terms, is not part of who we are but the center of who we are. Our heart is what defines and directs us. That is why Solomon tells us to “keep [the] heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is a matter of life. It is what makes us the human being each of us is. The heart drives all we do. It is who we are.
When Jesus tells us what animates Him most deeply, what is most true of Him — when He exposes the innermost recesses of His being — what we find there is: gentle and lowly.
And when Jesus tells us what animates Him most deeply, what is most true of Him — when He exposes the innermost recesses of His being — what we find there is: gentle and lowly.
Who could ever have thought up such a Savior?
Gentle and Lowly
The Greek word translated “gentle” here occurs just three other times in the New Testament: in the First Beatitude, that “the meek” will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5); in the prophecy in Matthew 21:5 (quoting Zechariah 9:9) that Jesus the king “is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey”; and in Peter’s encouragement to wives to nurture more than anything else “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). Meek. Humble. Gentle. Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. He is the most understanding person in the universe. The posture most natural to Him is not a pointed finger but open arms.
“… and lowly …”
The meaning of the word “lowly” overlaps with that of “gentle,” together communicating a single reality about Jesus’ heart. This specific word lowly is generally translated “humble” in the New Testament, such as in James 4:6: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” But typically throughout the New Testament this Greek word refers not to humility as a virtue but to humility in the sense of destitution or being thrust downward by life circumstance (which is also how this Greek word is generally used throughout the Greek versions of the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms). In Mary’s song while she is pregnant with Jesus, for example, this word is used to speak of the way God exalts those who are “of humble estate” (Luke 1:52). Paul uses the word when he tells us to “not be haughty, but associate with the lowly” (Romans 12:16), referring to the socially unimpressive, those who are not the life of the party but rather cause the host to cringe when they show up.
The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that He is accessible. For all His resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, His supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ. No prerequisites. No hoops to jump through. In “The Person and Work of Christ,” B.B. Warfield, commenting on Matthew 11:29, wrote: “No impression was left by his life-manifestation more deeply imprinted upon the consciousness of his followers than that of the noble humility of his bearing.” The minimum bar to be enfolded into the embrace of Jesus is simply: Open yourself up to Him. It is all He needs. Indeed, it is the only thing He works with.
Verse 28 of our passage in Matthew 11 tells us explicitly who qualifies for fellowship with Jesus: “all who labor and are heavy laden.” You don’t need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come. No payment is required; He says, “I will give you rest.” His rest is gift, not transaction. Whether you are working hard to crowbar your life into smoothness (“labor”) or passively finding yourself weighed down by something outside your control (“heavy laden”), Jesus Christ’s desire that you find rest, that you come in out of the storm, outstrips even your own.
“Gentle and lowly.” This, according to His own testimony, is Christ’s very heart. This is who He is. Tender. Open. Welcoming. Accommodating. Understanding. Willing. If we are asked to say only one thing about who Jesus is, we would be honoring Jesus’ own teaching if our answer is gentle and lowly.
A Yoke of Kindness
This is not who He is to everyone, indiscriminately. This is who He is for those who come to Him, who take His yoke upon them, who cry to Him for help. The paragraph before these words from Jesus gives us a picture of how Jesus handles the impenitent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! … I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matthew 11:21, 24). “Gentle and lowly” does not mean “mushy and frothy.”
But for the penitent, His heart of gentle embrace is never outmatched by our sins and foibles and insecurities and doubts and anxieties and failures. For lowly gentleness is not one way Jesus occasionally acts toward others. Gentleness is who He is. It is His heart. He can’t un-gentle Himself toward His own any more than you or I can change our eye color. It’s who we are.
The Christian life is inescapably one of toil and labor (1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 1:12-13; Colossians 1:29). Jesus Himself made this clear in this very Gospel (Matthew 5:19-20; 18:8-9). His promise here in Matthew 11 is “rest for your souls,” not “rest for your bodies.” But all Christian toil flows from fellowship with a living Christ whose transcending, defining reality is: gentle and lowly. He astounds and sustains us with His endless kindness. Only as we walk ever deeper into this tender kindness can we live the Christian life as the New Testament calls us to. Only as we drink down the kindness of the heart of Christ will we leave in our wake, everywhere we go, the aroma of heaven, and die one day having startled the world with glimpses of a divine kindness too great to be boxed in by what we deserve.
