The Candor of Jesus

No one has ever spoken more candidly than Jesus. No one has ever opened more of his heart. Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson explains.

Candor is key to an open heart

“In modern speech candor is openness. . . . It is a rare virtue, one of the most winsome of all the virtues. Many a man does not possess it. He is taciturn, reserved, secretive. He keeps the door of his heart shut. When he says a thing you cannot tell how much he means, for you do not know the extent of his reservations. When he does a thing you cannot tell what he is going to do next, because you do not know how fully his act has embodied all which exists in his heart. . . . He is the man with the barred lips and the bolted heart. Such a man may be respected and even admired, but he cannot be loved. Jesus was loved. Men loved him so intensely they were willing to die for him. One reason was that he was a man with his heart open.”

Candid Praise

“One obtains a hint of a man’s disposition by noting the men whom he admires and praises. . . . Nathaniel was a citizen of a small Galilean village, Cana, situated not far from Nazareth. As soon as Philip had gotten a little acquainted with Jesus he was desirous of bringing Jesus and his friend Nathaniel together. . . . Nathaniel had a deep-seated contempt for dingy little Nazareth, and all that was in his heart came out in the cynical question, ‘Can there come any good thing out of Nazareth?’ He was nothing if not frank. His friend, not at all daunted, mildly said, ‘Come and see.'”

“As soon as Jesus sees him coming toward him he exclaims in a tone musical with praise, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile.’ This was the sort of man which won at once the heart of Jesus. There was no craft nor cunning in him, no duplicity nor deceit; he was a man of frank sincerity, and Jesus’ heart immediately goes out to him, assuring him that over his open soul there is going to be an open heaven. Outspoken and frank himself, Jesus was en rapport with souls which were free from guile.”

“And here we find one of the reasons why Jesus always extolled the disposition of a child. . . . The child heart is always the open heart. Where can you find such candor, such beautiful frankness, such surprising and sometimes discomfiting outspokenness as in a little child? He will tell you just what he thinks, all he thinks, nothing will he hold back. He will make known his feelings, all his feelings, and will melt and overcome your heart by the fullness of his naive self-revelation. One of the reasons why Jesus set a child in the midst of the disciples, saying, ‘This is what you ought to be,’ is because a little child is the embodiment and personification of candor.”

Candid Condemnation

“A man reveals himself in his dislikes as truly as in his praises. Whom did Jesus most dislike? The Pharisees. They were hypocrites. A hypocrite was an actor, a man who wore a mask, the mask representing a personality other than the one inside of it. ‘Do not be like the actors,’ this was his constant exhortation, and he never lost an opportunity of holding up the hypocrites to contempt and scorn. On one occasion he faced them in Jerusalem, calling them to their face ‘vipers.’ It was a harsh word, and yet it expressed the inmost spirit of the men to whom it was applied. They were as venomous and deadly as vipers.”

“It is an awful thing to tarnish the name of God and render religion odious, and to poison the heart of the world. Yet all this these hypocrites were doing, and to the guileless heart of Jesus there were no men so repulsive and deserving of scorching condemnation. He was himself so genuine and open-hearted that the craft of these treacherous actors stirred him to blazing indignation.”

Candid Warning

“He never held back the truth when it was time that the truth should be spoken. . . . The Gospels teem with illustrations of this surprising and daring frankness. One day in talking with some Sadducees . . . he told them bluntly that they were always falling into error because they were so ignorant. They were ignorant both of the Scriptures and of the power of God. It was a needed word, for people who know little and think they know much are sometimes helped by having their attention called to the limitations of their knowledge; but to give such reprimand is not an easy thing to do. It was by his outspokenness that Jesus attempted to cure some of the infirmities of men.”

“He will hold back nothing. The whole terrible truth must be told. No man shall ever follow him without first knowing what risks and dangers discipleship involves. Read the tenth chapter of Matthew as a shining illustration of his candor. He wants the twelve to do his work, but before they start they shall know what sort of experiences they may reasonably expect. ‘Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves’. . . . Beginning thus he goes on to paint a picture black enough to daunt the heart of the bravest, and the only encouragement he has to give them for facing such awful dangers is the promise that he will confess them at last before his Father in heaven.”

