I think that Jesus’ invitation to come to Him and find rest are some of the most beautiful words in the Bible. You may have heard them before.
“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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
So Jesus invites us to receive rest from Him and learn from Him. Then He reveals His heart. “For I am gentle and lowly in heart.” I understand the gentle part. Yet I have often wondered about the “lowly” part.
What does it mean to be “lowly” in heart? Some suggest it means humility. In fact, other Scriptures do use the translation humble. James 4:6 – “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Yet this humility refers not so much to an attitude but a place in life. Dane Ortlund writes this. “Typically, throughout the New Testament, this Greek word refers not to humility as a virtue but to humility in the sense of destitution or being thrust downward by life circumstance.”
So this means that Jesus was not in palaces or places of power. He lived with others in humble circumstances. Ortlund then argues that the “point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible.” Despite His glory, holiness, splendor and uniqueness, no one has ever been more approachable than Jesus. He is not like a celebrity in Hollywood that you might get a glimpse of on a red carpet and maybe even an autograph. He is approachable and has all the time in the world to talk and listen.
Yet, Ortlund points out, this is not who we typically think of Jesus. “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 difficulty drawing near the despicable and unclean. Sure, Jesus comes close to us, we agree – but he holds his nose.”
But “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.”
So maybe this weekend you could come to this Jesus who is gentle and lowly in heart. Wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, however you’ve suffered – He is approachable and longs for your company.
“Lord Jesus, thank you for this heart penetrating invitation where you reveal your heart to us. Help us not only to read it but to accept your invite to catch up with You.”
Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, Crossway, Wheaton, 2020.