The Touch of Jesus – Dane Ortlund

I am gentle and lowly in heart.

Matthew 11:29

“Reflecting on this passage in Matthew 11, the old English pastor Thomas Goodwin 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.”1

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 (Phil. 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” (Rev. 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 only give us a God like us. The God revealed in the Scripture deconstructs our intuitive predilections and startles us with one whose infinitude or 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.”2

1 – Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2011), 63.

2 – Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 23-24.

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