In Matthew 11, Jesus tells His followers, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (28-30, NIV).
This statement from Jesus is for me these days. I’m eager to know Jesus more.
It’s been a hard four years for my family since returning from the Near East. It’s safe to say we’re weary and a little burdened. Culturally, we feel out of place, and we only served a few years in a different culture. I can only imagine the experiences of those who reenter their home cultures after decades on the field.
As a family, we’ve dealt with several significant health—and mental health—issues, which has made me more empathetic. We also left our home country as a busy and vibrant family of five; now, however, our grown kids are dispersed, and we’re a couple of self-sufficient adults living with too little community. The pandemic has isolated us all.
Finally, too many people around me grow cynical, disconnected from the local church during the pandemic. Some friends and extended family have left the faith altogether.
Honestly, during other phases of my Christian walk, I have followed and taught about other facets of Jesus than the one described in Matthew 11.
- The healing, all-powerful Jesus
- The Jesus who fulfills amazing prophecies from the Old Testament
- The eternal and cosmic Jesus who reigns with the Father and who created the heavens and earth
- The triumphant, returning Jesus who rides chariots and sits on the throne
Of course, I love and worship all aspects of our Saviour. But from time to time, during different seasons of our Christian walk, I believe it’s okay to walk with and abide with the facet of Jesus we need in that moment—including the Jesus who described Himself as gentle and lowly.
Let’s meditate on this Jesus for a moment.
I’m grateful to a pastor named Dane Ortlund who has written a beautiful little devotional exploration of this passage. Ortlund points out that this is the one and only time Jesus references His own heart, meaning we ought to pay close attention.
Interestingly, Middle Eastern men typically reference the heart with great passion and enthusiasm. In a quick exchange of greetings, you’ll hear Arab men reference their hearts—gelbic or gelbi—filling personal and passionate exchanges with meaningful commitments. The heart is the undeniable center of emotions—the center of their identities. The heart is far more personal and central to the soul than it is with Westerners.
So, when Jesus says He is “gentle and humble [lowly] in heart” (Matthew 11:29), what does He mean? What is He saying?
- Gentle – This is the same word for gentle that Jesus uses in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). It means meek.
- Lowly – This is the same humble used in the phrase in James – “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (4:6, NIV). This is not the virtue of humility that we strive for but is more closely related to humiliation or being thrust downward by life’s circumstances. It echoes Mary’s song when she references her “humble state” (Luke 1:48).
So, Jesus is saying to us that, in His heart, He is meek and low in our world. Think about this: The centerpiece to our whole religion, the central relationship into which we are inviting people is to be welcomed by and forgiven by a gentle and incarnate God.
So, may our teams and our budgets and our strategies be focused on helping more people to hear about Jesus. May our goal be that more people would see and experience Jesus’s (gentle and lowly) heart, lived in the life of one another. May we ourselves be a vibrant community of Jesus followers characterised by His gentleness and lowliness. This is the gospel good news for me today.