15-6 The Heart Of Jesus
Above all, in the Lord Himself we see a heart that more than bled for the salvation of others. He didn’t live out His perfect life in isolation from others, withdrawn from society, insulated from the world’s pain. Is. 59:15-20 speaks of how He came to perceive that really there was nobody apart from Him who could bring about such great salvation to the world: " and the Lord saw it, and it displeased [s.w. grieved] him that there was no judgment. And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke" . So many of these phrases and ideas are picked up in the New Testament and applied to the Lord Jesus in His time of dying. It was His grief that inspired Him. " How often would I have gathered thy children together" (Mt. 23:37), He lamented over a Zion that sought only to hurt and murder Him. Yet not so many verses later in our Bibles w hear the Lord using the same word in saying that at His coming, the elect would be " gathered together" unto Him (Mt. 24:31). He so often had earnestly desired the coming of His Kingdom there and then; to gather His people unto Him. But they would not. It must have been unbearable to be such a sensitive person in such a hard and insensitive, dehumanizing world. One gets a fraction of insight into the Lord’s struggle when we read that He perceived that the disciples were worried about bread; and He laments that they do not perceive the miracle of the loaves which He had wrought (Mt. 16:9). His perception, His sensitivity, is contrasted with the lack of these things in His followers. He must have therefore been so humanly alone. The value of persons felt by the Lord is made very obvious when we notice His attention to women, children, Gentiles and the mentally ill / deformed. These three groups often occur together in the Rabbis’ teaching. The very people who were not counted as persons, the Lord went out of His way to express value for. And in this He sets us an example. Children were counted as of little value- but the Lord spoke about salvation for children (Mk. 10:14), and of the need to become like a child if we are to enter His Kingdom (Mt. 18:3). This purposeful recognition of the value of all human persons was a radical and difficult thing in His surrounding culture. And so it can be in ours too.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Who He was then, as He walked around Palestine 2000 years ago, the lamb for sinners slain, is who He will essentially be at His second coming and judgment. It’s not quite so that He was once a meek lamb but will roar back as an angry aggressive lion of Judah. Revelation brings out the paradox of “the wrath of the lamb”- not the roaring lion. Even in condemning men, His basic passion for humanity, His pain for the lost, comes out. Thus He will call those whom He rejects “Friend”, just as He addressed even Judas, a man not fit to breathe the same air as He did. And in any case, it was in His role as the lion of Judah that He opened the seals through His death, not at His return. In His mortality He was the one who served rather than the one who sat at meat; and when He returns He will again come forth and serve us, His Divine nature notwithstanding. He so earnestly desired that even the wicked children of Jerusalem who did Him to death should be gathered together into His Kingdom. As He was, so He will be, and so He is even now. And so should we be, for all men, and especially for the children of Jerusalem today. He asked the women of Jerusalem to likewise weep for their children, just as He had wept for them (Lk. 13:34 = 23:28).
The Lord so wanted their response. " As he said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Lk. 8:8 RV; Jn. 7:37). The very muscles of the Lords face, His body language, would have reflected an earnest, burning care and compassion. The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost; He put His whole personality into the task. And we beseech men " in the face of Christ" (2 Cor. 2:10 RV). We are to be His face to this world and to our brethren. With raised eyebrows, lines showing in our forehead, one eye half closed…our body language should reflect the depth of our concern for others.
I have often reflected that we tend to sin when we are over-tired. The Lord Jesus was at times physically exhausted by the crowds. I would have figured: Well in case I get tempted to sin or snap at someone, I’d better just keep my contact with them to a minimum and get plenty of sleep, seeing I’m trying so hard not to sin. But the Lord seemed driven by a compassion for humanity, both materially and spiritually, that knew no such sophistry. He wanted to save and to give to men and women, to little boys and girls…and it was this heart that burned and bled for them, regardless of their lack of response, oblivious to their murdering of Him, after using Him for all they could materially get out of Him…that enabled Him to be perfect; to be God Himself manifest in flesh. And when there was even a little response, His bleeding heart rejoiced. Dehydrated at the well, very hungry, the response of the Samaritan woman revived His spirits to the point that the disciples assumed He must have been give a meal (Jn. 4:32,33).
