“Christ suffered for you, leaving a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 PET. 2:21.
SONG 13 Christ, Our Model
1-2. How is it possible for us to follow Jesus’ steps? Illustrate.
IMAGINE that you are part of a group hiking through a dangerous, snow-covered wilderness. An experienced guide is leading you. As he walks, he leaves behind tracks, or footprints, in the soft snow. At some point, you cannot see the guide! But you do not panic. Rather, you and your fellow hikers follow the guide’s footprints as closely as you can!
2 As true Christians, we are, in a sense, hiking through a dangerous wilderness—this wicked world. Fortunately, Jehovah has provided the perfect Guide—his Son, Jesus Christ, whose steps we can follow closely. (1 Pet. 2:21) According to one Bible reference work, Peter here uses the metaphor of a guide. Like a guide leaving behind tracks, Jesus has left behind footprints, or footsteps, that we can follow. Let us consider three questions about following his footsteps—what? why? and how?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FOLLOW JESUS’ FOOTSTEPS?
3. What does it mean to follow someone’s footsteps?
3 What does it mean to follow someone’s footsteps? In the Bible, the words “walk” and “feet” at times refer to a person’s course of life. (Gen. 6:9; Prov. 4:26) The example a person sets may be compared to footprints, or footsteps, that he leaves behind as he walks. So to follow someone’s footsteps means to follow his example, to imitate him.
4. What does it mean to follow Jesus’ footsteps?
4 What, then, does it mean to follow Jesus’ footsteps? Put simply, it means to imitate his example. In our theme text, the apostle Peter is specifically commenting on the fine example Jesus set in the endurance of suffering; however, there are many other ways in which we can imitate Jesus. (1 Pet. 2:18-25) Really, Jesus’ entire life course—everything he said and did—is an example for us to follow.
5. Can imperfect humans really follow Jesus’ perfect example? Explain.
5 As imperfect humans, can we really follow Jesus’ example? Yes, we can. Recall that Peter urges us “to follow [Jesus’] steps closely”—not perfectly. If we follow his footsteps carefully, doing the best we can as imperfect humans, we will be heeding the apostle John’s words: “Go on walking just as that one [Jesus] walked.”—1 John 2:6.
WHY FOLLOW JESUS’ FOOTSTEPS?
6-7. Why can we say that following Jesus’ footsteps will draw us closer to Jehovah?
6 Following Jesus’ footsteps will draw us closer to Jehovah. Why can we say that? First, Jesus set an outstanding example of how to live in a way that pleases God. (John 8:29) So by following Jesus’ footsteps, we will please Jehovah. And we can be sure that our heavenly Father will draw close to those who try hard to be his friends.—Jas. 4:8.
7 Second, Jesus imitated his Father perfectly. That is why Jesus could say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) When we imitate Jesus’ qualities and ways of dealing with others—for example, his pity for a leper, his empathy for a woman with a grievous illness, his compassion for the bereaved—we are imitating Jehovah as well. (Mark 1:40, 41; 5:25-34; John 11:33-35) The more we become like Jehovah, the closer we draw to him.
8. Explain why following Jesus’ footsteps will help us “conquer” the world.
8 Following Jesus’ footsteps helps us not to be distracted by this wicked world. On the final night of his earthly life, Jesus was able to say: “I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) He meant that he had refused to allow himself to be influenced by the thinking, the goals, and the actions of this world. Jesus never allowed himself to lose his focus on the reason he was sent to earth—to vindicate Jehovah. What about us? In this world, there are many things that could distract us. But if, like Jesus, we keep focused on doing Jehovah’s will, we too will “conquer” the world.—1 John 5:5.
9. What must we do to stay on the road to everlasting life?
9 Following Jesus’ footsteps leads to everlasting life. When a rich young man asked what he needed to do to gain everlasting life, Jesus replied: “Come be my follower.” (Matt. 19:16-21) To some Jews who did not believe that he was the Christ, Jesus said: “My sheep . . . follow me. I give them everlasting life.” (John 10:24-29) To Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin who became interested in Jesus’ teachings, Jesus said that those “exercising faith in him” would “have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) We exercise faith in Jesus by acting on what he taught both by word and by example. If we do that, we will stay on the road to everlasting life.—Matt. 7:14.
HOW CAN WE FOLLOW JESUS’ FOOTSTEPS CLOSELY?
10. What is involved in “coming to know” Jesus better? (John 17:3)
10 Before we can follow Jesus’ footsteps closely, we must come to know him. (Read John 17:3.) “Coming to know” Jesus is an ongoing process. We must become better and better acquainted with him—learning about his qualities, his thinking, and his standards. No matter how long we have been in the truth, we must keep working at coming to know Jehovah and his Son.
11. What do the four Gospels contain?
11 To help us come to know his Son, Jehovah lovingly included the four Gospels in his Word. The Gospels contain a historical account of the life and ministry of Jesus. That account tells us what Jesus said, shows us what he did, and reveals to us how he felt. These four books help us to “consider closely” the example of Jesus. (Heb. 12:3) In effect, they contain the footsteps that Jesus left behind. So by examining the Gospels, we can come to know Jesus better and better. As a result, we can follow his steps closely.
