The Heart of Jesus Part 2
In his book, Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund begins:
In the four Gospel accounts given to us in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—eighty-nine chapters of biblical text—there’s only one place where Jesus tells us about his own heart.…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.
That “one place” is Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus 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 is light.”Last time, I highlighted the submissive heart of Jesus, which reminds us that he understands our pain, weakness, and sorrow. He’s no stranger to suffering. He co-suffers with us. His heart was submissive. His heart was understanding—toward God and toward us. Today I want to explore two other features of his heart.
Jesus Has a Welcoming Heart: He’s Receptive: That shouldn’t shock us, but if we’re being truthful it does. When we consider the views of God many people have held and been shaped by, we understand. In their mind, God is standoffish. He’s aloof. He’s transcendent and inaccessible. God is unapproachable, maybe like an angry, distant father who is perpetually disappointed in the failures of his children.
Let’s be honest, the word most people would put on the lips of God when they stand in his presence is not “come.” It’s “stay back!” or “Go away!” with a furrowed brow and a pointed finger aiming at eternal banishment. That’s the only view they’ve ever heard. It was the one most stressed in their religious and church experience.
“Come to me.” It’s simple but profound. It’s clear. There’s no complexity or complication here. Jesus stands with open arms, bidding you, inviting you, pleading with you, to just come. He notices you, even when you have been oblivious to him. He wants you to approach Him. It’s not a trick. No bait and switch here.
Charles Spurgeon writes: “His favorite word is “come.” Not, “Go to Moses," “Come to me.”
Jesus faces us, and I’m imagining him extending his arms out as wide as he could and motioning to Himself while saying, “Come to me.” What an image. What a God!
We live in a world of exclusivity and rejection. We must be worthy, prove ourselves, show our credentials. But Jesus requires only one credential: need. Burdens. Desperation. Spiritual exhaustion. Call it what you want. Jesus bids us to come as we are. No cleaning up. No VIP passes needed. No cover-charge. Just come.
Jesus is not distant or aloof. He wants to engage. His welcome is sincere and genuine. He means it. Not “Call me sometime” or “Have your people call my people.”
There is no such thing as a willing sinner and an unwilling savior—or a willing sufferer and an unwilling savior. Nobody will ever be able to say that Jesus was unwilling to receive them. He once cried out to an unbelieving city, “I was wiling, but you were not.”
This is eternally good news for longing hearts. And it won’t change—ever. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
We’re fickle. But he’s not! In another place he said, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” When you’re IN, you’re IN. That’s cosmic assurance in a world filled with doubt, paranoia, and uncertainty. Not only does Jesus have a welcoming heart,
Jesus Has a Gentle and Lowly Heart: He’s Approachable. Jesus is talking about himself, but not in vague or ambiguous terms. “I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
Here’s Jesus, describing his very own heart. He has every word in the universe at his disposal and he uses two that both shock us and relieve us if we’re paying attention.
Gentle. Lowly. What’s that mean? Jesus is accessible. He’s holy, but with open arms and a receptive heart. He’s available. He offers constant access—to anyone. He is especially accessible to those who labor and are worn down and distressed by religion.
The Greek word for gentle means meek or humble. The image is that of tremendous power under control. Dane Ortlund writes, “Who could have thought up such a savior?…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.”
I love that phrase. “The most understanding person in the universe.” Try that on for size next time you need to go to Jesus for strength, forgiveness, restoration, courage, or repentance. He understands you more than any person who has ever lived.
You are safe to come to Jesus and share your worst. No one in human history has ever been more approachable than. He knows the worst about you and isn’t leaving. He won’t grimace, or hold his nose. He won’t walk away. He offers rest for battered spiritual refugees in this world. We conjure up images in our minds of a demanding, antagonistic God, but that won’t fit Jesus. His heart is gentle and lowly. That lifts us up!
In the Bible, our heart is the animated center of who we are. It’s the mission control center. What animates Christ? What excites him the most? Helping the needy.
When I was a kid, my dad would sometimes take my little hand and place it on his chest to let me feel his heartbeat. Or when we had one of those toy stethoscopes, our family would take turns listening to one another’s hearts. Jesus does that here. He places your hand over his heart and says, “Feel this. Listen to this. See how it goes out to you in your suffering and in your sins.”
Jesus is never reluctant to draw near sinners and sufferers. Helping them brings him great joy. Don’t be defrauded by the false saviors out there. Come to the real Jesus.
“The real Jesus attracted failures, exiles, rejects, underachievers, weaklings, compromisers, and losers—the scum of the earth. Every kind of defeated, fed-up sinner found a welcome with him. It was the above-it-all religious elite who hated his guts…Right now, at this very moment, his heart moves not toward the strong but toward the broken. His tender heart for sinners was the very thing that stood out the most in the eyes of his critics. Here was a moral man, and immoral people felt hopeful around him. But to the uppity finger-pointers, being “a friend of sinners” was his crime. It was an accusation he gladly accepted.” —Ray Ortlund, The Death of Porn
The only thing Jesus needs from us is our exhaustion, failure, guilt, and sorrow. But we must come to Him. What other options do we have? Where else can we turn? He offers true rest. St. Augustine’s most quoted lines in his Confessions was this prayer: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Why does that resonate with so many human beings? Because while we’re restless, we’re also suspicious that God is unwilling to help us.
We know how the world works. The wealthier tend to look down on the poor. The more beautiful tend to look down on the ugly. The more powerful tend to look down on the weak. The more wise look down on the foolish.
But Jesus is supremely powerful, rich, beautiful, and wise, and yet calls himself gentle and lowly. This is why we need a Bible, so we don’t create God in our own image. This is why the Gospel is so gloriously surprising. Finally, we have a person of refuge, who understands us, is approachable, and accessible. This is the real Jesus.
In the past, I would talk about the love of Jesus, but feel the need to qualify and justify such language. I would think to myself, “I have to balance this with some talk of judgment or the dazzling holiness of God—just to prove to people that I take the Bible serious.” But the same Bible that warns us of the dangers of hell introduces us to the one who experienced hell on our behalf, to rescue us from it—and from ourselves.
Most people have failed to reckon with the love of God. Jesus knows that, and that’s one of the reasons He gave us this passage. Let’s give ourselves over—all of ourselves—to this Jesus again and again. His heart is wide open.