“If you don’t know Jesus primarily and supremely as gentle and lowly, then you don’t really know him at all.” Those were the words of Dane Ortlund in a message he gave at the TGC’s 2021 National Conference. He addressed a common insufficiency many believers—and church leaders specifically—possess when it comes to really knowing Christ. It’s a pretty strong statement to make. But after reading his book, I believe he’s right.
Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly – The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers is one of the most powerful, gospel-soaked books I have ever read. I received a tip-off about this some time ago from a colleague in ministry and I put it on my wish list. Then my daughter Emma started reading it along with a group of young adults in her church. She couldn’t stop talking about it. My wife beat me to its purchase, so I snuck it from the bookstand beside her bed (that happens often in our household).
I wasn’t disappointed. The book is largely (but not entirely) based on those delightful verses in 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.” (Matthew 11:28–30)
“In 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, we are not told that he is “austere and demanding in heart.” We are not told that he is “exalted and dignified in heart.” We are not even told that he is “joyful and generous in heart.” Letting Jesus set the terms, his surprising claim is that he is “gentle and lowly in heart.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout the rest of the book, those truths get unpacked, chapter by chapter in depth. I loved the chapters on Hebrews 4:15 (how Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses) and Hebrews 5:2 (he is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward). There’s a wonderful chapter on “The Beauty of the Heart of Christ” (Ch. 10) and “Jesus the Tender Friend” (Ch. 12). And lest one gets the impression that the Jesus of the New Testament is a much more likeable character than the remote and asture God of the Old Testament, he puts that to rest as well in “The Father of Mercies” in chapter 14 and “the Lord, the Lord” in chapter 16.
Here are a few gems from his book:
“Jesus Christ is closer to you today than he was to the sinners and sufferers he spoke with and touched in his earthly ministry.”
“As long as you fix your attention on your sin, you will fail to see how you can be safe. But as long as you look to this high priest, you will fail to see how you can be in danger.”
“It is not only that Jesus can relieve us from our troubles, like a doctor prescribing medicine; it is also that, before any relief comes, he is with us in our troubles, like a doctor who has endured the same disease.”
“Christ does not intercede because the Father’s heart is tepid toward us but because the Son’s heart is so full toward us. But the Father’s own deepest delight is to say yes to the Son’s pleading on our behalf.”
“That God is rich in mercy means that your regions of deepest shame and regret are not hotels through which divine mercy passes but homes in which divine mercy abides.”
Having been so deeply affected by this book and knowing how many in our church (and the world) are presently being affected by Covid and lockdowns, I decided to do a daily reading of the book each morning. Here’s the promo:
A number of people at Grace are starting to watch these and are benefitting from them. If you are interested, you’ll find the playlist here.