Jesus was not a man to pursue just any path. As Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson explains, He said and He did only what the Father wanted.

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Jesus said, “Narrow is the path, and few will find it”

“Let us think about the narrowness of Jesus. I know it is a disparaging word in our modern speech. . . . We say, ‘Oh, yes, he is narrow,’ meaning that one side of his nature has been blighted, blasted. His mind is not full-orbed. His heart is not full-grown. He is a dwarfed and stunted man, cramped by a defective education or squeezed out of shape by a narrowing environment.”

“In no such sense as this was the Man of Galilee narrow. But what word will better express one of the conspicuous traits of Jesus than just this word ‘narrowness’? He set definite boundaries for himself, he shut himself up within contracted limits; in this sense he was narrow.”

Narrow Circle of Work

“How narrow was the circle inside of which he did all his work! He lived his life in Palestine, a little country no larger than Connecticut. It was not a prominent country. . . . Yet the Prince of Glory confined himself to this little corner of the earth. He might have traveled across the world as many an illustrious teacher had done before his day. . . . But he rather chose to stay at home, to give his time to the cities of Galilee, to pour out his strength on the villages of Judea.”

“If his field was contracted, so also was the character of his work. He only tried to do one thing. There were a thousand good things which a good man in Palestine might have done, but he left nine hundred and ninety-nine of them unattempted and confined himself to the one thing which his Heavenly Father had given him to do. . . . Jesus set limits to his activity, and beyond those limits no man ever persuaded him to go.”

“He could not dissipate his energy, he could not waste a single hour. It was always, ‘I must,’ ‘I must,’ ‘I must.’ There were broad roads on his right and left, and along these roads thousands of his countrymen were traveling, but he could not go with them. It was for him to walk along the narrow path, for this alone led to the glorious life which was to cheer and save the world. When he talks to men about the two ways, one of them narrow and the other one broad, he is speaking out of his own experience; and when he urges men to choose the narrow one . . . he is only saying, ‘Follow me!'”

Narrow Conception of Truth

“In the realm of the intellect he chose the way which was narrow. There is a feeling now prevalent that it is unwise for a man to confine himself to any one religion or any one particular statement of belief. It is better — so men say — not to pin your faith to the sleeve of any one idea or truth, but hold yourself in readiness to accept every idea which may come your way. Keep the windows and doors of your mind wide open and . . . do not settle down upon any definite conceptions of God or the soul, of duty or destiny, because in so doing you narrow yourself and may ultimately degenerate into a bigot.”

“With this sort of philosophy Jesus of Nazareth had no sympathy. To him certain conceptions of God were true and others were false, certain estimates of man were correct and others erroneous, certain standards of duty were uplifting and others degrading. . . . He never shrank from holding clean-cut opinions and from expressing them with vigor and emphasis. He was not afraid of being called intolerant. . . . In many a modern circle he would have been counted a narrow man, for he made no compromises, and he would not bend, and he maintained with unflinching persistency the things which he knew to be true and good.”

“He would not allow his followers to roam at their will through the realms of thought, accepting everything or nothing at their own whim or fancy; but he taught them . . . definite and positive conceptions and principles to which they must cling or else lose their souls. He came to bear witness to the truth, and for that reason he was not broad enough to give a place in his heart to falsehood.”

“There were some things he could praise and there were other things he was obliged to condemn. . . . He made distinctions, and he taught other men to make them too. There is a weak and sentimental way of lumping men together and trying to make it appear that men are all substantially alike and that one is not so much better after all than another. Jesus’ estimate was the product of severe discrimination. . . . Between some men and other men there was a great gulf fixed. He did not minimize the heinousness of sin by treating all men alike. It makes no difference to some of us whether men are honest or not, or whether they live filthy lives or not; but it made a difference to Jesus. . . . He was so narrow in his judgments he refused to let bad men feel that they were good.”

The Narrow Path Leads to Joy

“It is in his habit of drawing distinctions and setting boundaries that we are to find the cause of many things which might otherwise remain inexplicable. One of the notes of Jesus’ life was joy. He was a man acquainted with grief, and yet his joy was without measure. It was one of the things he had so much of that he could bequeath it to his disciples. Could he have been happy had he not walked within narrow limits?”

