The late T. B. Maston made a statement in a seminary class that John Mills wrote down in his notebook. Maston told the class, “All the claims of Christ can be summed up in two words — ‘Follow Me’.” When John wrote that significant statement in his notebook he placed a question mark in the margin. He wondered whether that was an overstatement.
Recently, while John was preparing for his move to his new home in retirement, he came across that notebook and reread the statement. He erased the question mark from the margin. John said, “I am convinced that the only way to win the world is to understand Jesus’ challenge and take seriously all that it implies.”
Simon Peter was one of those early disciples who heard Jesus say, “Follow Me.” After many years of experience he knew much more about the implications of that invitation. In
When Peter used the Greek word which is translated “example,” he was employing an illustration from his childhood. The word literally means “writing under.” This word was utilized by the ancient Greeks to describe the practice of teaching children how to write. At that time children learned the skill of writing by literally tracing over written letters.
Peter moves from the idea of a child learning to write to a Christian planting his feet in the footsteps of Jesus. In this context, the footprints or footsteps of Christ are ones of suffering. However, the illustration is applicable in a much broader way. Just as a young student follows the shape of the letters of his teacher, and therefore learns to write, even so the Christian patterns his life after the life of the Master and thus learns how to live.
A Christian is one who follows in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. The Greek word follow means “to take the same road” as someone else. A Christian is one who does just that — he follows in the footsteps of Jesus down the same road of life.
Charles M. Sheldon wrote a book many years ago that has become a classic. The book tells the story of how a pastor and his congregation committed themselves to following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. In every situation of life they would ask, “What would Jesus do?” Then these devoted people would seek to do what they felt Jesus would do. As they followed in the footsteps of Jesus they found themselves becoming more and more like Him. The book was appropriately entitled In His Steps.
How can we follow in the footsteps of Jesus? Reflect upon some characteristics of our Lord’s life and ministry and learn how we can follow His example. What are the ways in which we can follow in His footsteps?
1. We Need to Follow in the Footsteps of His Priority.
God was first in the life of Jesus. The concerns of serving God took priority over everything else. This was most evident when, as a twelve-year-old boy, He responded to the reprimanding remarks of His parents by saying, “Do you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (
Consider also how Jesus handled the situation with the Woman at the Well in John 4. Jesus had been witnessing to this desperate and needy woman, and she responded by leaving her waterpot and going to town and calling others to “come and see the man.” When the disciples returned from the town with food they offered it to Jesus who said, “My food is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work” (
Jesus spoke very personally about His motivation and aim in life when He declared in
In her book My Memories of We, Mamie Eisenhower revealed some of the reasons why General Dwight D. Eisenhower was such a great leader. He was able to inspire others to serve and sacrifice because of his deep love and loyalty to his country. Mrs. Eisenhower said, “I learned early in our married life about his single-minded devotion to America.”
At their first home — a small apartment near Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas — young Eisenhower kept his gear packed at all times. He was ready to go anywhere when called upon to do so. After they had been married only a month or so, Ike was given a new assignment that would take him away from home. He came in and announced to Mamie that he must leave her for awhile. She said to him, “Ike, you are not going to leave me this soon after our wedding day, are you?”
Ike put his arms around his young bride and said, “Mamie, there is one thing you must understand. My country comes first and always will. You come second.” Mamie Eisenhower was shocked! She was a nineteen-year-old bride who had been married only one month and now she had just heard the sobering words, “You come second.”
Jesus demands a “God-first loyalty” from His followers, and He gave us the example of His own life by which we can pattern our lives. Do you remember the strong words of Jesus in
The word hate is a strong word, but it really means “to love less.” It does not mean to despise or reject as some might assume. The word means that the claims of Christ are to be above and before every other claim in our lives. Our relationship with Him is to be first. We are to give Him the supreme loyalty in our lives.
II. We Need to Follow in the Footsteps of His Prayerfulness.
Prayer was absolutely central in the life and ministry of Jesus. If you examine the gospels you will discover at least fifteen recorded occasions on which Jesus prayed. His example as a person of prayer stands as irrefutable and undeniable proof that prayer is vitally important in the life of a Christian.
Eric Liddell, the hero of the 1924 Olympic games, understood the value of prayer. You probably remember him as the subject of the Academy Award-winning movie, Chariots of Fire. You may also know him as the athlete who would not run on Sunday. He took a bold and courageous stand, and, of course, some thought him to be eccentric. But there is much more to the story of Eric Liddell than what was featured in the movie.