He goes on to say that working with a woman like that is His " meat"
, the doing of the will of him that sent me and to accomplish his
work (4:34 RV). Yet the will of God and accomplishing of His work
was evidently the cross (Lk. 22:42; Jn. 6:38; Heb. 10:9,10). In
preaching to that woman and converting her, the Lord was living
out the essence of the crucifixion that awaited Him. As we have
earlier remarked, preaching work isn’t glamorous. It is a living
out of the cross. Paul felt he had been “separated unto the [preaching
of the] gospel of God” (Gal. 1:15); and he uses a word which the
LXX uses for the separation of part of a sacrifice to be consumed
(Ex. 29:24,26). The Greek word for " witness" is martus,
from whence 'martyr'. To witness to Christ is to live the life of
the martyr; to preach Him is to live out His cross in daily life.
In his preaching of the Gospel, Paul could say that "I made
myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more" (1 Cor.
9:19). Yet elsewhere, Paul uses the idea of the "servant unto
all" as descriptive of Christ's attitude upon the cross (Phil.
2:7). The connection of thought reflects how Paul understood that
in seeking to gain others for Christ, we make ourselves their servants,
and in this sense our witness to them is a living out of the principles
of the cross. Being such a "servant unto all" hardly squares
well with the image of arrogant platform preachers dazzling their
audiences. That isn't the preaching which truly 'gains' people for
Christ. The way the Holy Spirit controlled Paul's missionary itineraries is an example of how mission work is almost purposefully made difficult at times. Thus Paul was forbidden to go north into Bithynia, and from going Southwest into coastal Asia Minor- and there were good roads leading to those places from where he was, and it would've seemed they were the logical places to go and expand the work of the Gospel. But instead Paul was told to go diagonally, cross country, through the rough roads and passes of central Asia Minor, to Troas- from where he was told to go to Macedonia. And on the way through that wild mountainous area, it seems Paul became sick (Gal. 4:13). And we follow similar paths in our witness, if it is truly God directed.
In Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus felt that His soul was so sorrowful that this alone could kill Him. This was the extent of His mental burden. Time and again, the Gospels record how He “perceived” things about people. Admittedly this could have been because He simply had a Holy Spirit gift to enable this. But I prefer to think that His sensitivity, His perception, aided by His extraordinary intellectual ability as the Son of God [for intelligence and perception / sensitivity are related]…these things developed within Him over the years so that He could sense the essential needs and feelings of others to an unsurpassed extent. “Jesus, seeing their thoughts…” (Mt. 9:4 RVmg.) shows how He came to perceive the hearts of others from His observation of them. This was the same Jesus who could be ridiculed into scorn / shame / embarrassment (Mt. 9:24), such was His sensitivity to others. The way the Lord healed people reflects His sensitivity- He commanded food to be brought for a girl who had been dead and was therefore hungry (Lk. 8:55), He healed the blind man in two stages so that he wouldn’t be scared when he first saw people moving (Mk. 8:25). And the Lord cured “them that had need of healing” (Lk. 9:11), possibly implying that some posed as being sick, and yet the Lord could discern whose need was genuine. How hard His life must have been, in that hard land. And how hard it is for Him, in this hard world.
Above all, in the Lord's death we see the heart that bleeds, bared before our eyes in the cross. It is written of Him in His time of dying that He " poured out his soul unto death" (Is. 53:12). The Hebrew translated " poured out" means to make naked- it is rendered as " make thyself naked" in Lam. 4:21 (see too Lev. 20:18,19; Is. 3:17). The Lord' sensitivity was what led Him to His death- He made His soul naked, bare and sensitive, until the stress almost killed Him quite apart from the physical torture. To be sensitive to others makes us open and at risk ourselves. A heart that bleeds really bleeds and hurts within itself. And this was the essence of the cross. It seems to me that the Lord was crucified naked- hence those who turn away put Him to “an open [Gk. ‘naked’] shame”. In being sensitive to others, we make ourselves naked. The heart that bleeds is itself in great risk of hurt and pain. And in my exhortation to you to have such a disposition, I can only warn you of this in advance. We have all doubtless felt a little of this when those we have done much for act unreasonably towards us, or betray us. But in the cross, this feature of human experience was taken to its utmost. The Son of God bared His soul in the naked shame of crucifixion. All that He was and stood for was displayed so openly. His mental pain was openly revealed, pain that came as a result of risking and opening up so much to us, to our humanity. And the tragedy of it all was that at the time, virtually nobody perceived it. As we share in His cross, as share in it we must, we can only expect to pass through those feelings of disappointment at others’ ingratitude…they shouldn’t lead us to give up on the work of the ecclesia, or effort with other people, or our children… but rather make us know that if we are so sharing in His suffering, we will likewise reign with Him.
