The King Is Gentle
by Jack Wald | December 14th, 2014

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The shepherds were sitting by the fire, sometimes talking and sometimes listening to the sounds of the night. The sheep bleating, insects and frogs making their mating cries, night owls swooping. They listened for the sound of sheep becoming uneasy because predators were creeping up to attack. They looked at the stars and the occasional comet that streaked across the night sky. And then, all of a sudden (Luke 2:9–12 )
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

A burst of indescribable light in the darkness of the night. A message that gave a specific action so the shepherds would not stand there in stunned amazement the rest of the night. “Go to Bethlehem and see a baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger.”

And so God entered the world, a baby. A baby who needed to be fed, who needed to have his diaper changed, who needed to be carried, who needed to be protected. God entered into the world in the form of weakness, depending on Mary and Joseph for his life. The shepherds came. A year or so later the wise men came. They looked at this baby the angels and stars had told them about and they wondered what this meant. Mary wondered what this meant. Joseph wondered what this meant.

Thirty some years later Jesus told his disciples he was going to leave them but that he would return. (John 14:1–3)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Jesus died. Jesus resurrected from the dead. The risen Jesus taught and encouraged his disciples to carry on his work of teaching, healing, and loving. And then Jesus ascended into heaven.

Sixty to seventy years later, the disciple John was in exile on the island of Patmos when he received a revelation from the risen and exalted Jesus. In this vision John received a picture of what it will be like when Jesus returns. (Revelation 19:11–16)
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.

A baby lying in a manger. A gentle Jesus. A warrior on a white horse with a robe drenched in blood. A just Jesus executing the judgment of God.

Which one is the real Jesus?

For most of us, we love the first Jesus and are uncomfortable with the second. We like the verse from a Charles Wesley hymn:
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to Thee.

How about this little poem I wrote?
On his steed with robe dipped in blood
Comes Jesus with judgment like a flood
Jesus you are divine
I just hope the blood will not be mine.

You laugh at my little poem, but I doubt any Sunday School for children this Christmas season will be reading Revelation 19 as the Bible story. I don’t imagine Revelation 19 ever makes it into a children’s Sunday School curriculum.

Revelation 19 is not a feel-good story. The descriptions in the Bible of this day of Judgment are fearful ones. (Revelation 6:15–17)
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

We would much rather read a story about Jesus and children. (Luke 18:15–17)
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Is Jesus schizophrenic? Does he have two contradictory natures? Is he like the Robert Louis Stevenson character who was Dr. Jekyll, a kind, benevolent doctor, and then when he drank a potion became the evil Mr. Hyde?

Jesus is both gentle and just because that is the nature of God. Jesus did love the little children, but he also made a whip and drove the money-changers out of the temple. Jesus spoke tenderly to those considered to be sinful but he also cursed a fig tree for not producing fruit. The Triune God is loving and just and if we are to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, then we have to love both God’s love and justice.

This week I will focus on the gentleness of Jesus and next week the justice of Jesus. I will reference back and forth between God’s love and God’s justice because they are not separate natures. They are both the character of God and cannot be viewed apart from each other.

When Jesus became man, Jesus came as an infant. Everyone expected the Messiah to come as a triumphant king, but instead Jesus came as a suffering servant. Isaiah spoke of this

Isaiah 42:1–4
“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.
2 He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
4 he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.

A bruised reed is very fragile. It hangs in the air, connected to the stalk by just a few fibers. As the wind passes, it moves to the left and right and you wonder how soon it will fall to the ground. If you touch it, it would break off.

At the end of the service this morning, someone will blow out the candles on the Advent Wreaths. The flame goes out and there is smoke as the wick of the candle still has a glow of light. In just seconds the glow will be extinguished, there will be no more smoke, the wick will be snuffed out.

These are the images Isaiah used to describe the coming Messiah. This is not Jesus charging on a white steed with a raised sword. This is Jesus who we read about in the gospels of the New Testament.

A woman who made her living as a prostitute pushed her way into a room where Jesus was being entertained by a Pharisee of the town. Jesus leaned on his left side as he ate with his right hand. His feet were extended over the cushions away from the table. The woman came and began to clean his feet with the tears of her eyes. She wiped his feet with her hair and anointed them with perfume.