“When men rushed to him saying, ‘Master, I will follow you,’ he flashed on them the gloom of a dark sentence, unwilling to accept the allegiance of anyone, even in times when he most needed support, without having first revealed . . . the full significance of a place in his ranks. Men’s heads were filled with dreams of supremacy and sovereignty and glory, and more than one heart was chilled by the searching question, ‘Are you able to drink the cup?’ His candor reduced the number of his followers, but it was just like him to hold back nothing.”

Candid Confession

“But it is in his confessions that his candor reaches its climax. . . . He admits without hesitation that there was a limitation of his authority. One day a man interrupted him with the cry, ‘Speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me,’ and the reply was, ‘Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?’ There was a realm then in which Jesus was not ordained to act. . . . The nation had long pictured a king who should put an end to the cruel inequalities with which the world was cursed, and measure out justice with an even hand. And now the Messiah deliberately turns his back on a man who is pleading for justice, saying that into that realm he cannot now enter. Only a strong man is brave enough to disappoint his friends by candidly admitting that it is impossible for him to do what they have expected of him.”

“More surprising was his confession of ignorance. . . . Jesus frankly admitted that there were things which he did not know. For instance, one day he was talking in graphic phrase about the end of the world. He spoke so definitely and positively that it was a natural inference that he knew when it would take place. To the amazement of his hearers he said, ‘Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, not the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but only the Father’. . . . Candid, indeed, is the teacher who confesses his ignorance. Jesus confessed his.”

“Let us be thankful that Peter was frank enough to tell Mark just what Jesus said, and that Mark was sincere enough to write down just what Peter reported, and that Matthew in a book written especially to prove that Jesus was the long-expected Messiah and King of Israel, did not shrink from writing down the great confession of Jesus’ ignorance as to the day and the hour of the end of the world. The New Testament is like its hero, gloriously candid.”

Candor and Confidence

“Nothing inspires confidence in a man like candor. If a man is frank and open in nine points, we may safely trust him in the tenth. Jesus makes his candor a reason why his disciples ought to trust him in those realms of thought and life which lie beyond their sight. ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you.’ Of course he would. It was his nature to tell men everything it was necessary for them to know. He would not allow his friends to go on holding delusions when a word from him would set them free. . . . Like all normal and unspoiled men they believed that death is not the end. . . . Jesus allowed them to nourish these expectations. . . . He let them go on thinking of heaven, hoping for heaven, working for heaven.”

“On his candor, then, we have a right to build both for time and eternity. When he says that if we do not repent we shall perish, and that only those who are born from above enter the kingdom of light, we have every reason for believing that these statements are true. And when he says that his disciples are going to do greater things than were ever done in Palestine, and that he will be with us always even unto the end of the world, why should we not believe him? And since he is so frank and open with us why should not we be open-hearted and frank with him? If he tells us truly the things in his heart, why should we not tell him truly the things which are in our hearts? He has given himself to us: why do we not give ourselves to him?”

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

The Courage of Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth is our hero. As Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson shows, His life teaches us what courage is, and why we must have it.

Our hero

“There has never been a nation which did not admire courageous men. There is not an age known to history in which heroism has not been deemed a lovely and precious thing. . . . It is one of the elemental tempers of the human spirit, one of the foundation stones in the great structure of character. . . . Is there a man so base that he does not covet courage? Is there one so low he would not be proud to be counted brave? . . . When we come, therefore, to the study of the ideal man we might expect to find him giving us a wonderful exhibition of courage. And this is indeed what we find: in Jesus of Nazareth we find bravery at its best, courage at its loftiest, heroism at its climax.”

“Palestine was filled with evils, he alone was brave enough to strike them. Injustice lifted its hideous head, and he alone resisted it. Hypocrisy made a mockery of religion, and he alone stabbed it. . . . The men whom he succeeded in attracting to him left him and fled at the final hour. But even then he did not wince or falter, saying, ‘I am alone and yet not alone, for the Father is with me.'”

