“He deals gently with us” by Dane Ortlund

“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, the way many of our parents did.

And all this restraint on His part is not because He has a diluted view of our sinfulness. He knows our sinfulness far more deeply than we do.

Indeed, we are aware of just the tip of the iceberg of our depravity, even in our most searching moments of self-knowledge.

His restraint simply flows from His tender heart for His people.

Hebrews is not just telling us that instead of scolding us, Jesus loves us.

It’s telling us the kind of love He has: rather than dispensing grace to us from on high, He gets down with us, He puts His arm around us, He deals with us in the way that is just what we need. (Hebrews 4:14-5:4)

He deals gently with us.”

–Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 54-55.

“With all meekness and gentleness” by John Owen

“The high priest is able to bear with the people patiently and meekly, so as to continue the faithful discharge of his office towards them and for them.

This, as we observed, Moses was not able always to do, as he also complains, ‘Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nurse beareth the sucking child?’ (Numbers 11:12)

Yet this is required in a high priest, and that he should no more cast off poor sinners for their ignorance and wanderings than a nursing mother should cast away a sucking child for its crying.

So our apostle, in his imitation of Jesus Christ, affirms that in the church he was ‘gentle among them, even as a nurse cherisheth her children,” (1 Thess. 2:7);—not easy to be provoked, not ready to take offence or cast off the care of him.

So it is said of God, Acts 13:18, that for forty years ἐτροποφόρησε, ‘He bore with the manners of the people in the wilderness;’ or as some read it, ἐτροφοφόρησε, ‘He bore’ or ‘fed them, as a nurse feedeth her child.’

Thus ought it to be with a high priest, and thus is it with Jesus Christ.

He is able, with all meekness and gentleness, with patience and moderation, to bear with the infirmities, sins, and provocations of His people, even as a nursing mother beareth with the weakness of a poor infant.”

–John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. 4, ed. W. H. Goold, Works of John Owen, vol. 21 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1854/1985), 4: 455–456.

“Gentler than all gentleness” by Heinrich Bullinger

“What can you fitly think of God,
He that is above all loftiness,
higher than all height,
deeper than all depth,
lighter than all light,
clearer than all clearness,
brighter than all brightness,
stronger than all strength,
more virtuous than all virtue,
fairer than all fairness,
truer than all truth,
greater than all greatness,
mightier than all might,
richer than all riches,
wiser than all wisdom,
more liberal than all liberality,
better than all goodness,
juster than all justice,
and gentler than all gentleness?

For all kinds of virtues must needs be less than He, that is the Father and God of all virtues: so that God may truly be said to be such a certain Being, as to which nothing may be compared.

For He is above all that may be spoken.”

–Heinrich Bullinger, Fiftie Godlie and Learned Sermons, Divided Into Five Decades, Containing The chiefe and principall points of Christian Religion, written in three severall Tomes or Sections (trans. H.I.; London: Ralph Newberie, 1587), 606-607. As quoted in Samuel D. Renihan, Deity and Decree (Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: 2020), 26-27.

“Christ can and will do both” by Thomas Goodwin

“In all miseries and distresses you may be sure to know where you have a Friend to help and pity you, even in heaven, namely, Christ. You have One whose nature, office, interest, and relation, all, do engage Him to your succour.

You will find men, even friends, to be oftentimes unto you unreasonable, and their mercies in many cases shut up towards you.

Well, say to them all, ‘If you will not pity me, I know One that will, One in heaven, whose heart is touched with the feeling of all my infirmities, and I will go and bemoan myself to Him.’

Come boldly (says the text), μετὰ παῤῥησίας, (Heb. 4:16) even with open mouth, to lay open your complaints, and you shall find grace and mercy to help in time of need.

Men love to see themselves pitied by friends, though they cannot help them.

Christ can and will do both.”

–Thomas Goodwin, “The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1862/2006), 4: 150.

“His heart is a fountain of mercy wide enough to take in and give forth to us all God’s manifestative mercies” by Thomas Goodwin

“‘God is love,’ as John says (1 John 4:8), and Christ is love covered over with flesh, yea, our flesh.

And besides, it is certain that as God hath fashioned the hearts of all men, and some of the sons of men unto more mercy and pity naturally than others, and then the Holy Spirit, coming on them to sanctify their natural dispositions, useth to work according to their tempers, even so it is certain that He tempered the heart of Christ, and made it of a softer mould and temper than the tenderness of all men’s hearts put together into one, to soften it, would have been of.

When He was to assume a human nature, He is brought in saying, ‘A body hast thou fitted me,’ (Heb. 10:5); that is, a human nature, fitted, as in other things, so in the temper of it, for the Godhead to work and shew His perfections in best.

