Reading Time: 8 Minutes
Jesus invites us to come to him, knowing that he is gentle and humble in heart. We remember his invitation to come to him and his “gentle and humble in heart” nature (Matthew 11.28-29). Jesus revealed the true nature of his gentleness as he entered the synagogue in Capernaum.
This experience took place on the same Sabbath day as did what we read in the first verses of Matthew 12. The religious authorities were already inflamed with anger when Jesus claimed to be greater than both the temple and the Sabbath. They wanted to build a case against Jesus, so they could eliminate his influence over the people.
Matthew records the encounter in the synagogue like this: “And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ — so that they might accuse Him.
“And He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’
“Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand!’ He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other.
“But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (Matthew 12.10-14).
Gentleness Experienced by the Man
The man with the withered hand experienced Jesus’ gentleness when Jesus showed him compassion and healing. Our world is more hostile and divided than at any time in my memory. If we approach people with gentleness like our Savior, it will be like a breath of fresh air in a horribly smelling world.
The man in the synagogue experienced warmth, empathy, caring and genuine regard from Jesus. In contrast, the man was only valuable to the religious leaders, if they could use him to accuse Jesus. He was nothing more than a “tool” or an object lesson, not much different from the grains of wheat that were used earlier in their argument with Jesus.
What kind of people have we read about in Matthew’s Gospel that experienced Jesus’ warmth, empathy, caring, and gentleness?
— A leper experienced Jesus’ care, when he came to him and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean. Jesus responded by saying, “I am willing; be cleansed” (Matthew 8.2-3).
— A crowd of people came to Jesus with a variety of needs. He provided for each person as was fitting to the issues of their lives (Matthew 8.16). These people are among the nameless and faceless people of the Bible, but each person’s face and name was precious to Jesus.
— A paralyzed man, who was probably ignored by the crowd and a burden on his family, was released from paralysis and forgiven of his sins (Matthew 9.1-8). Jesus, who was unable to release himself from the cross, knew intimately what this man experienced as a paralytic. For this man and a multitude more, the words of Isaiah describe Jesus’ care in action.
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53.5)
As we leave the examples of the Gospel and think about Jesus’ gentleness in action, let’s consider some examples from our age.
— A man from prison wrote this week and told me that his new cellmate is a Christian. They are studying the Bible together. Even though this man has committed a crime worthy of a prison sentence, Jesus is real to him through prayer, Bible reading, and Christian fellowship. He knows that Jesus cares for him.
— Many people at Maywood tell of how Jesus was with them in their addiction. They attribute their sobriety and their very life to the gentleness of the Savior.
— Housebound senior adults are particularly affected by the corona virus pandemic. They are isolated more than at any other time in their lives. Yet, they have a constant companion. Jesus is with them as they often speak to him throughout the day.
— My wife, Toni, did not come from a Christian home. However, Toni has never known a time when Jesus was not her friend and guide. She is a beautiful picture of our gentle and loving Lord, who reaches out to children.
One of the finest things Jesus has done for us is to picture through his actions a God who is caring, loving, warm, supportive, accepting and gentle. When Jesus says, “Come to Me” (Matthew 11.28), he invites us to relate to God who is like this picture.
Another Side of Gentleness
Jesus is gentle, but he is not soft. He is meek, but he is not weak. His gentleness and humility does not keep him from “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4.15).
Jesus used common sense and logic to counter the criticism of the religious authorities. Everyone in their community cared for sheep and goats. They were valued possessions. If one were lost, it was common and acceptable for the shepherd to seek it and bring it home, no matter what day of the week it was.
He, then, pointed out how much more valuable was the man with the withered hand. Mark’s Gospel records this same event and tells how Jesus was grieved and angry at the religious authorities (Mark 3.5).
Jesus is gentle, but he is not soft. He can be grieved at our inside conditions that value possessions more than people. Jesus is meek, but not weak. He can get angry over how we use people to satisfy our own self-centered purposes.
Living the Jesus-kind-of-life
What can we learn about living a life like Jesus from this episode from Jesus’ ministry?
First of all, we can learn to see people like Jesus sees them. As our relationship with Jesus matures, our inside condition will allow us to view people with the caring, empathy, gentleness, and warmth of Jesus.
We will also value all people. It is easy to value the attractive, the clever, and the people with good personalities in our lives. It takes Jesus’ perception to value people who on first glance are repulsive or who seem to offer us nothing. As our walk with Jesus grows, we will find value in all people and not just those to whom we are naturally attracted.
Jesus taught us that people are to be appreciated and valued, not used as a “tool.” As we deepen our lives with Jesus, we will find that the checker at the grocery store or the person at the drive-through window will be more than someone who could be replaced by a machine. They will be persons with the same hopes, dreams and fears as us.
This passage teaches us that Jesus is not gullible and a pushover. His words, “Be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10.16), applies to us. There will be times that we, gentle and humble persons, will speak the truth in love and confront wrong thinking and actions. We will do it in the Spirit of Christ, but we will do it just the same.
Dear Jesus, there is so much to learn as we study your teaching and ministry. Thank you for giving us books in the Bible that show us your actions. Thank you that you come to us in a gentle and humble manner. Thank you for your warmth, acceptance, love, care and more. Please help us to be like you in this area.