Pictures of Courage

“If you were to paint Jesus as a hero, in what situation would you sketch him? Would you think of him on that great day on which he cleansed the temple, driving out the cattle, overturning the tables of the moneychangers . . . ? Would you paint him as he appeared when in the streets of Jerusalem he stood up and faced his implacable foes, the scribes and Pharisees, and hurled at them sentences which . . . still smoke like thunderbolts? Or would you paint him as he came from the Garden of Gethsemane and startled the band of men who have come to arrest him by saying, ‘I am the man you seek’? Or would you picture him going to Golgotha saying to the women who bewailed his fate, ‘Weep not for me, but for yourselves and your children’?”

“Would you ask me to give you an illustration of the courage of Jesus’ heart, I would take you first of all to Nazareth on that day on which for the first time he announced his mission to the men and women who had known him from boyhood. It was necessary for him to say things which would offend, and he said them. He was to preach the truth, but he could not preach the truth without cutting across the grain of the prejudices of these people. He went calmly onward, however, and preached the truth.”

“To estrange the hearts of those who have known and esteemed us for many years, to cut one’s self off from the respect and sympathy and love of those in whose friendship we have found solace and delight — that is hard indeed. And that is what Jesus did on that awful day in Nazareth. By the simple speaking of the truth he alienated from him the minds and hearts of the people in whose midst he had grown to manhood and whose high regard had been one of the most valuable of all his earthly treasures.”

“He was a courageous man that day, and equally courageous was he in the streets of Capernaum when he talked to that crowd of five thousand men whom he had fed a little while before in the desert beyond the Sea of Galilee. He came into the world to bear witness to the truth, but men were not willing to receive it. At the beginning of his address everyone was enthusiastic, but as he spoke the great crowd began to melt away. . . . At last only twelve men stood beside him, and these twelve had such doleful, wavering faces that he said to them, ‘Will ye also go away?’ What is there harder in this world than that? . . . To teach the truth and go on teaching it even though the congregation grows less and less and less, that requires the forthputting of the very highest temper of the soul. It was just that kind of courage which Jesus had.”

Courageously Alone

“The courage which he manifested in Capernaum was manifested everywhere. It is not an easy thing to offend society and to offend it in such a way as to lose caste and standing. The people in Jesus’ day were great sticklers for forms of fasting. Jesus minimized the value of them. They were exceedingly scrupulous in regard to sabbatical laws. Jesus could not keep them, he did not believe in keeping them. They were punctilious in regard to the number of times they washed their hands before they sat down to eat. Jesus had no time for such elaborate foolery. The best people of his day divided things into clean and unclean, people into clean and unclean — Jesus could pay no attention to these distinctions. All men were his brethren, and so he associated with people who had lost caste. By so doing he lost his own reputation.”

“Has anyone courage enough here to do that? He went contrary to the established usages of the best society of his day; he trampled on conventionalities which were counted sacred as the law of the Eternal. And the result was he was suspected, shunned, and abhorred. But he did even more than this: he surrendered the good opinion which many people had formed of him. When he first appeared the air was filled with applause. . . . The land blazed with enthusiasm. The people had certain ideals, and Jesus could not conform to them. They had fixed ideas, and Jesus could not carry them out. He threw cold water upon these fires of enthusiasm and they died down lower and lower, until at last there was nothing but a great stretch of smoldering ashes, and he stood in the center of the ashes the most forsaken and hated of men.”

“It takes tremendous courage to lay aside one’s reputation, and to forego the bliss of popular applause. But he did an even braver thing: he gave up the good opinion of the best people of his day. He was reverent, religious, sensitive, but certain things were necessary for him to say because they were true things, and he said them. By saying them he exposed himself to the charge of being a blasphemer, but he said them. He was willing to do his duty even though by the doing of it he won for himself the ignominy of being counted a blasphemer, a lunatic, and a traitor. Only the very loftiest heroism can meet such a test.”

Courageously Committed to the Cross

“But if you want illustrations of the courage of Jesus, you must take the entire New Testament, for all the Gospels are a portrait of a hero. The story of Jesus’ life is the most heroic record ever written, and any man who wishes to increase the bravery of his heart must read this book day and night. See him as he sets his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem, where he knows they are going to scourge him and spit upon him and kill him. His friends endeavor to dissuade him, they strive to hold him back. He keeps steadily on, knowing that at Jerusalem he will give his life as a ransom for many.”

