This chapter is an extended reflection on Matthew 11:29, “I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
Personally, I noticed a clear connection between this verse and the title of Ortlund’s book.
In this chapter, Ortlund helpfully provides the Biblical understanding of our ‘hearts’. He writes:
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 of our emotional life only but 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” (Prov. 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.
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?
As I consider Dane’s question, it strikes me that Christ’s character is an apologetic masterpiece!
First, his heart is attractive to all who understand it. To see Jesus as gentle and lowly is to begin to know him and worship him. His gentle heart meets our truest need. As Ortlund writes, “He doesn’t simply meet us at our place of need; he lives in our place of need.”
Second, when we know that he is gentle and lowly, we begin to become gentle and lowly ourselves. This presents a beautiful image of Jesus to others. As Ortlund writes later in the chapter:
Jesus himself made this clear in this very Gospel (Matt. 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.
Third, that Jesus says he is “gentle and lowly” stands in contrast to the critique that Christianity is mythology, mere human invention.
If the mythologizing tendency is to create a great God worthy of our awe and worship, then it is strange that the early Christians invented a God who claimed to be gentle and lowly!
Not only are we apt to think that God is great - not lowly - but we are also inclined to think that God is perfect - and therefore judgmental.
Ortlund brings forth a gem from Thomas Goodwin to challenge this intuition:
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.”
Do you sense that Jesus is of a ‘severe and sour disposition’ towards you?
If so, know that Jesus desires to gently replace that defective view of himself, restore your spiritual eyesight, and show you his true heart.
- How would you describe your own heart? Is it gentle and lowly?
- What makes it hard for you to believe that Jesus is gentle and lowly?
- What needs can you bring to Jesus today?