“What period in any man’s life is so wretched as that . . . in which he does not know what he is going to do? The big wide world lies stretched out before him with uncounted possibilities. . . . There are a hundred doors which he can open, but he does not know which one to try. There are a hundred fields in which he can expend his strength, but he cannot decide which field to enter.”

“Jesus’ work was definite. At twelve he knew the business to which he must give himself. There never was a day on which he allowed himself to be inveigled into doing something else. Right here is where we are prone to blunder. . . . We start out to do a certain work and immediately people begin to say, ‘Why don’t you do this?’ and before we are aware of our folly we have dissipated our energy in trying to do things which God never intended us to attempt. . . . If you want to see a man who sings at his work, look for him inside of a narrow circle.”

The Narrow Path Gives Us Strength

“Not only was Jesus joyful, but he was mighty. He made an impression because he stayed in one place, and hit the same nail on the head until it was driven completely in. Had he wandered over the earth speaking his parables, they would have fallen into more ears but would have molded fewer hearts. By staying in Palestine and keeping his heart close to a few chosen hearts, he became increasingly influential so that the authorities were frightened, fearing that he might overturn the nation. The men who were the nearest to him became so passionately in love with him that they were ready to die for him. He made himself thus mighty by limiting himself.”

“It is with men as it is with rivers: a river becomes a river only by the assistance of its banks. The difference between a river and a swamp is that a river has banks and a swamp has none. Take away its banks and the river becomes a swamp. Many a river becomes mightier and more majestic because the mountains press in upon it. Left to sprawl out over the plains it becomes shallow, muddy, feeble.”

“By limiting himself our Lord came off conqueror. He succeeded. What is it to succeed? It is to do the thing for which we were created. . . . Jesus attempted to do one thing only, and that was to perform the work which his Father had given him to do. He could look into his Father’s face and say, ‘I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do’. . . . Jesus’ life on earth covered only thirty-three brief years, and yet he did the greatest piece of work ever accomplished on the earth. It is wonderful what a stupendous task can be accomplished in a little time if a man is only willing to keep at it.”

The Narrow Path Is the Fine Art of Living

“We have been touching upon a great principle — which lies at the basis of all the fine arts. . . . They all subject the soul to a discipline which is severe, and insist upon a bondage which cannot be broken. In music there is no leeway left to the singer. He cannot sing a little sharp or a little flat and still produce music. In music everything is precise, exact, severe, and all the tones must take accurately the precise points assigned them by the master, else the music does not have in it that indescribable power which lifts and entrances the soul.”

“The most difficult of all the fine arts is the high art of living as God would have a mortal to live. Singing is easy . . . compared with this exacting, soul-taxing art of living. One cannot think anything he pleases, or feel as he wants to, or act as he is inclined to. He must walk the narrow path. Jesus walked it, and he calls men everywhere to become his followers. . . . He says, ‘Come unto me!’ We ask, ‘Cannot we go to others?’ His reply is, ‘There are no others. Come to me!’ And when we come he says, ‘Follow me!’ We hesitate and ask, ‘Is this really necessary, can we not choose an easier way?’ His reply is: ‘Follow me. If you do not take up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple, and no one comes to the Father except through me.'”

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

2 thoughts

  1. Friends, here are a few questions to ask yourself to get the most out of this character study: In what ways has Jesus narrowed you? How has walking the narrow path with Him given you strength and joy? taught you to really live? helped you do what you were created to do?

    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. Jesus modeled the correct priorities.

    His commandments focus on what’s important in life — relationships; not money, pleasure, fame, achievement, or other selfish ambitions. I am a better man for listening to Him.

    When I gave my life to Christ at 21, I feared I would lose the opportunity to pursue my artistic dream of being a songwriter. And though my star does not appear along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, my name is recorded in the Book of Life. He has blessed me one-hundred-fold for focusing on Him and for building His kingdom.

    While I’ve witnessed marriages crumble and children reject the values of their parents, I’ve been blessed with vastly different results. With His help, I’ve been able to endure severe trials — without turning to addictions and sinful modes of escape. I’ve turned to Jesus. He is my riverbank — the one who keeps my life moving in the right direction.

    In a culture that rewards conformity, I am learning to be bold, even courageous, for Christ. I used to want everyone to like me. These days, I’m more concerned with doing His will.

    I’m becoming the man He intended when He created me. It’s quite an exciting adventure. I recommend His “narrow” priorities to anyone who desires freedom, contentment, and the satisfaction of knowing they are living in the will of God.

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