“Lord Randolph Churchill . . . in the year 1891 wrote a letter to his wife telling her that he had quit politics once and forever. He said: ‘More than two-thirds, in all probability, of my life is over, and I will not spend the remainder of my years in beating my head against a stone wall. There has been no consideration, no indulgence, no memory or gratitude — nothing but spite, malice, and abuse. I am quite tired and dead sick of it all, and will not continue political life.'”

“How natural, how human that sounds! Haven’t you heard men say it? Possibly some of you have said it yourself. You have engaged in some reform, and have been misrepresented and abused. You have turned away, saying, ‘I am tired, I am sick.’ Maybe you were a worker in the church; you were misrepresented, you were thwarted; you cast up your work, saying, ‘I am tired, I am sick.’ Why do men talk thus? Because they are cowards. Only cowards surrender, only cowards get tired and sick.”

“Jesus steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem and never turned back until he reached the cross. See him as he goes onward, trampling on all the precious things of earth, putting under his feet the ambitions by which the hearts of other men are fired, trampling into the dust the prizes and the joys of life. Make out a list of the things which you count most valuable and worthwhile, and you will see that Jesus placed every one of them beneath his feet. With the tread of a conqueror he goes on to his death, saying, ‘I do always those things that are pleasing unto Him’. . . . And when at last they nail him to the cross the only thing he will say is, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

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

The Reverence of Jesus

Reverence is a trait that nowadays few regard. Yet as Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson explains, Jesus was always modeling reverence for us.

Eyes ever upward

“No analysis of the character of Jesus would be complete which failed to recognize his reverence. It is one of the traits which contribute most largely to his loveliness, a characteristic which attracts the notice of every observing mind. To write a definition of reverence is not easy. There are some things which the heart can sense but which the intellect cannot easily define. We know what reverence is, and yet we stumble in trying to define it. It is respect, regard, esteem, and honor; yes, and it is more than these. . . . Reverence is respect or honor, but it is respect or honor working with unwonted energy. . . . It is respect or honor squared and cubed.”

“It is one of the loftiest of all the emotions of the soul, and that is why it eludes us when we try to capture it in the meshes of a definition. What is it? It is homage and obeisance and devotion, yes, and something more. It is awe and fear and adoration; yes, but even these do not tell the full-rounded story. . . . There is in it respect and also affection and also fear, and along with these an abiding consciousness of dependence.”

“Probably no expression defines what we mean by reverence so well as the Old Testament phrase, ‘The fear of the Lord.’ The wise men of Israel were convinced that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Their effort was to make men conscious of the existence of a God of infinite power and wisdom and goodness. He was the High and Holy One who inhabits eternity, and is therefore not to be approached carelessly or thought of lightly. . . . God is majestic and holy and can be approached only by a humble and prostrate heart.”

“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

“This fear of the Lord was mighty in Jesus. God was continually before his eyes. His soul was pervaded with the sense of His presence, and all that he said and did was bathed in an atmosphere created by this consciousness of the fellowship and favor of the Eternal. To illustrate this is not easy. Jesus’ entire life is an illustration of it. One cannot pick out isolated words or acts and hold them up, saying, ‘Behold, how reverent he was!’ A man cannot be reverent at intervals. He must be reverent all the time or not at all. If he is reverent on Monday and not on Tuesday, then his Monday reverence was a pretense and a sham. Reverence is not a vesture which can be put on and laid off.”

“Would you see illustrations of his reverence, read the Gospels! The earnestness with which he was always pleading for reverence in others is proof that in him reverence was a divine and indispensable possession. . . . ‘When you pray, say, Our Father, hallowed be thy name.’ Probably no other words in the Lord’s prayer have been so frequently slurred and overlooked as ‘hallowed be thy name’. . . . We slide over them as though they were only a parenthesis and hasten on to ask for bread and deliverance. . . . But Jesus is careful to place this petition at the very forefront of all our praying. Unless this desire is uppermost in our heart we are not in the mood of prayer.”

“If our first thought is of ourselves and not of God, then we are not praying after the fashion of Jesus. When he tells us to put this petition first it is because he always put it first himself. It was his supreme ambition that his Father’s name should be kept beautiful and holy. . . . Any low or unworthy thought of God was to Jesus’ mind abhorrent and degrading. Living always with an eye single to the glory of God, he urged men everywhere to speak and act and live so that others seeing their good works might glorify their Father in heaven.”

