The Originality of Jesus

There’s never been anyone like Jesus of Nazareth. He was a new man. Indeed, He was the New Man. Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson explains.

Jesus said, “Behold, I am making all things new!”

“No one in Palestine ever raised the question whether Jesus was original or not. Everyone took it for granted that he was. . . . Wherever he went men were stirred to fever heat by what they saw and by what they heard, and cried out in astonishment, ‘We have never seen it after this fashion.’ His teaching itself struck Jesus’ contemporaries as novel. ‘A new teaching!’ was the exclamation which followed many of his discourses. . . . There was something in the manner as well as in the matter which arrested attention and threw a fresh light upon God and men.”

“The common people observed at once that his manner was not the manner of the professional teacher of the land. He taught them as one who possessed authority. The man himself, men soon saw, was different from other men then living. Sometimes they imagined he might indeed be one of the giants of the early centuries returned to the earth again, and at other times they could offer no explanation for his genius, simply exclaiming, ‘What manner of man is this!'”

Eternal Ideas

“The world has come at last to question the originality of Jesus. . . . Schools of Bible students have vigorously denied his originality, and with industry and ingenuity have demonstrated that everything he said had been said before, and that to the world of thought he has not contributed a single fresh idea. His language, even, so these men assert, is taken from the poets and the prophets, while every one of his conceptions can be found in the literature of earlier days.”

“Was Jesus then original? It depends on what you mean by originality. If to be original one must coin words never heard before and speak in phrases which no other tongue has ever used, then Jesus was not original. He coined no new words and many of his phrases have the flavor of the olden times. Nor was he the proclaimer of ideas that had never entered man’s mind before. All his main ideas of God and the soul, of duty, and of destiny had been if not expanded in the writings of the Hebrew poets and prophets at least suggested there, and the principles of conduct which Jesus taught were for the most part the very principles which had been proclaimed by men of God before.”

“This may be surprising to those who have not given the subject careful thought, but on reflection you will see that this is just what might reasonably have been expected. If there is a God who loves our race, it is incredible that no correct idea of Deity or the soul, of duty or of destiny, should have entered the human mind before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. . . . The fact is that God has never left himself without a witness. The Son of God has always been in the world. He is the light that lights every man who is born. From the beginning he has been giving men right ideas and right feelings and helping them to reach right conclusions and decisions. We ought, therefore, to expect nothing in Jesus’ teaching absolutely unthought of before his incarnation.”

“We ought to expect to find just what we do find, . . . that all his cardinal ideas had existed in germ in the writings of holy men who at diverse times had been moved by the Holy Spirit. Jesus, instead of suggesting ideas never before heard of, . . . picked up the ancient writings, declaring that they contain the word of the Almighty and that he had come to interpret their meaning and to fulfill what the poets and prophets had dreamed. He did not come to destroy the old ideas or the old truths. He came to fill full. There had been foreshadowings and anticipations and approximations, and now in the fullness of time God is going to speak His full-toned message through His Son.”

New Emphasis

“It is at this point that we are to look for the originality of Jesus. We shall not find it in his phrases or even in his conceptions, but rather in his emphasis and his manner of reading life and the world. He began by reading an old chapter in Isaiah, but gave it an emphasis it had never known before, the result being that it burst upon the congregation in Nazareth with the force of a fresh revelation. Men were reading the Scriptures, but they did not know which words to emphasize. Jesus understood. The result was that the Scripture became new.”

“The leaders of the Jewish church had forgotten the point of emphasis. Jesus knew. By emphasizing mercy instead of sacrifice he made religion new. Men had forgotten how to read the world. There were institutions and there were human beings, and the wisest men of Israel had forgotten which is most important. . . . Jesus threw the emphasis on the individual soul.”

New Accent

“There was also an accent in his teaching which men had never heard before, not even in the voice of Moses or Elijah. It was the accent of assurance, certainty, authority. It is not the words which a man speaks, but the way in which he speaks them which determines their effect upon the life of the world.”

“No such an accent as that of Jesus had ever before been heard in Palestine. There was never a quaver in his voice. In no discourse was there anything problematic. He never hesitated, speculated, made use of intonations which indicate a wavering mind. He was always positive, certain, infallible. ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you.’ Such was the manner of his speech, and it was a manner which he caught from none other.”

