Do You Walk in the Savior’s Footsteps?
ONE of the finest compliments you can pay a person is to imitate him. Children often imitate their parents. Teenagers may model themselves after popular entertainers, adults after prominent leaders in the fields of business and politics. But how many try to imitate the greatest leader in human history—Jesus Christ?
A recent poll conducted by the Gallup organization revealed: “Eight in 10 Americans said they are making at least some effort to follow the example of Jesus.” A mere “twelve percent said they were making the greatest possible effort.”
What, though, makes Jesus more worthy of being followed than other influential men? For one thing, as The World Book Encyclopedia observed, Jesus Christ “has probably influenced humanity more than anyone else who ever lived.” But unlike other influential men, Christ did not lead armies into the field to make forced conversions. He did not rely on costly propaganda as do well-known evangelists today. Nor did he support any political party. His influence was due to the sheer power of his message and his way of speaking it.—Matthew 7:28, 29; John 7:46.
Jesus moved people to make dramatic changes in their lives, spiritually and morally. What other influential man has so beneficially affected so many? Too, what other human leader could be described as “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners”? (Hebrews 7:26) Jesus’ example is therefore a perfect one—unlike that of any other man who ever walked the earth!
‘How, though, can a weak and imperfect human follow such an example?’ reason some. Historian H. G. Wells in his book The Outline of History notes that from the beginning men balked at following Christ. “For to take [Christ] seriously,” says Wells, “was to enter upon a strange and alarming life, to abandon habits, to control instincts and impulses, to essay [attempt] an incredible happiness.” Concludes Wells: “Is it any wonder that to this day this Galilean [Christ] is too much for our small hearts.”
But is that really true? Granted, to follow Christ perfectly would be an impossibility. The apostle Peter nevertheless said that Christ ‘left a model for us to follow his steps closely.’ (1 Peter 2:21) Note, he did not say “perfectly” but “closely.” What kind of model, then, did Jesus leave us? How can we imitate it?
“Follow His Steps Closely”—How?
“I COULD never be as perfect as Jesus, no matter how much I pray or how hard I try.” Of those polled by U.S. Catholic, 89 percent agreed with that statement. Indeed, the prospect of walking in Christ’s footsteps may seem overwhelming—especially when you consider the image of Christ projected by the churches. Said one Catholic man: “On the whole, I think of Jesus as a warm, loving, caring, tolerant person who doesn’t expect too much of me. But when I get to church, Jesus is so piously deified I am lost and humbled with and by my imperfections.”
The Gospel records, however, do not ‘piously deify’ Christ. They show that Jesus was born, not of aristocrats, but into a working-class family. His adoptive father Joseph was a carpenter. Although little is known of Jesus’ childhood, one incident is quite revealing. When Jesus was 12 years old, his parents took him on their annual visit to Jerusalem for the Passover. On this occasion he became engrossed in a Scriptural discussion, and his family left without him. The understandably worried Joseph and Mary found him three days later in the temple, “sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and questioning them.” Moreover, “all those listening to him were in constant amazement at his understanding and his answers.” Imagine, at only 12 years of age he could not only ask thought-provoking, spiritually oriented questions but also give intelligent answers. Doubtless he had been aided by his parents’ training!—Luke 2:41-50.
If you are a young person, is it possible for you to follow Christ’s example? Indeed it is! For Christ himself left you “a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 Peter 2:21.
Youth is a good time in which to acquire a basic knowledge of God and his Word. True, others you know may waste a lot of time on comic books and TV. But why not follow, instead, in the footsteps of Jesus, who as a boy took delight in learning about Jehovah? Because of his love of spiritual things, “Jesus went on progressing in wisdom.” (Luke 2:52) So can you.
To illustrate: In a South African school, a teacher was asked if he could prove that the Bible is true. He confessed that he could not. A young boy, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, boldly said: “I can definitely prove that the Bible is true!” How? He recalled information he had studied in a recent issue of The Watchtower. So after gaining permission to speak, he went on to explain the meaning of a prophecy recorded in Daniel chapter 2. The class was amazed as he showed how the prophecy foretold the rise and fall of successive world governments and their ultimate destruction by God’s Kingdom. A fine discussion ensued in which he had opportunity to answer many questions.
Coming to Do God’s Will
The foundation of Bible knowledge and understanding that Jesus laid in youth later moved him to take a serious step. “Jesus came . . . to the Jordan to John, in order to be baptized by him.” It was now the due time for him to shoulder his responsibilities as God’s minister. Baptism meant the presenting of himself to do God’s will.—Matthew 3:13-15.