“Holding God continually before his eyes he saw everything in relation to the Eternal. His respect for men was due not to what men were in themselves but to what they were in the eyes of God. They were God’s children and therefore no matter how poor or degraded, they were worthy of respect and honor. Any cruelty in word or inhumanity in action toward a human being caused the heart of Jesus to flash fire, because such treatment of God’s children was in his mind an insult to God Himself.”

“My Father’s House”

“His reverence for the temple was unfailing. . . . Any desecration of a building erected to promote God’s glory was to him horrible and unendurable. . . . But not so to many of his countrymen. In the process of moral degradation reverence is one of the first of the virtues to disappear. It is a flower of paradise which cannot blossom in the chill atmosphere of sordidness and vulgarity. The love of money had eaten out the hearts of many of Jesus’ countrymen. They cared more for gain than they did for God.”

“They converted the temple courts into a marketplace and drowned the anthems and the prayers with the clink of money and the bellowing of steers. Jesus could not endure it. Others had endured it; he could not. . . . Never did Jesus show such a tempest of emotion as in the cleansing of the temple. . . . He became an avenging fury, and before the miscreants knew what was happening their coins were rolling over the temple floor and their flocks and herds were in the street.”

“The explanation of the tempest lies in these three words — ‘My Father’s house.’ It was not an ordinary house. It was the house of God. It was erected for God’s worship. It was a shrine for the adoring heart. It was intended to be a solace for men’s woes and troubles. . . . ‘Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.’ It was his reverence which kindled a fire in his eyes and gave his words an energy which pierced like daggers.”

“The Fear of the Lord”

“Here, then, we have a virtue upon whose beauty we should often fix our eyes. We do not have as much reverence as we ought to have. We are not by nature or by training a reverent people. . . . There are wide areas of American society from which the spirit of reverence has been banished. Men and women in many a circle are clever, interesting, brilliant, but . . . they have no reach upward. Their conversation sparkles, but it is frivolous and often flippant. Their talk is witty, but the wit is often at the expense of high and sacred things.”

“When one enters the world of our present-day reformers he is impressed by the large number who lack the upward look. . . . They see the crying evils of the world; their sympathies are wide and their zeal is hot, but they have no sky above their heads. They aim to glorify no Father who is in heaven. Some of them claim to admire the Man of Nazareth. They extol his character and his teachings. Yet, strange to say, they do not imitate his reverence, or cast a single glance in the direction in which his eyes were always looking.”

“Why is it that reverence is apparently in a state of decadence? Is it due to our improper reading? The press is constantly exploiting the sordid side of human nature, calling our attention to moral collapse and degradation, and it may be that our familiarity with vice in its varied forms is taking off the edge of our sensibility so that we no longer respond readily to things which are noble and high. . . . Our imagination may be so coarsened by the realms through which it travels that we lose the capacity for feeling the rapture of the sense of awe.”

“Possibly we are becoming less reverent because we are ashamed of being afraid of anybody or anything. Fear is one of the elements in reverence, and there is a popular impression that all fear is degrading. Fear is of two kinds — there is a godly fear and a fear which is ungodly. The latter has terror in it and throws a shadow and brings a chill. But there is a fear which all unspoiled spirits feel in the presence of the high and holy. If mortal man, stained and marred by sin, is not awed by the thought of a Holy God, it is because he has lost the power of feeling. If there is a fear which degrades and paralyzes, there is also a fear which cleanses and exalts. . . . Let us come often then to the reverent Man of Nazareth who by his awestruck obeisance to his Heavenly Father shames us out of our irreverence and makes it easier for the heart to kneel.”

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

The Trust of Jesus

Jesus said, “Why are you so fearful? Have you still no faith?” He trusted the Father in everything. Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson explains.

“Father, lead me — I trust You with my life”

“We are trying to see Jesus as he was. It is surprising that we do not know him better when his image is so vividly portrayed for us in the Gospels. The very familiarity of the story has a deadening effect upon the mind. We have heard so much of Jesus ever since the days of childhood, have heard so many teachers and preachers speak about him, that the mind has hardened and refuses to be impressed by him.”

