The Patience of Jesus

We are an impatient people. But Jesus was the most patient of all men. Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson explains the patience of God.

Slow but steady, and shielded from attack

“Let us think about the patience of Jesus. . . . Of course everybody knows what patience is — at least he thinks he does — and yet . . . we may discover that this old familiar word has more than one meaning. Words are sometimes like stars. You see a star shining in the sky, and to your eye it is a single star. The astronomer brings his telescope and to your amazement it is not a single star but a double star. Two blazing suns have united their forces to produce that shining point of light in the blue.”

“This word ‘patience’ is not a single but a double star. First of all it means calmly waiting for something hoped for. . . . We find this virtue in every department of human life. Men make use of it in the building of their fortunes. A man invests his money in a piece of timberland which will bring him no returns for many years. The trees are small, and it may be that a third of a century must elapse before the trees are ready for the sawmill. But the man invests his money and calmly waits through the years, knowing that at the end of life he will be rich.”

“But this meaning does not exhaust the significance of patience. See yonder woman tortured by disease. She has been an invalid for years and in all this time she has never cried aloud, never complained, never rebelled. . . . Or look at yonder man at the head of a great reformatory movement. He is endeavoring to bring to pass some mighty change in church or state or in society, and he has met with opposition at every step. . . . Enemies multiply, friends forsake him, hearts grow cold. . . . Nevertheless, he goes bravely on, unsoured by opposition, undaunted by vituperation, never complaining, always hoping, bearing rebuff and reproof and criticism without a whine or a protest. Here again is patience. . . . It is the unruffled endurance of pain and trouble.”

Calmly Waiting with the Surest of Hope

“Would you see patience in both its forms raised to its highest power without a defect and without a flaw, you will find it in Jesus of Nazareth. If patience means the calm waiting for something hoped for, then Jesus had this in a superlative degree. Was any waiting ever like his? He waited in a little country town in Galilee for thirty years before he entered into the work God had given him to do. . . . Through all the blazing years of youth Jesus waited in Nazareth. It was not until he was in his thirtieth year that he said to himself, the time has come.”

“Certainly now that he has been baptized he will plunge into his work with alacrity, and push his projects with a vigor which will startle his contemporaries. Not so. . . . Having considered the whole situation he said, ‘No, I will not do what others have done, I will choose the slow and toilsome way; I will not cut the knot, I will untie it; I will not push the world, I will draw it; I will not subdue the world by military methods, I will heal it by the sympathy of human hearts.'”

“To the men who stood around him he was always slow. . . . When they urged him to hurry, his reply was . . . ‘My hour is not yet come.’ Instead of setting all the land afire he tried, so it seemed, to suppress himself, to hold his disciples back, to keep his name from becoming glorious. When he healed sick men he said to them, ‘Tell no man’. . . . The result was that at the end of his life he had made only one hundred and twenty disciples. . . . But the sight of a hundred and twenty men did not daunt him; he died with contentment in his heart.”

“‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’. . . . He has the tone of victory in his voice, knowing that in spite of all the obstacles, delays, and retrogressions, the outcome is absolutely certain. . . . From his throne of glory he looks upon the slow-moving ages, patient with the feeble efforts of his followers, willing to wait for the reluctant submission of rebellious hearts, knowing that by and by . . . the kingdom will be established and all his dreams fulfilled.”

Enduring All Pain and Trouble

“But this does not exhaust the patience of Jesus. The way of a reformer is never smooth, and the way which Jesus traveled was the thorniest which human feet have ever trod. It was literal truth that he came unto his own and his own received him not, the light shone in the darkness but the darkness comprehended it not. With a love that caused his heart to glow he knocked at the door in Jerusalem, but the men who kept the door refused to open it. He knocked at the door in Nazareth, the door was opened and then shut in his face. He traveled throughout Galilee, and in city after city he met with nothing but repulse; but he was never discouraged, he never complained.”

“Everything he did was criticized, every action called forth a storm of fresh abuse. His enemies gathered around him like a swarm of mosquitoes biting him, like a swarm of hornets stinging him, but he never complained. They nagged at him, pelted him with abusive epithets, sowed the land with lies about him, but he never grew bitter. We have known many a good man to grow sour simply because he had been misunderstood by a few people. Many a good woman has grown bitter because of unfortunate experiences with those who were her fellow workers in the church. This Man of Galilee knew little but misunderstanding and ingratitude and criticism and abuse; but . . . ‘as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.'”

“If Jesus was patient with his enemies he was equally patient with his friends. . . . His own mother and brothers were not in sympathy with him. The disciples to whom he gave himself with a devotion that has never been equaled were constantly failing to catch the import of the things he told them. . . . Even on the last night of his earthly life, when . . . they quarreled among themselves as to their places at the table . . . he simply takes a basin of water and performs the work which was ordinarily performed by slaves, rinsing the dust from their unsandaled feet . . . teaching what he had been trying to teach them from the beginning, that he who would be greatest must be the servant of all.”

“‘A bruised reed he shall not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench.’ This was his temper whether he was dealing with foes or friends. He demanded much of his disciples, but he did not demand it all at once. He kept saying if a man has even a little faith, even so small as a grain of mustard seed, he has enough to start with, and by means of this he will be able to work wonders. Great men have oftentimes been notoriously impatient with their weaker and more incompetent brethren. . . . But the patient Man of Galilee had a temper altogether different. He sympathized with weakness, he was considerate of mental dullness, he was long-suffering in the presence of moral awkwardness. Even a bruised reed he would not break, and even a smoking wick he would coax back into flame.”

Another Day from Almighty God

“Ever since Jesus lived and taught, men have loved to think that God is patient. To every follower of Jesus, the Almighty is a long-suffering God. He has vast plans running through the ages, and He is willing to wait for their fulfillment. Men look around them at the woe and havoc, the suffering and the tragedy, and say: ‘How could God ever make a world like this? How can He endure it to have these things go on?’ They do not understand that He is patient, infinitely patient, and is willing to wait until human hearts surrender, and by their obedience bring the long and bitter night to an end.”

“Not only does He wait, but He also suffers indignity at our hands without blazing up in anger and consuming us. We may be ungrateful, insolent, irreverent, rebellious; we may refuse to do the things He asks us to do, and persist in doing the things that are contrary to His will; we may injure ourselves and hurt others, nevertheless He will not strike us down. He will give us yet another day, and still another, saying, ‘Perhaps tomorrow the sin will be repented of and the prodigal will come home.'”

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

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