Christians are likewise required to imitate Christ by getting baptized. Baptism is a sacred symbol, an outward sign of dedication. When we agree to work for a person or a firm, we first ascertain the requirements and conditions and often follow through by signing a contract. But without a signature, the contract is not binding. So it is with baptism—it makes our dedication to God valid. In a sense, like Jesus we say: ‘Look! I am come to do your will, O God.’ (Hebrews 10:7) We thus become God’s servants, his ministers!—2 Corinthians 3:5, 6.
Of course, like Jesus, you will first have to gain a foundation knowledge of God. But Jehovah’s Witnesses can help you—and your children—do this by a systematic study of the Bible.
Putting the Ministry First
After getting baptized, Jesus entered a period of fasting, meditation, and prayer. No doubt this prepared him for the temptation he next encountered. Satan the Devil offered him rulership over “all the kingdoms of the world.” What a career Jesus could have had if he had accepted the Devil’s offer! Christ, however, realized that such a career would have been short-lived. He immediately rejected the Devil and instead “commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matthew 4:2, 8-10, 17) For the rest of his earthly life, Christ was a full-time minister of God’s Kingdom.
Similarly today, a Christian would not allow Satan’s world to allure him into making high-paying jobs and careers his purpose in life. Why, when Jesus called his early disciples, “at once they abandoned their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:17-21) Would it therefore be wise to become entangled in a net of worldly pursuits? Jesus commands his followers today to ‘preach the good news of the kingdom.’ (Matthew 24:14) True, you may have a family or other responsibilities to care for. Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses therefore use evenings and weekends to carry out their Christian responsibility to preach. Some are even able to arrange to do so full-time!
In South Africa one young man planned to attend a university upon leaving school. However, after symbolizing his dedication to Jehovah by baptism, he felt an obligation to enter the full-time ministry. His father, not a Witness, at first disapproved. But after much discussion, he finally agreed to his son’s serving at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Africa.
After nine happy years there, he married and entered the full-time preaching work with his bride. Later they had a child. Nevertheless, they asked Jehovah to help them continue as full-time ministers. They recalled Jesus’ promise that if one puts God’s Kingdom first, “all these other things [material needs] will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) This proved true. “We have lived frugally over the years,” says the father, “but we have given our daughter a pleasant home and cared for all her material needs.”
“Mild-Tempered and Lowly in Heart”
“Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down,” said Jesus, “and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30.
When performing miracles, such as expelling demons, Jesus did not take the credit for himself but openly admitted that he accomplished such things “by means of God’s spirit.” (Matthew 12:28) And though able to command the attention of an audience in such a way that “they were astounded at his way of teaching,” he did not seek glory for himself. (Luke 4:32) Rather, he would say: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.”—John 7:16.
True Christians today try to show the same humility. For example, when teaching others, they do not call attention to themselves. Rather, they are quick to give credit to Jehovah and his organization for whatever ability they have in order to convey the message of God’s Word. “What do you have that you did not receive?” asks the apostle Paul.—1 Corinthians 4:7.
Jesus’ humility was also shown in his being willing to cover thousands of miles, not in a chariot, but on foot as an itinerant preacher. On one occasion he and his disciples were so tired that they needed to “rest up a bit.” Yet when a large crowd showed up, hungry for spiritual encouragement, Jesus forgot about his weariness and “started to teach them many things.”—Mark 6:31-34.
In Lesotho, Africa, a traveling minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses (called a circuit overseer) and two companions recently showed a similar spirit. They walked for 22 hours across mountainous terrain to visit a few isolated fellow Christians. Weary of traveling, the circuit overseer decided to rest the following day. But such a crowd came to greet him and ask questions that, exhausted as he was, he got up and taught them about the good news of the Kingdom. The response was so encouraging that the weary travelers felt well rewarded for their efforts.
The apostle Paul encourages us to “look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:2) This we can do by regularly reading the Gospel accounts and meditating on ways in which we can imitate Christ. For example, Jesus showed courage when he denounced the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of religious leaders, even though he knew they hated him and would kill him. (Matthew 23:1-36; 26:3, 4) He remained calm and self-controlled under attack. (1 Peter 2:23) In his teaching, he displayed understanding of human nature and the ability to express deep truths in simple language.
But Jesus’ most outstanding gift was his love. “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) He even added a new dimension to the word love by telling us to love our enemies.—Matthew 5:43-48.
What a supreme model Jesus was for us! Imitating him is not easy, and we may stumble from time to time. But never should we give up. (Galatians 6:9) For there are millions who are successfully endeavoring to follow Jesus. Why, the very one who brought you this magazine is no doubt among them and would be more than happy also to help you to follow Jesus’ steps—CLOSELY!
[Blurb on page 5]
Even as a youth, Jesus showed an intense interest in spiritual matters. Do you imitate him in this regard?
[Blurb on page 6]
Christ rejected a worldly career in favor of the ministry