The Gentle Heart of Christ

In Matthew 11:29, we find the heart of Jesus Christ.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

The word translated here as “gentle” is πραΰς, whose four uses in the New Testament convey a concentration of brilliant and heavenly hope. But the Greek word for ‘gentle’ does not denote weakness per se. Rather, it conveys the exercise of power without harshness, of strength under self-control.

We find πραΰς again in Matthew 21, where Jesus our gentle Saviour appears once more, riding on a donkey in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold your King is coming to you,
Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’

And don’t overlook who Isaiah addresses. Daughter of Zion, your gentle King is coming! It’s no wonder, then, that the next place we find this word is in Peter’s exhortation to wives. Of course!

Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 
but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

Peter carries on drawing the line Jesus Christ began with Himself, gentle in His strength, to those who in their bodies symbolize Christ’s Bride, an earthly reminder of our glorified future state. In this, we learn again that Jesus shares His righteousness and His glory with those He loves and for whom He died.

And so where does this line lead us but to our forever home. For as Jesus tells all who follow Him, “Blessed are the gentle (πραεῖς), for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

Caspar David Friedrich
Monk by the Sea c.1809

I’ve retracted the below as someone has helpfully alerted me to this author’s support of abusive men.
*A friend pointed me to a lovely new book called Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund, which explores the heart of Christ. The book isn’t available in hard copy in the UK yet, but I was able to read the first chapter online. Ortlund draws these together four uses of ‘gentle’ briefly in this first part of his book, though he doesn’t emphasize the eschatological significance of Jesus’s gentleness and how He shares His nature with His bride the church. Perhaps Ortlund covers that more fully in a later section of the book.

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