Gentle and Compassionate

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.

Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly

The Bruised Reed and Smouldering Wick

I have been reading through Matthew – a chapter at a time and talking about it with my husband. In Chapter12, Jesus encounters objections from the Pharisees. Their grim and severe doctrine is opposed to Jesus and His mission.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

Isaiah 42:1-3

Jesus is the suffering servant. He is our high priest, able to empathize with our struggles, tempted just as we are. Matthew tells us multiple times that Jesus had compassion for the crowds. Isaiah, quoted in Matthew’s gospel, reminds us that Jesus is gentle. I love this phrase – “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” Jesus comforts and encourages the weak, the marginalized, the oppressed, he doesn’t point fingers, raise His voice, or even condemn.

We conservatives like to talk a great deal about personal responsibility, and often that conversation focuses on the responsibilities of the weak and vulnerable. 

David French, The French Press

I hear it often – she just needs to get a job, he just needs to buck up, make better choices, work hard. Instead of pointing our fingers at the responsibilities of others to “get with the program,” we might first consider that the weak and vulnerable may be too weak, too vulnerable to take a next right step, any next right step.

Jesus Has Compassion

Going on from that place, [Jesus] went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, [the Pharisees] asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

Matthew 12:9-10

Jesus heals the man, of course. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. He points out that the Sabbath is not for inactivity but for doing good!

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

Matthew 12:22-24

The Pharisees accuse Jesus of using Satan’s power to deliver a man from one of Satan’s minions. Instead of celebrating the miracle, being in awe of Jesus’ work, humbled by Jesus’ compassion for those who are hurting, the Pharisees are harsh, afraid of losing their power over people, and eventually plot to kill Jesus.

Jesus Invitation

Interestingly, these stories come right after Jesus speaks the most awesome invitation to be yoked together with Him because He is gentle and humble. We don’t want to be like the Pharisees missing this critical appeal.

Our call is not to be harsh, angry, or even condescending. We seek justice, the most freedom for the most people, without quarrel. The bruised reed, the smoldering wick need our encouragement, our kindness, our help. We can show the way! Our command is to love one another even as Jesus has loved us! Imagine what the early world might have been like had the Pharisees accepted Jesus’ invitation to bear His yoke. It is our turn to lay down our Pharisaical ways and take Christ’s mantle of gentleness and compassion.

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art.
Visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.

Charles Wesley, 1747
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