Reflect upon the record of Him weeping at the death of Lazarus (Jn. 11:33-35). He of all men knew the reality of future resurrection at the last day, and He knew what He was going to do. So why then did He weep? He saw how unnecessary was their grief, how misguided. For He knew what He was going to do. And yet He wept with them because His heart bled for them, because He shared their grief (on whatever basis it was) to the extent that He too wept with them. And the love of Christ will constrain us to have His bleeding heart (2 Cor. 5:14). Think too of when the Lord was alone on the land whilst the disciples were in the storm on the sea. Mk. 6:48 says that “He saw them toiling in rowing” and then, later, He went to them. He didn’t literally see them rowing; but in His sensitive mind, He imagined just how it would be for them, and so He went to them.
But I ask, are we sensitive to others? Are our words, the impressions we give, thought out and framed so as to encourage and save, with sensitivity to their sensitivities…or do we think that because we have truth on our side, it doesn’t matter how we spit it out? It would be a mistake to think that raw truth alone converts anyone. It’s the way we articulate it which is all important. Peter said that the cynical, unbelieving husband could be won “without the [specific preaching of] the word” by the way of life of the believing wife (was there some autobiographical allusion here?). And so it has been in so many many cases over the last few years especially. Summing up, the heart and compassion of Jesus must be our pattern. His compassion, His bleeding heart, is an imperative for us; we therefore, and thereby, must be the same. Reflect how the Lord called His men unto Him, and informed them that He had compassion on the hungry multitude. He said no more than that. But the disciples immediately started bleating on about how there was no way they had the money nor ability to arrange so much bread in a deserted place (Mk. 8:2). They understood that their Lord had transferred His compassion onto them; all that was true of Him became true for them. He wanted to feed the multitude; He was feeling compassionate to the crowd; so, axiomatically, so must they. And so must we today, as we face the crowds too. Whatever are the feelings, the mind, of Jesus towards this world; so must our mind be. And He came, without controversy, above all to give His all, to die, for this world’s redemption.
J.I. Packer has some valuable words for us: “...we shall not try
to violate their personalities, or exploit their weaknesses [and
we can wrongly exploit others’ doctrinal weaknesses- D.H.], or ride
roughshod over their feelings. What we shall be trying to do, rather,
is to show them the reality of our friendship and concern by sharing
with them our most valuable possession. And this spirit of friendship
and concern will shine through all we have to say to them...however
drastic and shattering the truths that we tell them may be...the
right to talk intimately to another person...has to be earned, and
you earn it by convincing him that you are his friend, and really
care about him. And therefore the indiscriminate buttonholing, the
intrusive barging into the privacy of other peoples’ souls, the
thick-skinned insistence on expounding the things of God to reluctant
strangers...these modes of behaviour, in which strong and loquacious
personalities have sometimes indulged...should be written off as
a travesty of personal evangelism” (1).
One repeated theme of the Gospel records is that “Jesus perceived…” (Mt. 22:18). We read this so often. Now it could mean that a bolt of Holy Spirit informed the Lord of the contents of men’s minds. But I prefer to think that He was so sensitive to people that somehow He was able to read minds, to read body language, to be perceptive to a very high degree (Jn. 2:24,25). And so as the mind and compassion of Jesus become ours, so it seems to me that we too will develop better people skills, become more perceptive of what a contact is really driving at, what their real hang ups are…what they really and truly seek and need. “He knew what was in man” (Jn. 2:25) may be a description of how far the Lord got in this kind of thing; rather than an indication of some magical gift He was given. And so when I am asked ‘How best to preach? What to say to people…?’, there is no simplistic answer. It’s a matter of who we are, of our own perception and reflection of Jesus, not the specific form of words we may use.
(1) J.I. Packer, Evangelism And The Sovereignty of God
(London: I.V.P., 2002 ed.), pp. 80,81.