The men and women in the room saw what was happening and condemned her. But Jesus said to her (Luke 7:36–50)
“Your sins are forgiven.”
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

This woman was a bruised reed, a smouldering wick. If Jesus had shamed her for daring to come to him, a rabbi, she would have broken and been extinguished with no life in her. But he treated her with gentleness and compassion. He saw her fragile condition and gave her life.

A woman had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. Because of this she was considered unclean and was separated from her family and friends. She was an outcast, an untouchable. She heard Jesus was coming and was determined to do what she knew she was forbidden to do. She wanted to touch Jesus and be made well. So as Jesus and the crowd around him approached, she began to make her way through the crowd. All eyes were on Jesus so they did not see her touching this person and that person as she neared Jesus. She came up behind him and touched his cloak and immediately she knew that her bleeding had stopped.

Jesus realized someone had been healed, that power had gone out of him, so he stopped and asked who had touched him. This was a ridiculous question. With all the people in the crowd, he was constantly being touched, but finally the woman came, fell at his feet, and trembling with fear, told Jesus what she had done.

Jesus said to her (Mark 5:34)
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

This was a brave woman, a woman with great faith, and she made herself vulnerable by taking such a bold step. If Jesus had reprimanded her for recklessly endangering all the people in the crowd and for making them ceremoniously unclean, she would have been crushed. But Jesus called this bruised reed, this smouldering wick, “Daughter.” He had compassion on her, she was healed, and he told her, “Go in peace.”

A paralytic had four friends who were determined to get him to Jesus. They carried him on a stretcher and because the room where Jesus was speaking was so crowded, they made a hole in the roof of the house and lowered him down to Jesus.

Jesus did not criticize the men for interrupting him or for tearing a hole in the roof. This man was now laying paralyzed on the floor in front of Jesus. All the eyes of the room were on him. The judgment of the room hung over his head and useless legs. But Jesus looked at him, saw into his heart, had compassion, and said, (Mark 2:5)
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”
“take your mat and go home.”

Do you see the tenderness of Jesus? “Daughter” “Son” There is great affection in the words Jesus spoke to those who were vulnerable and weak.

A widow had one son and then he died. Maybe it was an accident, perhaps a disease, but she lost her only son. She was now a woman with no property, no heir to protect her. She was helpless.

Jesus was walking along with his disciples and the crowd that followed them. It was a very large crowd and as they approached a town called Nain, on the road coming out of Nain, the crowd with Jesus met a funeral procession for this widow’s son. The two crowds met and Jesus looked at the woman and the coffin. Jesus looked and he saw what was happening. He understood the woman’s circumstance. Jesus had compassion, and then he acted. (Luke 7:13–15)
13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Jesus did not go directly to the son in the coffin. He went first to the widow and told her, “Don’t cry.” He saw her fragile condition: a bruised reed, a smouldering wick, and then he acted.

This is the life and ministry of Jesus. He called out to all the bruised reeds and smouldering wicks and said: (Matthew 11:28–30)
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God could have created us to obey him, to make us always do the right think, to never sin. But he did not. In The Case for Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote:
Why, then, did God give them (us) free will?  Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.  A world of automata – of creatures that worked like machines – would hardly be worth creating.  The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and woman on this earth is mere milk and water.  And for that they must be free.

Our faith must always be voluntary, our choice. Any manipulation or coercion works against what God wants. So we are free to doubt, to reject, to ignore the work of God in the world. Jesus does not give up on us and will continually come to us, using the events, circumstances, and people in our lives to encourage us to surrender to him. But he will not force our hand. He wants our hearts, not simply our obedience.

Jesus is at work in your life and my life. He comes to people in pain and says, “I am here.” People in this country have reported having a dream in which they are grieving for the difficulty and suffering of their life. And then they see a man in white standing in the corner of the room, weeping with them. It is revealed to them that this man is Jesus.

Jesus is working to rescue every human on the planet and bring them to safety in his kingdom. For this reason, Jesus continues to suffer as he takes on the suffering of this fallen world. He bears the pain of your sorrow, of the world’s sorrow, because he wants us all to be rescued. The apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Gently, patiently, persistently, Jesus is at work in our lives.