That notion of kindness is right here in our passage. The word translated “easy” in His statement, “My yoke is easy,” needs to be carefully understood. Jesus is not saying life is free of pain or hardship. This is the same word elsewhere translated “kind” — as in, for example, Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted” (also Romans 2:4). Consider what Jesus is saying. A yoke is the heavy crossbar laid on oxen to force them to drag farming equipment through the field. Jesus is using a kind of irony, saying that the yoke laid on His disciples is a non-yoke. For it is a yoke of kindness. Who could resist this? It’s like telling a drowning man that he must put on the burden of a life preserver only to hear him shout back, sputtering, “No way! Not me! This is hard enough, drowning here in these stormy waters. The last thing I need is the added burden of a life preserver around my body!” That’s what we all are like, confessing Christ with our lips but generally avoiding deep fellowship with Him, out of a muted understanding of His heart.
This high and holy Christ does not cringe at reaching out and touching dirty sinners and numbed sufferers. Such embrace is precisely what He loves to do. He cannot bear to hold back.
His yoke is kind, and His burden is light. That is, His yoke is a non-yoke, and His burden is a non-burden. What helium does to a balloon, Jesus’ yoke does to His followers. We are buoyed along in life by His endless gentleness and supremely accessible lowliness. He doesn’t simply meet us at our place of need; He lives in our place of need. He never tires of sweeping us into His tender embrace. It is His very heart. It is what gets Him out of bed in the morning.
This is not how we intuitively think of Jesus Christ. Reflecting on this passage in Matthew 11, the old English pastor Thomas Goodwin, in his book “The Heart of Christ,” helps us climb inside what Jesus is actually saying.
Men are apt to have contrary conceits of Christ, but he tells them his disposition there, by preventing such hard thoughts of him, to allure them unto him the more. We are apt to think that he, being so holy, is therefore of a severe and sour disposition against sinners, and not able to bear them. “No,” says he; “I am meek; gentleness is my nature and temper.”
We project onto Jesus our skewed instincts about how the world works. Human nature dictates that the wealthier a person, the more they tend to look down on the poor. The more beautiful a person, the more they are put off by the ugly. And without realizing what we are doing, we quietly assume that one so high and exalted has corresponding difficulty drawing near to the despicable and unclean. Sure, Jesus comes close to us, we agree — but He holds His nose.
This risen Christ, after all, is the one whom “God has highly exalted,” at whose name every knee will one day bow in submission (Philippians 2:9-11). This is the one whose eyes are “like a flame of fire” and whose voice is “like the roar of many waters” and who has “a sharp two-edged sword” coming out of His mouth and whose face is “like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:14-16); in other words, this is one so unspeakably brilliant that His resplendence cannot adequately be captured with words, so ineffably magnificent that all language dies away before His splendor.
This is the one whose deepest heart is, more than anything else, gentle and lowly.
Goodwin is saying that this high and holy Christ does not cringe at reaching out and touching dirty sinners and numbed sufferers. Such embrace is precisely what He loves to do. He cannot bear to hold back.
We naturally think of Jesus touching us the way a little boy reaches out to touch a slug for the first time — face screwed up, cautiously extending an arm, giving a yelp of disgust upon contact, and instantly withdrawing. We picture the risen Christ approaching us with “a severe and sour disposition,” as Goodwin says.
This is why we need a Bible. Our natural intuition can give us only a God like us. The God revealed in Scripture deconstructs our intuitive predilections and startles us with one whose infinitude of perfections is matched by His infinitude of gentleness. Indeed, His perfections include His perfect gentleness.
It is who He is. It is His very heart. Jesus Himself said so.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Dane C. Ortlund (Ph.D., Wheaton College) is chief publishing officer and Bible publisher at Crossway. He serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible series and the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series, and is the author of several books, including “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers” and “Edwards on the Christian Life.” He is an elder at Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. Dane lives with his wife, Stacey, and their five children in Wheaton, Illinois.