Summary: How Jesus uses the fruit of gentlenss and self-control in the stories of Jesus blessing the children and Jesus cleansing the temple.
Fruit of the Spirit - Gentleness, Self-Control
Text: Matthew 11:29
There are plenty of sermons written on gentleness and self-control. If I were to speak to you this morning just on self-control, it might be natural to talk about Joseph as he ran from Potiphar’s house in the face of sexual advances from Potiphar’s wife. Or I could talk to you about the self-control we witness on David’s part when he has the opportunity, not once, but twice to kill his enemy Saul who was chasing after David to kill him. But David exercised self-control and didn’t take the opportunity he was given.
When we think of gentleness, perhaps the person who most often comes to mind, is Mary, the mother of Jesus as she withstood the criticism and pain of her pre-marital pregnancy - and yet God chose her to be his son’s mother. And gentleness is certainly evident from the woman who, with tears of gratitude, washes Jesus’s feet and gently wipes them with her own hair which, against the custom of the day, she has let down - must to the chagrin of the hypocritical onlookers.
But today I would like us to consider stories in the life of the one person who is to be our greatest example - the model whom we are to follow. And that’s Jesus.
Jesus was certainly gentle when he said to the woman caught in sin, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now, and sin no more.”
For sure, we see his self-control when the thief on the cross taunts him, in the most agonizing moments of his life, to save himself, and them too. But he doesn’t. He stays on the cross and endures the pain for you, and me.
And we’ve just heard two stories of how Jesus responded in two other situations.
In the one story, we can imagine an almost perfect day with Jesus teaching as the children of those listening are frolicking in the nearby fields. And before long a group of parents get together and decide to bring their children to Jesus to have him bless them. It wasn’t unusual in those days, in Jewish custom, for parents to bring their children to rabbis for a blessing. And we see the disciples rebuke the people for trying to get to Jesus with the children and they try to turn them away, and Jesus intervenes.
In the second story, Jesus is honoring the law by coming to the temple at the time of the Passover feast. And you can perhaps see him as he walks with his family possibly, and his disciples, along the road to Jerusalem. Maybe they’re talking over the events of the day before, or their plans for that evening, and they appear at the temple. In fact, it is the part of the temple that is the court of the Gentiles, and here we find Jesus intervening in a different matter, and in a very different way.
And what I want to suggest to you this morning, is that in each of these stories - in these very different responses, Jesus acts with BOTH gentleness AND self-control.
Webster’s dictionary defines gentleness as that which is calm, mild, or pleasant. It is serene, noble, refined, courteous.
And Webster’s defines self-control as having control of one’s emotions, desires or actions. And to control means to regulate, or exercise authority over - to direct, or use effectively.
And Jesus is both gentle and self-controlled in each of these stories.
And if we’re going to have the fruit of the Spirit in us, we too, will have to learn to be gentle, and self-controlled.
Now we likely have no problem reconciling the word gentle with Jesus who is balancing children on his knee, blessing them with profound and wonderful words for the future and then carefully setting them down again to go and play. But where did he use self-control?
And we might ask ourselves, where is there any gentleness OR self-control in the story of the cleansing of the temple.
And then of course, we will most certainly ask, “And what on earth does it have to do with me?”
These stories are important for us today, because they teach us, not only the meaning of gentleness and self-control, but they show us how these attributes - these fruit of the spirit, are evident in our everyday lives in the 21st Century.
Turn in your Bibles for just a minute to our text for today. Look at Matthew 11:29. Matthew 11:29 says, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
When the Holy Spirit develops within us, the fruit of gentleness and self-control, and all the other fruit as well, it is then, as our text says, that we find rest for our souls. And the Holy Spirit develops that fruit within us, as we’ve noted before, as we are obedient to Jesus’ example. And Jesus asks us to let him teach us. So this morning as we look at these two stories, let’s let Jesus teach us, from his Word, what it means to be gentle, and self-controlled. Because I believe if we have, particularly these two attributes as part of our character, as part of the moral fibre of our being, then we will be at rest. We will be a restful, peaceful presence in this chaotic world in which we live.