“Many of us have had faulty methods of Bible study. We have studied the Bible piecemeal, in scraps and patches, getting a knowledge of isolated passages and never putting together the various parts so as to see Jesus as a man among men. We have caught, it may be, one trait of his lovely character; we have fixed our gaze upon one bright particular star, and have missed the sweep and swing of the constellations; we have picked up a pebble now and then and have failed to take in the curve of the vast shore and the swell and surge of the sea.”

“If you were to ask me what is deepest and most fundamental in the character of Jesus, I should say, it was his trust in God. I see not how anyone can read the New Testament without feeling that this to him was the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. It was the heaven above his head, the earth beneath his feet, the atmosphere he daily breathed, the spirit in which he was saturated, the music that ran through all his conversation, the inspiration of all his life.”

“When he was dying on the cross many people laughed at him. . . . Among these people, strange to say, there were members of the Sanhedrim, chief priests, scribes and leaders — they all ridiculed and scorned him, and the climax of their vituperation was this, ‘He trusted on God!’ No blacker jeer ever was belched forth from the jaws of hell than that. . . . But that is what the religious leaders of Palestine did when the Prophet of Galilee was dying. The dark and terrible sentence throws a blaze of light upon the teaching and the conduct of Jesus. His whole course of action had made upon the people among whom he moved the impression that he trusted in God.”

“Master, Teach Us How to Pray”

“One can dip into the Gospels where he will and find things which bear testimony to Jesus’ trust in God. . . . He is everywhere and always a man of prayer. At the crises of his life we find him praying. At his baptism and the transfiguration, in the garden, on the cross, he is pouring out his soul to God. Before every important action, in the midst of every difficult situation, at the completion of every stage of work, we find him praying.”

“It was a common thing in Palestine for men to pray, but no man had ever prayed like this man, with such simplicity, with such earnestness, with such boundless trust. Men gathered round him awestruck and said, ‘Master, teach us how to pray’. . . . Prayer was an indispensable feature of Hebrew piety, but men who had prayed from earliest youth felt when they heard this man pray that they had never prayed at all.”

“The word which he applied to God was Father. Only occasionally in the long sweep of the ages had a soul here and there ventured to apply to Deity a name so familiar and sweet, but Jesus of Nazareth always thinks and speaks of God as Father. He names Him this in his own prayers, he tells other men that they also may use this name. To trust in the goodness and mercy of the good Father was his own intensest and fullest delight; to induce others to trust in Him also was his constant ambition and endeavor.”

“Will Not God Bring about Justice?”

“How much Jesus has to teach us at this point. It is often supposed that it is easy to believe in God. The fact is, nothing is more difficult to do at certain times and in certain circumstances. It is easy, indeed, to say one trusts in God, but really to do it when justice seems dead and love seems to have vanished, that is difficult.”

“All of the centuries groaning with agony, all of the ages dripping with blood! Who can look upon the sufferings of the innocent, or hear the cries of the oppressed, or witness the slaughter of the pure and the good without asking himself: Does God know? Does God care? Right forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. . . . Vice triumphs over virtue, dishonesty tramples upon honesty, injustice lords it over justice, hate defies and defeats love. This happens not once but ten thousand times.”

“Some men read the dark and terrible story and give up their faith in God. Jesus looks upon the same scene and gives to it a different interpretation. He sees good men come and offer their services to the world only to be rejected and repulsed. One of them is stoned, another is beaten, another is killed. Their dead bodies are piled up in sickening heaps, but to Jesus this is not evidence of the indifference of God — it is the proof of his long-suffering patience; it is because he is not willing that any should be lost that he keeps on century after century, sending into the world prophets and apostles, heroes and saints, who shall proclaim the message of heaven to bewildered and sinful man.”

“Do Not Worry about Your Life”

“Many a man has for years trusted in God only to discover when evil fortune came that his trust was not strong enough to stand the shock. The very best and strongest of men when overtaken by misfortune are obliged to readjust their faith. For a while they are stupefied and dazed, scarcely knowing whither to turn or what to think.”

