“The Heart of Jesus”, by Dane Ortlund (Gentle and Lowly, Loved, Embraced By Kindness)

The Heart of Jesus by Dane Ortlund

July 14, 2020

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.”

Perfect Gentleness

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.

Source: ByFaithOnline.com

“The Yes of Love”, a poem from L.Willows (Glory of God, See Jesus)

b2cbfbd063823176901cb30309340854

The Yes of Love,
it looked like this,
with words that spoke
of the morning’s bliss.

Here they are fathomed,
there they are kept,
with joy in the reach
of dreams love swept.

Speak the Yes.
Let the words confer,
before the Angel sky clouds
assemble to stir.

In first of the day
let all prayers rise to flight.
Oh, such was the night
that brought our hearts to God’s sight.

The Yes in Him, the Yes of love
It looked like all, filled with God above.

© 2019 Linda Willows

1 Corinthians 1:20 – “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”

“Walking Towards Hope”, from L.Willows (Revival, God’s Goodness, His Glory, Believe)

40-Awesome-Secret-Garden-Design-Ideas-For-Summer-9

Walking Towards Hope, from L.Willows

The other day, I went to a nearby garden park that has been closed due to the pandemic. The loosely gated entry has not prevented locals from wandering in for private walks.  It is like a paradise inside.  Beyond the gate are gardens that volunteers lovingly tend to on a usual year.  The crews were absent but their labors from so many years past were still evident. That day was a real gift to me.

I  had been praying for a “second wind” in this journey of endurance during home isolation in our region. My heart felt heavy. I was deeply missing loved ones. I felt distant from all that I loved.

Then I stepped beyond the gate of the park. My heart lifted with gratitude that fell over me. Nothing of the world and its concerns seemed real in the gardens. Life seemed to be continuing without knowledge of the news or any updates of what tomorrow might bring. This was an isle apart. I smiled as I listened to birds singing to one another and stepped towards the largest fushia petals that I had ever seen.

Then I stepped amongst delicate yellow buds that reached up to feel the warmth of the sun. My heart melted and I became like a child walking in God’s open green, breathing His sweetened air.

I said to myself, “I am willing to believe that at this moment, everything is new. The bluebells tell be so. The lavender pearl buds on the bushes that run through the field tell me so. The lush green grasses that are dancing in the breeze are telling all that life is moving. A red cardinal flies majestically by.  The deep blue of the vast sky lives like the freedom that I long for. I walk but my heart is dancing. My soul is singing to God. I am praising Him.”

He is the Good Gardener. Nothing can prevent or delay God’s Goodness from rising. The Hope of His Presence and the beauty of His Creation lifts our hearts, from wherever we are.  I understand that there is no time, but the one that He sets. In the beautiful sky that I gaze at, my heart is set free, I am reminded of the vastness of God Himself. That freedom, which is the Altar of His Presence dwells within each of our hearts.  The Gateway is Jesus who is the Door .  My prayer was anwered. I had been revived by the sweetness of His Spirit. He led me to these Green Pastures.

John 10:9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”

I had been free all the while. Because of the isolation, I allowed my heart to believe that the “walls that I saw” were real. They were really only walls within my own heart. I allowed myself to believe that the limitations of life during home isolation though they were tangible and physically confining did not have to confine by heart and soul. The Good Shepherd, Jesus was leading me once again to the truth of His Kingship and most especially of the gift of salvation.

The Lord, my Good Shepherd had led me to His Green Pasture. There I was, praying for renewal and revival. God sees our hearts, each burden, each care – wherever we live and wherever our walk takes us, He is there. I am so encouraged as I write, yet there is no tangible evidence in life, except that I had the great privilege of this walk. Yet, I realize that the great Glory of our God displays in intangible ways. I am reminded that we can’t always ask to see and have or even feel what we want in a mortal way. The goodness and Glory of God are beyond the gardens of this world, they are only “sighted” by the eyes of our heart when they have been opened by believing.

 

John 11:40 -Jesus said to her, Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?

That evening in my home, I did not feel enclosed by any boundary nor did I feel isolated. I looked out to the sky and I felt hugged by everything that is good. I felt wrapped in the Presence of God. He is beside us each and with us wherever we are. The paradise that I longed for is a blessed eternity in His Kingdom that is promised to all in His Care. For some reason, the words to a familiar song that we used to sing in Church comes to mind as I write:

I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one…

and we will sing together again!

Hebrews 1:3 -He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

© 2020 Linda Willows