Later he became a missionary in North China. While Eric Liddell was faithfully proclaiming the gospel he was arrested by the Communists and thrown into a prison. There he was placed with other missionaries who also had been apprehended. With sheer amazement these fellow missionaries watched him during this terrible time of imprisonment. They watched Eric rise up early in the morning before anyone else and get down on his knees and pray. He organized a prayer service, and Liddell prayed with his fellow prisoners. He was constantly communing with God.
What made Eric Liddell place so much importance on prayer? As a young man Eric studied the gospels and especially the prayer life of Jesus. He read that Jesus prayed before His baptism. He also read about Jesus praying after His baptism, just before the dreadful temptation experience. Eric was impressed with the fact that Jesus spent all night in prayer before He chose His disciples.
He also read with interest the scene in the New Testament where Jesus rose up early in the morning and went out to the mountainside and prayed. He pictured in his mind Jesus being alone with God in prayer. The Garden of Gethsemane experience where Jesus agonized in prayer touched Eric, too. He was captivated by the fact that Jesus prayed even while dying on the cross. In studying the prayer life of Jesus Christ, Eric Liddell committed his life to following in the footsteps of Jesus’ prayerfulness.
We are not prepared to preach, or to teach, or to lead, or even to face the demands of a work schedule until we have followed in the footsteps of His prayerfulness. A person might as well forget about following Christ and turn in his discipleship badge unless he or she is willing to pay the price of a disciplined prayer life.
III. We Need to Follow in the Footsteps of His People-Centeredness.
People were important in the life and ministry of Jesus. Theologians describe Jesus as “a man for others.” He was people-centered.
When William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was well up into his nineties and in failing health, he missed his first Salvation Army convention, which was to be held in London. Booth had always been present at previous conventions to encourage and inspire the workers.
As the delegates convened William Booth sent a message to be read at the beginning of the convention’s proceedings. The message was brief. In fact, it was just one word: “Dear delegates,” and then came the one-word message: “Others,” signed, “William Booth.”
William Booth had made others the thrust of his ministry as he reached out to the down and out. Booth followed the pattern of Jesus Christ in emphasizing others, and now he was challenging his co-workers to do the same. Booth characterized his life best when he wrote in the King of England’s autograph album: “Some men’s ambition is art; some men’s ambition is fame; some men’s ambition is gold; my ambition is the souls of men.”
If we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, little children will be important to us. In the New Testament world they were considered insignificant. The attitude of the disciples in
The disciples didn’t think Jesus had time for such insignificant people. But Jesus proved them wrong when He declared, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is of the Kingdom of God” (
Jesus not only loved little children but big sinners, too. One of the criticisms most often leveled at Jesus by the religious leaders of His day was: “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (
The most amazing fact about God’s love in Christ is that He not only loves the smallest child and the biggest sinner, He also loves His worst enemies. Jesus sought constantly to break through the rigid hardheartedness of the religious leaders, but they wouldn’t listen to Him.
While in Hitler’s prison, Martin Niemoller wrote: “It took me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies. He is not even the enemy of His enemies.” Jesus Christ proved to be the God of love, and that love extends to those who oppose Him and hate Him most.
Are people important to us? Do we care that literally millions of people in our own state, in our own country, in the entire world are lost without Christ? We need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus’ people-centeredness. We need to follow His example of reaching out again and again to draw all ages, all classes, all races of people to Himself.
IV. We Need to Follow in the Footsteps of His Purity.
In a day when the media are having a field day with negative coverage of well-known Christian leaders such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, we must recommit ourselves to following in the footsteps of Jesus’ purity. We must be people of purity. We cannot afford anything less.
V. We Need to Follow in the Footsteps of His Perseverance.
The writer of Hebrews understood very well the perseverance or endurance of Jesus. In
Jesus endured to the end, and He challenges us to do the same. In this same passage,
Some years ago I read about a state high school track meet where a promising young athlete was featured to win the one mile race. Everyone knew he was going to win, and the anticipation was centered mainly on whether or not this outstanding young athlete would run the race in record time.
One small high school had entered runners in every race for the first time. However, this smaller school had the misfortune of having their best runner become ill, and therefore he could not enter the race. Standing by his commitment to enter someone in every race the coach turned to an underclassman who was without a doubt his worst runner, and he said to him, “Son, I don’t expect you to win. I do expect you to finish.”