“Jesus of Nazareth had all the dark experiences which it is possible for the soul to have. He had a work to do to which he gave all the energy of his brain and his heart. . . . He had a message to communicate which he was certain would drive away the gloom and the woe of the world . . . but the crowds melted away like snow banks in June. There were at last only twelve men who stood by him, and the hearts of these were so fluctuating that he said, ‘Will ye also go away?’ To these twelve men he gave himself with passionate devotion, pouring into their souls his own very life. But the boldest of them turned out a coward, and one of the most trusted of them became a traitor, and when the crisis in his life came they all forsook him and fled.”

“But notwithstanding his disappointment, his trust in God was unbroken. In the midst of the tempest his torch kept on burning, and he cried, ‘Be of good cheer’. . . . He was persecuted as no other man before his day or since; he was maligned, abused, execrated. Men called him crazy, others said he had a devil. He was accused of blasphemy, of treason — but his heart remained sweet. Men buffeted him and abused him, hissing at him their ingratitude and hatred, but he said, ‘The cup which my Father has given me to drink, shall I not drink it?'”

“Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”

“Then finally he failed. . . . We do not ponder this often enough. . . . We dwell upon the things which have happened since his death, and dwelling upon these we see that he has succeeded; but it should never be forgotten that his life on the day of his death was a terrible and heartbreaking failure. Injustice was stronger than justice, unrighteousness was mightier than righteousness, hate was stronger than love. He had tried to induce the world to accept a beautiful truth, but the world spurned him. . . . He still looked to God saying, ‘Not my will but thine be done’. . . . If it is necessary, he said, that I should be sacrificed, that I should be trodden under the feet of the men who are thirsting for my blood, if that is the will of the Infinite Father, then to that I gladly submit.”

“Jesus of Nazareth, in the midst of the wildest storm that ever blotted out the heavens and caused the earth to quake, looked steadily toward God, saying, ‘Not my will but thine be done.’ Look down across the ages and see the great men, how they are swayed and tossed by the winds and storms; but there above them all there rises this man of Galilee like some majestic mountain, his peaceful head outlined against the blue.”

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

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)

The Enthusiasm of Jesus

John baptized with water. Jesus baptizes with fire. As Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson shows, the Perfect Man is a man on fire for the Father.

Coming with power and speed, passion and zeal

“The New Testament is the most enthusiastic of all books, and Jesus is the most enthusiastic of all men. . . . Jesus burns with fervent heat. His very words are sparks which kindle conflagrations. . . . When we see some men hurrahing and adoring and other men gnashing their teeth and cursing, some boiling with love, others seething with hate, it is evident we are in the presence of a man whose heart glows like a furnace and whose soul radiates heat.”

“Even when a boy he used a word which expressed the intensity of his feeling, ‘Do you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ He never ceased to use that word ‘must.’ They wanted him to stay in Capernaum, but he could not do it. ‘I must preach the gospel of the kingdom of God to the other cities also.’ They wanted him to stay away from Jerusalem, knowing that it was dangerous there, but he said: ‘I must go to Jerusalem. I have a baptism to be baptized with’. . . . He kept saying, ‘I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work.'”

“Again and again we catch expressions in which we feel his great heart beating: ‘I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel,’ ‘O woman, great is thy faith!’ ‘I thank thee, O Father!’ ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often!’ All are out of the throat of an enthusiast, a man surcharged with feeling. . . . Our heart leaps when we listen to them. The rains of the centuries have not put out their fire.”

Enthusiastic Praying, Enthusiastic Working

“How intense his life was we can see in what is told us of his habit of praying. He was always praying. He arose early in the morning in order to find more time to pray, he stayed up late at night in order to increase the hours in which he might speak to God. Sometimes he did not go to bed at all, remaining all night long upon some hilltop under the stars pouring out his soul to God.”

“He was enthusiastic in prayer, and therefore he was zealous in work. Men were astounded by the magnitude of his labors. Sometimes he did not take time to eat. Even when he went away for a season of relaxation he gave himself up to the crowds which pursued him. . . . Mark frankly tells us that there was a time in Jesus’ life when his labor was so excessive that his friends said, ‘He is beside himself!’ . . . Such burning earnestness in the work of doing good had never been seen in Palestine.”

