The Firmness of Jesus

Jesus is velvet, but He is also steel. He is tender and giving, but stands firm as a mountain wall of rock. Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson explains.

Soft meadows, and rock walls

“Let us think now of the firmness of Jesus. Of his tenderness we think often, and also of his gentleness and graciousness. To these lovely graces the heart is joyfully responsive, and in dwelling upon them we are likely to overlook other traits no less beautiful and praiseworthy. Gentleness of nature is not a virtue but a defect unless it is accompanied by tenacity of will. Sweetness of disposition is not enough to make a man useful and noble. Along with the sweetness there must go strength, and underneath the moods soft as velvet there must lie a resoluteness hard as steel.”

“He is indeed a strong character who dares run counter to the traditions and fashions of his time. Even the strongest and most independent often bow down before standards against which conscience revolts and submit to customs against which the heart protests. Humanity goes in crowds and droves. . . . The majority of mortals are not strong enough to be themselves: they become echoes of their neighbors and walk in paths marked out by others.”

“But when we come to Jesus we are in the presence of a man whom nobody swerved or dominated, who is so free from the bias of his race and so clean of the spirit of his age that he seems to belong to all races and all ages. . . . He is not a citizen of the first century only, but the contemporary of each succeeding generation. Immersed in an ocean of mighty forces which beat upon him furiously through every hour of his career, he resisted them all successfully by the indomitable energy of a victorious will, living a life unique in its beauty and achieving a work unmarred by the limitations either of time or place.”

Not Insurrection — Resurrection

“He was not insensible to the dominant forces of his time. . . . His countrymen had formed definite ideas of the Messiah. He was to be a wonder worker and the manifestations of his power were to be spectacular and overwhelming. He was to trample opposing forces under his feet and make Palestine the center of the world. This was the dream, this was the expectation. The best men expected this, as did also the worst men. It is a dangerous thing to baffle popular expectations. . . . Good and great men have found no difficulty in every land and generation in bringing themselves to yield, at least up to a certain point, to the wishes and demands of their countrymen.”

“How could Jesus hope to win the attention of his people or control the current of their life unless he fell in with their ideals and attempted to carry out the program on which their hearts were set? It was a great temptation, so terrific that he told his apostles all about it. He assured them that in this temptation he had been wrestling with the very prince of infernal powers, but . . . had come out of the conflict victorious. In choosing the road which led to supremacy by way of Gethsemane and Golgotha, he renounced the ideals of his countrymen and disappointed their dearest expectations.”

Not Your Plan — The Plan

“When we study his life with attentive eyes we see it was one long resistance to the forces of his age. He was a patriot, but he could not go with his countrymen in their patriotic programs or expectations. He was a churchman, but he could not go with the members of the Jewish church in their favorite teachings and ceremonies. They taught doctrines of the Sabbath which he could not accept. They presented forms of worship to which he could not submit. They laid down lines of separation which it was impossible for him to observe.”

“It is not easy to run counter to the deep-seated feelings of the most religious people of one’s day, or to cut across the grain of the prejudices of the most conscientious men in town. There were many reasons why Jesus should have conformed to the ideas and customs of the church, but he firmly resisted all the voices which urged him toward conformity, standing out alone in defiance of what the best men were doing and saying, even though his nonconformity seemed to the majority impiety and to many blasphemy. For a godly man to be classed among blasphemers is one of the bitterest experiences which the heart can know. But Jesus paid the price and continued firm.”

“One party after another tried to work him into its scheme, but he was intractable and went on his way independent, unshackled, free. All the seductions offered by men who sat on thrones could not swerve him from his course, and although his steadfastness made him enemies and finally nailed him to the cross, he was everywhere and always a man who could not be moved.”

Not Your Wish — God’s Will

“There are men who are too strong to be manipulated by their foes, but in the hands of their friends they are plastic as wax. Jesus could not be manipulated even by his friends. He had many friends in Nazareth, but he never gave up his principles to please them. They had their prejudices and superstitions, but he never surrendered to them. He knew their bigotry and narrowness, and so in his opening sermon he told the story of God’s compassion on a Syrian leper, and also on a Sidonian widow. His sermon raised the storm which he had anticipated, but he bore the fury of it without flinching. He would not keep silent when he knew he ought to speak.”

“Probably no neighbor in Nazareth was ever so near to Jesus’ heart as his dear friend Simon Peter. At a crisis in Jesus’ life Peter did his best to dissuade him from a certain course, but the loyal and loving friend succeeded no better than the most hostile Pharisee. This man of Nazareth could not be moved by friend or foe. It was his Father’s business he was attending to, and therefore all efforts to draw him aside were made in vain. ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’ he said to the astonished Peter, recognizing in him the same evil spirit he had contended with years before in the desert. To defy powerful enemies is hard, but to turn a deaf ear to loving friends is harder still. Only a man of unconquerable will is equal to a test so taxing. Jesus met it and did not fail.”

“It was a test he faced in his own home. His brothers did not understand him. Their lack of understanding curtailed their sympathy with him. From their standpoint he often did the injudicious thing, and refused to do the thing which would have forwarded his reputation. They were always ready with advice. He could not take it. They urged him to go to Jerusalem at a time when he could not go. They exhorted him to go home at a time when his duty was to be somewhere else. Only a man who has been driven by conscience to go contrary to the wishes of members of his own family can enter into the experience which Jesus suffered or can measure the strength of will which one must have to resist successfully the importunities of love.”

“This test of will power reached its climax in Jesus’ conflict with his mother. She loved him and he loved her, but he could not always carry out her wishes. There comes a time in many a man’s life when even his own mother’s exhortations must go unheeded in order to obey a higher call. Such an experience came to Jesus. . . . The ties to Mary were not so deep as the ties which bound Jesus to the heavenly Father, and when Mary’s wish conflicted with the Father’s will, the wish of the woman was pushed aside to make room for the will of God.”

Not Shifting and Drifting — The Rock of Ages

“Here, then, we have a situation which is distressing indeed. The most tender and gracious and obliging of men is compelled to resist not only the prayers of his countrymen but the wishes of his family and friends. He stands like a rock in the midst of a troubled sea, and all its billows dash themselves against his feet in vain. There was something inflexible in his will, something granitic in his soul. When he found a man whom he thought worthy to be the first member of his church he called him ‘rock.'”

“It is in this tenacity of will that we find an indispensable element of Christian character. Men are to resist exterior forces and form their life from within. They are not to be swayed by current opinion, but by the spirit of the Eternal in their heart. They are not to listen to the voices of time, but to live and work for eternity. We like this steadfastness in human character, and we also crave it in God. Men have always loved to think of Him as the unchanging and the unchangeable, the one ‘with whom there can be no variation, nor shifting shadow.’ And what we desire in God we find in Jesus of Nazareth. . . . ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and forever.'”

“What Jesus was in Palestine he is today and shall be for evermore. All his promises stand unshaken, all his warnings remain unchanged. His attitude to sinners is what it has been from the beginning and what it will be to the end. You cannot discourage him by your ingratitude or make him other than he is by your disobedience. He is not broken down by human folly or driven from his plan by human perversity. From age to age he is about his Father’s business, and in the midst of all nations and kindreds and tongues he goes about doing good.”

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

One thought on “The Firmness of Jesus

  1. Jesus at work: Love sometimes says no. How has Jesus taught you to have both the tenderness of heart to love your neighbor and the tenacity of will to say no when He would have you say no? How has following Jesus taught you to be both velvet and steel?

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