This is how we are to work with Jesus in his kingdom. We too are to be gentle, patient, and persistent.

Peter exhorted us in his letter (1 Peter 3:15–16)
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

With gentleness and respect we are to answer the questions people ask.

Paul wrote to Timothy about how to handle those who oppose our faith in Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:25–26)
25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Paul exhorted us in Philippians 4:4–6
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all.

Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit and as we grow in our faith, this will become, more and more, a quality in our lives. Over the years, I have had a lot of antagonistic conversations about faith, heatedly arguing for what I believe to be true. I would like to go back and redo those conversations. I would like to have been more gentle and more respectful.

Be gentle and respectful in your conversations with those who do not believe as you do. Truth is true whether everyone believes it or even if no one believes it. You do not have to protect truth; your responsibility is to live out the truth as best as you are able and to share the reason why you believe with gentleness and respect.

Parents, it is not your responsibility, nor is it within your power to save your children. If you force them into obedience, if you manipulate them into obedience, you will work against the work of Jesus in your children. You can love them and model Christian faith, but they will have to choose, without coercion, to surrender to Jesus if any true spiritual faith is to result. You have to trust Jesus to work in them.

Let me share one more story. A woman was caught in an adulterous relationship. The religious leaders grabbed her, and brought her to Jesus. They wanted to trap Jesus so they were using her. She was an easily sacrificed  pawn in their game.

As she was led, pulled, dragged, to Jesus, what did she think? She was shamed; she was deeply embarrassed; she was publically humiliated. She feared for her life. They wanted to stone her to death. This was the judgment of the law. As an adulterous, she was condemned to die by stoning. (The man was also under this judgment, but in the age-old hypocrisy, he was let go and she was held to be responsible.) She was a bruised reed and a smouldering wick with just seconds and minutes left before her life would be extinguished under a rain of stones.

They forced her to stand before them and then said to Jesus (John 8:1–11 )
“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

Don’t get distracted by the interaction between the Pharisees and Jesus. Feel the fear and shame of the woman. She watched as Jesus stooped down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

They kept questioning him, I would imagine with raised voices, demanding that he respond. So he stood up and said to them:
“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I don’t imagine this was comforting to the woman. She looked at the Pharisees, who obeyed the Law, who were public models of righteous living, and her fear increased, waiting for the blow of the first stone.

Jesus stooped down again and once more wrote on the dust of the ground with his finger. One by one the Pharisees left until only Jesus was left with the woman standing there.

Jesus stood up and asked her
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

She had been dragged to her death and now she was set free.

Neither do I condemn you.
Go now and leave your life of sin.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Paul wrote in Romans 8. Jesus rescued the woman from death and gave her life.

In this exchange we see love and justice intermingled. I will come back to this story next week. This morning I want you to see how gently and lovingly Jesus cared for this woman.

The angels announced the birth of Jesus. The shepherds rushed to Bethlehem to find where the baby was and found Mary and Joseph with Jesus lying in a feeding trough. They looked at his little feet and hands. Hands and feet of a newborn are amazingly small. They watched the tiny fingers of Jesus wrap around the rough finger of Joseph. The watched the tiny feet of Jesus move as he nursed at Mary’s breast.

The tiny hand that wrapped around Joseph’s finger held on to the hands of his parents when he was learning to walk. His hand learned his father’s trade. His hand reached out to touch the eyes of the blind, touched the skin of lepers, reached out to give life to the woman caught in adultery, picked up the cross and carried it to Calvary where his hand was nailed to the cross.

The tiny foot that shifted as Jesus nursed walked in Egypt and then Nazareth. That foot walked the roads of Palestine with his disciples, walked across the Sea of Galilee, carried him to the widow of Nain, were washed by the tears of the prostitute, took him into Jerusalem for his last Passover, led him up the hill to Calvary where his foot was nailed to the cross.

The King is gentle, but he is not weak. His hands and feet carry the scars of his crucifixion, marks of great honor and testimony of his great love for us.

He will not force you to follow him. He will not coerce you into loving him. But he has a fierce love for you that caused him to sacrifice everything for you. I pray you will surrender and choose, of your own free will, to be his grateful follower. I pray you will persevere, never letting go of the hand of Jesus that reaches down to save you.