IMITATORS OF JESUS
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5: 1)
The third step in being a disciple of Jesus is imitating Him in everything He was and did. Disciples were taught to walk behind their master, one behind the other so that they could watch the person in front of them. The one who walked behind the rabbi was to copy everything he did. Each one was to copy the one in front so that they would all end up copying their rabbi.
It was the privilege of the disciple who walked directly behind his rabbi to be covered with the dust which the rabbi’s sandals kicked up as he walked. This was a sign of his privileged position. It was considered a blessing to wear the rabbi’s dust.
On one occasion Jesus sent His disciples out to the villages round about to preach the good news of the kingdom and the do the works of the kingdom in preparation for His arrival in that region. If a village or a household refused to receive them, they were to shake the dust off their feet and move on without protest. What was He saying?
We interpret His instruction from our purely human mindset. Shake the dust – i.e., thumb your nose at them as a sign of contempt. Does that sound like the way Jesus would react, Jesus – the one who always looked for an opportunity to show mercy? If the rabbi’s dust which they wore was a sign of His blessing, wouldn’t it be true to say that He instructed them to leave His blessing on those who rejected Him by shaking off the dust of their feet even if they refused His message?
Jesus used the rabbi/disciple model to train His disciples to be like Him. Mark recorded His strategy like this:
He appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have the authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:14).
“That they might be with Him” was the first part of their training – following and learning. They were to watch and listen, absorbing everything they could about their rabbi, not only just learning to teach what He taught but actually becoming what He was – a true son of the Father in every sense of the word.
Jesus took every opportunity to teach them about the Father and to model a true son. They were not just to be wooden puppets, moving when He pulled the strings. They were to absorb everything about Him including His attitude and disposition. When James and John wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans for refusing them hospitality, Jesus sharply rebuked them.
…James and John…asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them. But Jesus turned and rebuked them. And He said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9.54-55)
He told them more than once:
If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world (John 12: 47).
Jesus both taught and showed His disciples that His disposition towards His people was compassion and mercy. He wept over the city of Jerusalem for not recognising Him and for rejecting their opportunity to respond to His invitation to return to the Father and to be a part of His eternal kingdom.
Imitation Jesus is not just a mechanical copying of what He said and did. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God promised that He would send His Spirit who would change their hearts (Ez. 36:26-27). He fulfilled His promise on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on all the waiting believers. Peter responded to the confusion in Jerusalem by reminding the people of the same promise in the prophecy of Joel.
And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days (Joel 2:28-29).
The same Spirit who empowered Jesus would indwell them. Unlike all the other rabbis who could teach and train their disciples but could not impart their heart and disposition to them, Jesus promised that the very same Spirit that fell on Him would fall on them. He would live within them as Jesus’ other self, and mould them into His image as they followed and learned from Him.
It was His intention to produce replicas of Himself, empowered by the same Spirit, carrying the same authority to do the same works and even more (John 14:12) through Him, so that they would extend the kingdom of God wherever they went.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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