Did you know that Jesus only describes His heart one time in the Bible? In Matthew 11:28-30, He says, “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 light.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “I’m serious and severe in heart” or “I’m dignified and distinguished” — or even “I’m happy and joyful”. No, His surprising claim is that He is “gentle and lowly in heart”.
When Jesus tells us what kind of guy He is, what animates Him most deeply, what’s most true about Him, He says that He’s “gentle and lowly”. Is this how you think about Jesus?
The word here for “gentle” is used elsewhere to mean “meek”, like when Jesus says that “the meek will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). It’s also translated as “humble”, like when Jesus comes into Jerusalem “humble and mounted on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5).
Jesus says that his heart is meek, humble, gentle. He’s not harsh, trigger-happy, easily exasperated, or reactionary. As Dane Ortlund says in his book Gentle and Lowly, Jesus “is the most understanding person in the universe. The posture most natural to him is not a pointed finger but open arms”.
The word for “lowly” is usually translated as “humble”. But the word doesn’t typically refer to humility as a virtue, but humility in the sense of destitution. It’s usually used to describe someone who’s been beaten up by life’s circumstances. Paul uses this word when he tells us to “not be haughty, but associate with the lowly” (Romans 12:16). The “lowly” are the socially unimpressive. They’re not the life of the party.
What is Jesus’ point? His point is that He’s accessible. Yes, He’s holy and supremely ruling over all things. But there’s also no one else more approachable than Jesus Christ. He’s not so high that you can’t reach Him, so rich that you can’t know Him, or so powerful that you can’t be comfortable around Him.
Jesus is not so high that you can’t reach Him, so rich that you can’t know Him, or so powerful that you can’t be comfortable around Him.
The highest person in the universe says that He’s “lowly”. This means that there aren’t any hoops you have to jump through to be with Him. There are no prerequisites. In fact, the only kind of person He works with is the kind who admits their need. Jesus tells us that the only people who qualify for friendship with Him are “all who labor and are heavy laden” (v. 28).
This is the beauty of Jesus’ message. You don’t have to unburden yourself to come to Him. You don’t have to collect yourself, get your life right, start acting religious, and clean up your behaviour before you qualify for friendship with Jesus. You don’t have to pay anything. Jesus says, “I will give you rest.” His rest is a gift, not a reward for good behaviour, not a transaction.
So whether you’re actively working hard to make your life look better than it actually is (“labour”) or passively finding yourself weighed down by things beyond your control (“heavy laden”), Jesus wants to give you rest. He sees you. He understands what you’re doing, what you’ve done, and what’s been done to you. His heart is tender, welcoming, willing, and open to receive you. All you must do is be honest with yourself and with Him about your need.
Gentle-lowliness isn’t how Jesus is occasionally when He’s in a good mood. It’s who He is. He can’t change His nature any more than we can change our eye colour. For all who turn away from their sins and surrender to His love, His heart is open, His heart is kind, and His heart is ready and willing to give you the rest you long for.
Gentle Jesus wants to give rest to the weary and burdened today. He has rest for everyone who comes to Him.
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