Key passage

Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be exploited.
Instead he emptied himself
by assuming the form of a servant,
taking on the likeness of humanity.
And when he had come as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
and every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

Quotes from Chapter 1

I am gentle and lowly in heart.

Matthew 11:29

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 gently and lowly in heart, and you fill find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

… the one place in the Bible where the Son of God pulls back the veil and lets us peer way down into the core of who he is. Letting Jesus set the terms, his surprising claim is that he is “gentle and lowly in heart.”

When the Bible speaks of the heart, whether the Old Testament or New, it is not speaking of our emotional life only but of the central animating centre of all we do. The heart, in biblical terms, is not part of who we are but the centre of who we are. Our heart is what defines and directs us.

Guard your heart above all else,
for it is the source of life.

Proverbs 4:23

The heart is a matter of life. It is what makes us the human being each of us is. The heart drives all we do. It is who we are.

When Jesus tells us what animates him most deeply, what is most true of him—when he exposes the innermost recesses of his being—what we find there is: gentle and lowly.

Meek. Humble. Gentle. 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.

“… and lowly …”

The meaning of the word “lowly” overlaps with that of “gentle,” together communicating a single reality about Jesus’ heart.

The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible. For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ. The minimum bar to be enfolded into the embrace of Jesus is simply: open yourself up to him.

Matthew 11:28 tells us explicitly who qualifies for fellowship with Jesus: “all who labour and are heavy laden.” You don’t need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come. No payment is requires; he says, “I will give you rest.” Jesus Christ’s desire that you find rest, that you come in out of the storm, outstrips even your own.

“Gentle and lowly.” This is Christ’s very heart. This is who he is. Tender. Open. Welcoming, Accommodating. Understanding. Willing. If we are asked to say only one thing about who Jesus is, we would be honouring Jesus’ own teaching if our answer is, gentle and lowly.

This is not who he is to everyone, indiscriminately. This is who he is for those who come to him, who take his yoke upon him, who cry to him for help. “Gentle and lowly” does not mean “mushy and frothy.”

But for the penitent, his heart of gentle embrace is never out-matched by our sins and foibles and insecurities and bouts and anxieties and failures. For lowly gentleness is not one way Jesus occasionally acts toward others. Gentleness is who he is. It is his heart.

The Christian life is inescapably one of toil and labour.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

1 Corinthians 15:10

Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.

Philippians 2:12, 13

I labour for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me.

Colossians 1:29

His promise here in Matthew 11 is “rest for your souls,” not “rest for your bodies.” Jesus is not saying life is free of pain or hardship. Jesus is saying that the yoke is a yoke of kindness. His yoke is kind and his burden is light. That is, his yoke is a nonyoke, and his burden is a nonburden. Jesus doesn’t simply meet us at our place of need; he lives in our place of need. He never tires of sweeping us into his tender embrace. It is his very heart.

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.”

Thomas Goodwin

Jesus 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. (Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 1:14-16).

This is the one whose deepest heart is, more than anything else, gentle and lowly.

This high and holy Christ does not cringe at reaching out and touching dirty sinners and numbed sufferers.

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 of 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.

Come to me, all who labour 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


  • What is the heart in biblical terms?
  • What does the word “lowly” mean when referring to Jesus?
  • Why is it important to know Christ’s heart?
  • If an unbeliever asks about Jesus, how would you describe His gentle and lowly character?
  • What is your natural instinct about who Christ is? How does that impact your relationship with Him?
  • What burdens are weighing down your life right now? After reading, what hope are you able to have in Christ?

This article is adapted from: Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Gentle and Lowly Study Guide by Robert Zink.

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