I am working with a group of young women from my church, and we are working through a book that came out earlier this spring from Crossway: Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund. Taking “a Bible Passage or a bit of teaching from the Puritans or others,” Ortlund explores who Jesus is, what He is like, and how He loves. The chapters are short and pithy, with a frequent turn of phrase that makes you reread a sentence for the sheer beauty of the truth revealed.
So, I’ll write up here a few quotes and questions we discussed in this small group (and another group I am a part of). If you want to follow along, you can pick up a copy of the book (or 5 copies to give out and start your own group). We are meeting twice a month and reading two chapters each time, so these posts will show up after our study.
“It is one thing to know the doctrines of the incarnation and the atonement and a hundred other vital doctrines. It is another, more searching matter to know his heart for you” (p. 16).
If you tried to introduce Jesus to someone who doesn’t know Him, how would you describe Him?
Chapter 1: His Very Heart
Key Verse: Matthew 11:29 “I am gentle and lowly of heart.”
“Meek. Humble. Gentle. Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. He is the most understanding person in the universe” (p. 19).
What is life like for the Christian who thinks they are on some performance treadmill? What happens when you think that Jesus is easily impatient with us?
Jesus described himself as lowly or socially unimpressive. How does His birth story cast light on who He was and who He would pursue?
“You don’t have to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come. No payment is required: He says ‘I will give you rest.’ His rest is gift, not transaction” (pp. 20-21).
“His yoke is kind and his burden is light. That is, his yoke is a nonyoke, and his burden is a nonburden. What helium does to a balloon, Jesus’ yoke does to his followers. We are buoyed along in life by his endless gentleness and supremely accessible lowliness” (p. 23).
How do other religions describe their gods? How is Jesus’ description of Himself antithetical to those deities?
How does Jesus’ description of Himself bring comfort? Challenge your own perceptions of Him?
In what ways does the gentleness and the lowliness of Jesus invite us into knowing Him more?
Chapter 2: His Heart in Action
Key Verse: Matthew 14:14, “And he had compassion on them.”
This chapter begins with reminders of broken, wounded, socially unacceptable people Jesus touched. Which of these moments in the life of Christ are particularly comforting to you? Why is that?
“The dominant note left ringing in our ears after reading the Gospels, the most vivid and arresting element of the portrait, is the way the Holy Son of God moves toward, touches, heals, embraces, and forgives those who least deserve it yet truly desire it” (p. 27).
What are some areas of your life that you consider too broken for Jesus to touch, to forgive?
The book talks about our tendency to be drawn to only part of the character of Jesus, drawn to his grace for example, to the exclusion of his Justice. Reread page 28. In what direction to you see yourself leaning? How does that impact your view of the whole truth about who Jesus is?
“Thomas Goodwin said, ‘Christ is love covered over in flesh.’ Picture it. . .If compassion clothed itself in a human body and went walking around this earth, what would it look like? We don’t have to wonder” (p. 32).
If Jesus walked among us today, who are some of the morally or physically repulsive people you would find Him reaching out to? Where would you be in the crowds? At His feet or watching Him askance?
Chapter 3: The Happiness of Christ
Key Verse: Hebrews 12:2 “For the joy that was set before him. . .”
Jesus doesn’t want us to draw on his grace and mercy only because it vindicates his atoning work. He wants us to draw on his grace and mercy because it is who he is. . . Christ gets more joy and comfort than we do when we come to him for help and mercy.p. 37
- What is the first characteristic that comes to mind when you think of God’s attributes? Have you focused on some aspects of who He is to the exclusion of others?
- Do you think about Jesus’ comfort when you come to Him with your sin? Why? How can you be sure? What verses (outside of Hebrew) come to mind?
- In what ways do you find yourself willing to sin because of Jesus’ payment for your sins?
Chapter 4: Able to Sympathize
Key Verse: Hebrews 4:15 “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.”
All of our natural intuitions tell us that Jesus is with us, on our side, present and helping, when life is going well. This text says the opposite. It is in “our weaknesses” that Jesus sympathizes with us.p. 46
- What struggle in your own life comes to mind when you think of Jesus’ “co-suffering?” What comfort comes from Jesus’ being tested in similar ways that you are?
- How does the name “Immanuel” echo in Jesus solidarity with our weakness?
The key to understanding the significance of Hebrews 4:15 is to push equally hard on the two phrases “in every respect” and “yet without sin.”. . He had no sin. He was “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners” (Heb 7:26-27). . .That enticing temptation, that sore trial, that bewildering perplexity–he has been there. Indeed, his utter purity suggests that he has felt these pains more acutely than we sinners every could. “p. 47-48.
Chapter 5: He Can Deal Gently
Key Verse: Hebrew 5:2. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward.
What does it mean that Jesus deals gently with his people?
With whom does Jesus deal gently? In what ways do you understand yourself to be ignorant and wayward?
Consider what all this means. When we sin, we are encouraged to bring our mess to Jesus because he will know just how to receive us. He doesn’t handle us roughly. He doesn’t scowl and scold. He doesn’t lash out. . .p. 54
How does the gentleness of Jesus impact your struggle with your sin?
Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaven. Looking out to Christ, we can anticipate only gentleness.p. 57
Chapter 6: I will never cast out.
Key Verse: John 6:37. Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
What fears plague you about coming to Jesus? How do those fears demonstrate a misunderstanding of His invitation to come?
Think on the phrase used in the KJV: “I will in no wise cast out.” Examine Bunyan’s list of objections on page 61. With which one(s) do you most identify?
Read the following verses. How does each text hammer home Jesus’ gentle invitation and care?
- Romans 2:3: “…do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
- Ephesians 2.4-7 “but[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
- Titus 3.4 “…when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life
In light of the “in no wise cast out” welcome of Jesus, spend some time thanking Him for his steadfast lovingkindness to you.