And as He took a human nature on purpose to be a merciful high priest (Heb. 2:14), so such a human nature, and of so special a temper and frame as might be more merciful than all men or angels.

His human nature was ‘made without hands;’ that is, was not of the ordinary make that other men’s hearts are of; though for the matter the same, yet not for the frame of His spirit.

It was a heart bespoke for on purpose to be made a vessel, or rather fountain, of mercy, wide and capable enough to be so extended as to take in and give forth to us again all God’s manifestative mercies; that is, all the mercies God intended to manifest to His elect.

And therefore Christ’s heart had naturally in the temper of it more pity than all men or angels have, as through which the mercies of the great God were to be dispensed unto us. And this heart of his to be the instrument of them.

And then this man, and the heart of this man so framed, being united to God, and being made the natural Son of God, how natural must mercy needs be unto Him, and therefore continue in Him now He is in heaven!

For though He laid down all infirmities of our nature when He rose again, yet no graces that were in Him whilst he was below; they are in Him now as much as ever; and being His nature, for nature we know is constant, therefore still remains.

You may observe, that when He was upon earth, minding to persuade sinners to have good thoughts of Him, as He used that argument of His Father’s command given Him; so He also lays open His own disposition, ‘Come to He, you that are weary and heavy laden… for I am meek and lowly of heart.’ (Matt. 11:28)

Men are apt to have contrary conceits of Christ, but He tells them His disposition there, by preventing such hard thoughts of Him, to allure them unto Him the more. We are apt to think that He, being so holy, is therefore of a severe and sour disposition against sinners, and not able to bear them.

No, says He; ‘I am meek,’ gentleness is My nature and temper. As it was of Moses, who was, as in other things, so in that grace, His type; he was not revenged on Miriam and Aaron, but interceded for them.

So, says Christ, injuries and unkindnesses do not so work upon me as to make me irreconcilable, it is my nature to forgive: ‘I am meek.’

Yea, but (may we think) He being the Son of God and heir of heaven, and especially being now filled with glory, and sitting at God’s right hand, He may now despise the lowliness of us here below; though not out of anger, yet out of that height of His greatness and distance that He is advanced unto, in that we are too man for him to marry, or be familiar with.

He surely hath higher thoughts than to regard such poor, low things as we are. And so though indeed we conceive Him meek, and not prejudiced with injuries, yet He may be too high and lofty to condescend so far as to regard, or take to heart, the condition of poor creatures.

No, says Christ; ‘I am lowly’ also, willing to bestow My love and favour upon the poorest and meanest. And further, all this is not a semblance of such an affable disposition, nor is it externally put on in the face and outward carriage only, as in many great ones, that will seem gentle and courteous, but there is all this ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ, ‘in the heart;’ it is His temper, His disposition, His nature to be gracious, which nature He can never lay aside.

And that His greatness, when He comes to enjoy it in heaven, would not a whit alter His disposition in Him, appears by this, that He at the very same time when He uttered these words, took into consideration all His glory to come, and utters both that and His meekness with the same breath:

‘All things are delivered to me by my Father,’ (Matt. 11:27) and presently after all this he says, ‘Come unto Me, all you that are heavy laden… I am meek and lowly,’ (11:28-29).”

–Thomas Goodwin, “The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1862/2006), 4: 116-117.

“The only cure for a cold heart” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“‘We love Him, because He first loved us.’ (1 John 4:19)

The only cure for a cold heart is to look at the heart of Jesus.”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 414.

“The Lord Jesus is as compassionate now as He was then” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“Do your sins weigh you down and do you go bowed down because of them? ‘He is the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 2:2).

Is the soul ashamed because of its nakedness? He is ‘THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ (Jer. 23:6). He will clothe them with the garments of salvation, and will cover them with the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10).

Is the soul troubled by the wrath of God? He delivers him ‘from the wrath to come’ (1 Th. 1:10).

Do you fear eternal condemnation? ‘There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1).

Does the soul long for communion with God? He will bring him to God (1 Pet. 3:18).

Is the soul experiencing desertion, sorrow, and grieving as a lonely sparrow? Is it discouraged and at wit’s end? Do bodily troubles afflict such a soul—being numerous, heavy, and of long duration?

In all these things great comfort is to be obtained from this High Priest. He is a Priest in name and in deed. He is the great High Priest, who is moreover a faithful and a merciful High Priest.

Consider this attentively in these two texts:

‘Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted’ (Heb. 2:17–18);

‘For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ (Heb. 4:15).

If one believes Christ to be such as He is, why would we not take refuge with Him, and in taking refuge, not believe that He can be touched with our infirmities, will receive us, and will grant us the desire of our hearts?

