Look, my Servant whom I chose, the one I love, in whom I find great pleasure.
I’ll put my Spirit upon him, and he’ll announce judgment to the Gentiles.
He won’t argue or shout, and nobody will hear his voice in the streets.
He won’t break a bent stalk, and he won’t snuff out a smoldering wick, until he makes justice win.
And the Gentiles will put their hope in his name.
Matthew 12:18-21 (CEB)
Several years ago—even before YouTube—a series of videos produced by Vintage 21 Church went “viral.” The four videos were satirical in nature, taking clips from an old 1960s Sunday School film about the life of Jesus and dubbing over them with their own voices, a la “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Their goal was to challenge some of the preconceived notions about Jesus; in the original film, Jesus is depicted as stoically gliding from place to place, his face nearly emotionless as he robotically interacts with his disciples. This is in contrast to more modern dramatizations which attempt to convey Jesus’ humanity and “realness.”
While I find the “Jesus Videos” (as they’ve been called) to be very humorous, I do think that the original film was earnestly trying to depict a very important attribute of Jesus: his gentleness. As we discuss the fruit of the Spirit this Lenten season, we see each attribute vibrantly demonstrated in the life of Christ. After all, as the above passage states, the Holy Spirit was upon him and gentleness is one of the ways the Spirit is made manifest. Where I believe that old film fails, though, is in confusing gentleness with indifference and apathy.
What, then, does the gentleness of Jesus look like? In the context of Matthew 12, we see Jesus interacting with his opponents, the Pharisees. Their conflict grows rather heated and impassioned to the point that the Pharisees leave enraged and being the plot of have this Jesus of Nazareth killed. In a battle of verbal debate, the Pharisees are no match for him and this infuriates them. Jesus was fully aware of what they intended to do with him. And yet, how does he respond? He withdraws. He leaves that place and continues his healing ministry in secret. Was he afraid? Was he cowardly? Was he apathetic, even? No…Jesus was gentle.
We never see Jesus on the offensive. Though he certainly wields great power and demonstrates that thoroughly during his time on earth, Jesus never uses his power for personal gain. When attacked by the Pharisees, he very capably defends himself and gains the upper hand, but he chooses not to pursue them. Instead, he retreats. As we see in Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah, he won’t “argue or shout,” “break a bent stalk,” or “snuff out a smoldering wick.” To do so would not be in line with the will of God and is not a fruit of the Spirit. Instead, Jesus proclaims a message of justice, hope, and grace to all nations. The gentleness of Jesus, despite how it may appear at first, is extremely powerful, for it is in the spirit of gentleness that he achieves his greatest victory.
In our own lives as God’s children, we are presented with similar opportunities as our Lord to choose gentleness over aggressiveness. In our battles with this world, may we remember that it is endurance and perseverance that ultimately carry us through to the end.
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Merciful Father, may your Spirit be upon us. Help us to demonstrate gentleness to those around us. May we never seek more than to do Your will and to bring healing and hope to this world in our words and in our actions. In the name of the Gentle Shepherd we pray: Amen.
Mike Miles is the student and family minister at the Livonia Church of Christ in the western suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. He attended Abilene Christian University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry in 2009. Mike is currently working on his Master of Religious Education in Missional Leadership at Rochester College in Rochester, Michigan.
Mike has a love for community and for bringing people together, especially across society's dividing lines. Born in the Philippines, he has since lived in over twenty different places but happily calls Michigan "home." He is unashamedly nerdy. He has tried to maintain a blog for years, but has decided that he is just too lazy. He is married to Blythe and has a son, with a baby girl on her way in early 2017!