At the starting line all eyes were on the promising runner, for he was sure to come in first. As expected that is exactly what he did. The young underclassman came in a distant last place. In fact, they delayed starting the next event until he came on into the finish line.
When he finally came across the finish line, the young fellow fell like a tree on the pavement. His face was bloodied and scratched. A judge ran over to see if he was alright. As the judge turned the boy over he could see that this little fellow had almost fainted. “Why didn’t you drop out when you saw you were going to lose?” asked the judge. Gasping for breath the young runner said, “Our best runner was sick, and Coach told me to run in his place.”
“I know that, but why didn’t you quit?” the judge asked again.
“Coach didn’t tell me to quit. He told me to finish, and that is what I did.”
Jesus Christ wants us to go to the finish line. He doesn’t want us to be a quitter like Demas but a finisher like the Apostle Paul who declared, “I have finished my course.” Some of you may feel like quitting. You may be discouraged and downtrodden. Take heart! Jesus is at the finish line waiting for you!
VI. We Need to Follow in the Footsteps of His Proclamation.
Luke saw Jesus fulfilling the words of
First, Jesus presented the good news of consolation. He came “to heal the brokenhearted.” Brokenhearted people are in every city and county of every state. They are in every pew of every church. As Jesus preached good news of consolation to the people of the first century, we must do the same for those of the twentieth.
Second, Jesus presented the good news of emancipation. He came “to preach deliverance to the captives.”
Third, Jesus presented the good news of illumination. He came “to give sight to the blind.” Spiritual blindness is even worse than physical blindness. Jesus restored the sight of many people who were physically blind, but He came primarily to give sight to those who were spiritually blind.
Fourth, Jesus presented the good news of liberation. He came to set at liberty “those who are bruised.” The “bruised” people are those who are downtrodden. Oppression is much deeper than slavery. It means that a person has been crushed, defeated, whipped down by life. Jesus came to give hope to those who were hopeless.
Fifth, Jesus presented the good news of salvation. He came “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Jesus came to announce that the day of salvation had come. God’s provision of abundant life is now available.
Recently I read an intriguing book by Scott Walker entitled Life Rails. Walker tells the story of his older friend, James Pearson, who fought in World War II. On one occasion Pearson was a part of a reconnaissance team sent out to scout German troop positions. The patrol left very early on this winter morning.
As they departed the relative security of their own front lines, the patrol had to cross an American minefield. The mines had been clearly marked for their safe passage, and, therefore, very cautiously they made their way around the explosives. On the other side of the field they entered the woods and tensely approached the German positions.
They had not advanced very far when a machine gun nest opened up on them, pinning them to the ground. For hours they lay unable to advance or retreat. As time marched by ever so slowly, the blue sky became slate gray and snow clouds began to form. By mid-afternoon a virtual blizzard had descended on the land, and visibility became very limited. As the snow came down heavier, the platoon leader decided they had to risk a retreat under cover of the storm. By a saving act of nature, they were able to furtively slip away from the deadly German crossfire and return to the American lines.
However, when they reached the edge of the woods and looked out across the pasture land containing the minefield, a new and especially dangerous problem confronted them. The deep snow had completely covered all the markings that had indicated where the mines had been planted. As the sky grew darker a decision had to be made.
The platoon leader sensed that a German offensive was imminent. If his patrol waited until the next day to cross the minefield, they could easily be wiped out by a German advance at dawn. Although it was very risky, they really had only one option. They had to take their chances and cross the minefield before darkness totally enveloped them.
The lieutenant called the men together. He informed them he was going to lead them single file across the meadow. He sternly ordered them to walk thirty yards behind each other and, most important, to place their boots exactly in the imprints left by his boots. In this way, if a mine exploded, only he would detonate it, and he alone would be killed.
Slowly the reconnaissance team advanced across the meadow. Only one set of bootprints was left by the entire platoon. Miraculously, they all made it safely to the American lines. The next day as the men awoke, they found that their bootprints could still be seen in the snow. Several hours later as the engineers again marked the mines they discovered that the entire platoon had neatly stepped over a mine, miraculously avoiding detonating its deadly explosive power. They had followed in their leader’s footsteps and they reached home safely.
Sometimes serving God is like walking through a minefield. But take heart, His footprints are before us. He challenges us to follow in the footsteps of His priority, His prayerfulness, His people-centeredness, His purity, His perseverance and His proclamation. Follow in His footsteps and you arrive safely home.