New Man

“The new accent and the new emphasis were the product of a new personality. No personality like that of Jesus had ever been encased in flesh before. He was a new man. Even Roman soldiers could feel that he was different from every other man they had ever known. He had all the faculties and passions of our common humanity, and yet no one had ever had them in the combination and in the strength in which they were found in him. . . . Jesus was man completed. What a fullness of life there was in him!”

“He was different from all other men that had ever been, and he said so. He lifted himself into a unique position and claimed for himself privileges and rights which he denied to all others. He claimed to be the light of the world, the bread of life, the water of life, the only good shepherd, the way, the truth, the life, the only mediator between God and man, the only one who knows deity completely and who can save the world from its sins. Here we strike something which is unique and in every sense original. . . . There is nothing even resembling this in the greatest of the Hebrew poets or prophets. It is when Jesus speaks of himself that we catch a note original in the music of our world.”

To Make All Things New

“‘Behold I make all things new.’ He could say this because he was new himself. Not having our infirmities and fears, our frailties and our sins, his eyes see things as ours do not see them, and his heart has feelings which we but dimly understand. He says, ‘Come unto me and I will make all things new!’ He does it by giving us a changed attitude to life, by teaching us how to shift the emphasis from words unimportant to words important, and by showing us the insignificance of show and form compared with the qualities of a loving heart, by taking away our fears which stand round us like grim Kings of Night, and substituting in their places the angels of Faith and Hope, by striking off our fetters and bringing us into the light and liberty which belong to the sons of God. It is an original work, and only he can do it.”

“It may be that for some of you life has grown irksome and the world drab. . . . The days are threadbare and everything has lost its bloom. What will you do? This is the wise thing to do: Go to Jesus and give yourself afresh to him. Sink your life deeper into his life and catch his ways of seeing things and serving God. Take his standpoint, assume his attitude, catch his emphasis, drink in the accent of his voice, and . . . he will make all things new. He unifies human life and simplifies it and elevates it and transforms it and transfigures it, all because he is the Master and the Savior of the heart. ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.'”

Excerpts from The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson (Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1908)

3 thoughts on “The Originality of Jesus

  1. Friends, here are a few questions to ask yourself to get the most out of this character study: How has Jesus made you new? How has He given you a new attitude to life? a new way of seeing the world? a new people-loving heart?

    Want to know Jesus better? Join us in classes on the character of the King! Scroll down and post a prayerful reply, and we will email details to you.

  2. The biggest change in me is I consciously choose to humble myself.

    Prior to becoming a new creation, I loved others fully expecting to be repaid in kind. When they disappointed me, I lashed out and vented my anger. I rarely, if ever, apologized for my sin. My feelings dictated my thinking and my behavior.

    I divided the world into two camps: people I liked and people I disliked. I insisted on being understood but did not seek to understand others. My pride and arrogance were apparent to everyone — except me. My God-given gifts were marred by my sin.

    I’m thankful for fellow Christians who help me to see when my pride rears its ugly head. Instead of turning their correction back on them, I’m learning to appreciate the love and courage it takes for anyone to confront me when I’m sinning. I shut up and listen. Then, I go and pray privately for the Lord to reveal His will to me.

    The Holy Spirit has given me Christ-like qualities (aka “fruit”) that I could never produce on my own power. I’m learning to love deeply from the heart, to forgive others (even when they’re not aware of or sorry for how their sin has hurt me), to maintain joy and peace in the midst of trials, to be patient while I wait for the Lord to deliver me from painful situations, to show compassion and speak His wisdom when someone in severe pain needs sound counsel, and so on.

    I am a new creation, but the transformation is possible only if I continue to humble myself. That decision is squarely in my court. It may not be listed as a fruit of the Spirit, but it allows the Lord to bless me with so much spiritual fruit.

  3. I’m trying to get my faith back. I have been in pain for almost four years. I have a severe burning sensation in my face. Before this happened, I was working with children in group homes with my wife for almost 14 years. I’m 58 years old now. Before this pain started, I was a very active man working with youth, exercising, jogging, weightlifting, going to church. I’m not working now because of the pain and depression. I’m trying, but it’s so hard when the life you were used to has been taken away.

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