“This was the judgment of his friends. His enemies did not hesitate to say boldly, ‘He has a devil, he is mad.’ Jesus made this impression not once, but often. Such zeal for righteousness, such enthusiasm for helping men seemed to the cold-blooded scribes the fury of a maniac. It was when Paul was burning with the same kind of heat that Festus cried, ‘Paul, thou art mad!’ Nothing seems so crazy as enthusiasm to a man incapable of feeling it.”

Three Roots

“If you ask for the cause of this enthusiasm, you will find it has three roots. First, Jesus had a sensitive nature. . . . There is a vast difference in the makeup of men. Some men are coarse, stolid, heavy. They have sensations but not intense ones. They have the emotions of vegetables. There are other men who are as delicately adjusted as an aeolian harp. Every breeze that blows over them causes them to vibrate and woos from them music. Such a man was Jesus.”

“Along with this nature capable of burning there existed a vision of God and a vision of man which set the nation on fire. Jesus saw that the maker of the universe is a Father, that at the center of things there beats a Father’s heart, that over all there extends a Father’s care, and that to all there flows a Father’s love. Other men have seen this dimly, as it were through a glass darkly, but Jesus saw it as it had never been seen before and as it has never been seen since. It was to him the one clear and luminous fact of the universe and everything else was seen in the glory of this stupendous truth.”

“Since God is the all-Father, then all men are His children. He created them all, He loves them all, He desires to save them all. No matter who they are or what they are or where they are, they are His children, and they cannot drift beyond His love and care. Men everywhere are brothers, and for one brother to help another, this is the supreme joy in living. Other men see this dimly, but to Jesus it was all clear as the sun at noon.”

“Out of such a nature heated hot by such a vision there came forth a purpose. . . . To the clear eye of Jesus a mighty battle was raging on the earth. There was a terrific conflict between right and wrong, light and darkness, good and evil, God and the Devil. There was nothing to do at such a crisis but to throw himself wholeheartedly into the contest, fighting indomitably for the glory of the Father and the welfare of his brethren. Put these three things together — a sensitive and inflammable nature, a clear and glorious vision, and a fiery and indomitable purpose — and you have the ingredients which go to produce the divine flame which is known as enthusiasm.”

The Highest of All Enthusiasms

“What a beautiful thing it is, enthusiasm! Moses turned aside to see a burning bush, everybody turns aside to see a burning man. Glance across the centuries and you will note that every time the race has turned aside from the beaten path it has been to see a man who was burning.”

“Enthusiasm is of different kinds. . . . But higher than all enthusiasms is the fire that burns in souls in love with God. To know Him, to serve Him, to glorify Him, this is the highest ambition of which the soul is capable, and the soul when possessed with this ambition burns with a fire that cannot be quenched. This was the enthusiasm of Jesus. In him the highest of the enthusiasms reached its climax. He lived and moved and had his being in the presence of the Eternal. From the beginning to the end he saw the majesty of righteousness, loved the beauty of holiness, and lived for the glory of God.”

On Fire, or Lukewarm?

“It is not to be wondered at, then, that the religion of Jesus likes the word ‘fire.’ John the Baptist declared that he could baptize only with water but that one was coming who would baptize with fire. From John’s hands men came dripping, from Jesus’ hands they came blazing. St. Luke tells us that on the Day of Pentecost there seemed to be a flame on every forehead, fit emblem of the new religion’s heart. John on the isle of Patmos thinking of Jesus . . . hears him talking to the Laodiceans, and this is what he says: ‘I would thou wert cold or hot. Because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth’. . . . The beloved disciple does not hesitate to represent Jesus saying, ‘Lukewarm Christians are nauseating to me!'”

“And alas! how many lukewarm Christians there are, men who are indifferent, neutral, neither hot nor cold. . . . What is the matter with Christians that they are so lacking in enthusiasm? The answer is that the nature is saturated, soaked by the chilling drizzle of worldliness, and along with this . . . comes a diminishing of the vision of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man, and because there is a shadowed vision, the glowing purpose is also lacking, and the soul does not catch fire. What, then, shall we do? Let us go back to Him who is a zealous God, so eager and ardent in His love that He gave His only begotten Son. If we are not ablaze in the presence of such a gospel, it is because we have a heart of stone; but He who knows our frame and who remembers that we are dust has promised . . . to give us a heart of flesh.”

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