Many who are weak in faith are of the opinion that the Lord Jesus is not as easily moved as when He sojourned upon earth.

They reason that if they could but interact with Him as the disciples and the women did, enter a home in which He was present, converse with Him as familiarly as Mary and Martha did, or be in His company, then they would touch the hem of His garment, would wet His feet with tears, make their needs known to Him and beseech Him to have mercy upon them, to take away their sins, to give them another heart, and to cause them to feel His love.

Then they would have hope that He would have compassion upon them and help them. But now He is so far away, so high in the heavens, and in such great glory, that they cannot address Him as it were in immediate proximity, nor will He allow Himself to be moved by the prayer of such insignificant persons as they are.

Know, however, that such thoughts are earthly, proceeding from ignorance and a feeble faith. I assure you out of the Word of God that the Lord Jesus is as compassionate now as He was then, taking note of the misery and desires of man as carefully now as He did then.

Therefore, also now one may speak to Him as freely and familiarly as then. It grieves me that one impugns the compassion of the Lord Jesus.

Oh, that one would know Him as He is! How many a weak believer would then have bold access, pour out his heart with tears and supplications, and have confidence that He would help!

Take note therefore that the Lord Jesus, now being in heaven, is not only compassionate as God—that is, in a manner which is natural to His divinity, proceeding from eternal and infinite love, by which He observes and takes to heart the grievous and sinful miseries of His children and is willing and ready to help them—but He is also compassionate as man.

In order to be able to be compassionate, He had to assume the human nature, which is evident from Hebrews 2:14–17ff. For this reason He was tempted with many tribulations and was subject to anxiety and suffering, in order that He would know by experience how grievous suffering is and understand the frame of mind of the one who is in misery.

He would thus be all the more able to have compassion on them (Heb. 4:15). Now consider both natures together, and view Him as God and man, as Mediator and as high priest. This high-priestly office requires compassion of the most sensitive sort.

‘For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God … who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity’ (Heb. 5:1–2).

Since Christ is High Priest, He has the special quality which belongs to this office: compassion. How compassionate He was when He was upon earth! Repeatedly we read, “And Jesus was moved with compassion.”

Not only does the Lord Jesus have this same compassionate nature in heaven (for if a perfect nature can be compassionate, this is likewise true for a glorified nature), but since there is perfection in a larger measure, the quality of compassion must be even more excellent since it flows forth out of love.

The Lord Jesus being also High Priest in heaven, now ministers in this office with superlative excellence. Consequently, He possesses the quality of the High Priest, that is, compassion of the highest excellence.

Take note also of how intimately the Lord Jesus is united to His elect. They have been given to Him by the Father, in order that, as His children, He would deliver, preserve, and lead them to felicity.

Would He then not exercise tender care over them, and be compassionate towards them when they are in distress? They are His bride, children, and members. He has their very own nature—’for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren’ (Heb. 2:11).

When they are in misery and sorrow, they weep and long for Him, and cry out to Him for help and comfort. How can it be any different but that the Lord Jesus is greatly moved to compassion, especially since He is experientially acquainted with the feeling of their suffering?

Perhaps you say, ‘I grieve over sin. This is a grief which the Lord Jesus has never experienced, and thus sin cannot move Him to compassion, but will rather provoke Him to anger.’

I respond to this that it is true that Jesus was holy, and neither knew sin nor committed it. He tasted, however, all the bitter fruits of sin in such a manner as if He Himself had committed them.

He experienced the hiding of God’s countenance, the wrath of God, sorrow unto death, curse and condemnation. He suffered all of this in a measure which exceeds our comprehension.

He knows the soul’s disposition toward the commission of sin, and thus is able to and does have compassion by virtue of experience.

It is true that sin itself is hateful, but He already has fully atoned for it, so that instead of wrath, only compassion remains.

Consider all this together, believing that the Lord Jesus has such compassion for you, and seek to have a lively impression of Him as such. Would not this strengthen you in all your distress?

Lament about your sorrow to Him in a filial manner, and comfort yourself in His compassion, knowing that He has been afflicted in all your affliction (Isa. 63:9).

You may say, ‘Why then does He not help, considering He is able?’

My answer is, ‘It is not the time, and this is to your benefit. He is preparing you to be the recipient of additional grace, because it will be to the honor of God. Even if you have not been delivered as yet, the compassion of a Friend—of such a beloved Lord, High Priest, and Friend—nevertheless comforts. Therefore, await your deliverance with anticipation and in quietness.'”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 1 (God, Man, and Christ), Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1992), 1: 556–559.