12. How can we benefit fully from the Gospels?
12 To benefit fully from the Gospels, we must do more than just read them. We need to take the time to study them carefully and meditate on them deeply. (Compare Joshua 1:8, footnote.) Let us discuss two suggestions that can help us to meditate on the Gospels and apply what we read in them.
13. How can you bring the Gospel accounts to life?
13 First, bring the Gospel accounts to life. Use your imagination to see, hear, and feel what was happening. To help you do that, do some research in the study aids provided by Jehovah’s organization. Examine the context—the events that come before or follow after the passage you are studying. Look for information that explains the background and the circumstances. Compare the account you are studying with a parallel account in another Gospel. Sometimes one Gospel writer includes a meaningful detail that another leaves out.
14-15. How can we go about applying the Gospel accounts in our life?
14 Second, apply the Gospel accounts in your life. (John 13:17) After you have carefully studied a Gospel account, ask yourself: ‘Is there a lesson in this account that I can apply in my life? How can I use this account to help someone else?’ Try to think of a specific individual, and then at an appropriate time, lovingly and tactfully share the lesson you learned.
15 Let us consider an example of how we can apply these two suggestions. We will examine the account of the needy widow whom Jesus observed in the temple.
THE NEEDY WIDOW IN THE TEMPLE
16. Describe the scene recorded at Mark 12:41.
16 Bring the account to life. (Read Mark 12:41.) Picture the scene. It is Nisan 11, 33 C.E.—less than a week before Jesus’ death. Jesus has spent much of the day teaching in the temple. His religious opposers have not made it easy for him. Earlier, some of them questioned his authority. Others tried to corner him with challenging questions. (Mark 11:27-33; 12:13-34) Now Jesus has moved to another part of the temple. Here—likely in the area called the Court of the Women—he can see the treasury chests along the walls of the court. He sits down and begins observing the people as they put their contributions in the chests. He sees many rich people depositing many coins. Perhaps he is close enough to hear a loud jingling as their coins drop into the chests.
17. What did the poor widow mentioned at Mark 12:42 do?
17 Read Mark 12:42. After a while, one woman catches Jesus’ attention. She is a poor, “needy widow.” (Luke 21:2) Life is very difficult for her; she likely struggles to obtain the basic necessities of life. Yet, she goes to one of the chests and discreetly puts in two small coins, which perhaps hardly make a sound as they are dropped into the chest. Jesus knows what she deposited—two lepta coins, the smallest coins in circulation at the time. That is not even enough money to buy a single sparrow, among the cheapest birds sold for food.
18. According to Mark 12:43, 44, what did Jesus say about the widow’s contribution?
18 Read Mark 12:43, 44. Jesus is deeply impressed by this widow. So he calls his disciples, draws their attention to the widow, and says: “This poor widow put in more than all the others.” Then he explains: “They [especially the rich people] all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her want, put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” When this faithful widow gave her last bit of money that day, she was putting her life in Jehovah’s caring hands.—Ps. 26:3.
19. What important lesson can we learn from Jesus’ words about the poor widow?
19 Apply the account in your life. Ask yourself, ‘What lesson can I learn from Jesus’ words about the poor widow?’ Think about that widow. No doubt she wished that she could have given more to Jehovah. Yet, she did what she could; she gave Jehovah her very best. And Jesus knew that her contribution was precious in his Father’s eyes. Here, then, is an important lesson for us: Jehovah is pleased when we give him our best—our wholehearted and whole-souled service. (Matt. 22:37; Col. 3:23) Jehovah is happy when he sees us doing all we can! That principle applies to the amount of time and energy we can devote to our worship, including the ministry and the meetings.
20. How can you apply the lesson from the account about the widow? Give an example.
20 How can you apply the lesson from the account about the widow? Try to think of specific individuals who may need to be reassured that their efforts are pleasing to Jehovah. For example, do you know of an older sister who perhaps feels guilty or useless because she no longer has the health or energy to do as much as she used to in the ministry? Or can you think of a brother with a chronic, painful illness who gets discouraged because he cannot be at the Kingdom Hall for every meeting? Help such ones by speaking words that are “good for building up.” (Eph. 4:29) Share with them the heartwarming lesson we learned from the account about the poor widow. Your encouraging words can reassure them that Jehovah is pleased when we give him our best. (Prov. 15:23; 1 Thess. 5:11) When you commend others for giving Jehovah their best—no matter how small it may seem—you are following Jesus’ footsteps closely.
21. What are you determined to do?
21 How thankful we are that the Gospel accounts provide so many details about Jesus’ life, enabling us to imitate him, to follow his footsteps closely! Why not have a personal study or Family Worship project that focuses on the Gospels? Let us remember that to benefit fully from such a study, we need to bring the accounts to life and apply them in our life. In addition to imitating what Jesus did, we need to listen to what he said. In the next article, we will consider what we can learn from Jesus’ final words as a human.
SONG 15 Praise Jehovah’s Firstborn!
a As true Christians, we need to “follow [Jesus’] steps closely.” What “steps” did Jesus leave for us to follow? This article will answer that question. It will also discuss why we should follow his steps closely and how we can do it.
b PICTURE DESCRIPTION: After meditating on what Jesus said about the poor widow, a sister commends an older sister for her whole-souled service.