Jesus, a Model to Follow Closely
“In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 PETER 2:21.
1, 2. What kind of disciple was Peter during his ministry with Jesus?
DURING a period of three and a half years, Simon, who became known as Cephas, or Peter, had the privilege of enjoying intimate association with Christ Jesus. (John 1:35-42) After about a year of discipleship, he was named as one of the 12 apostles. (Mark 3:13-19) The Gospel accounts show that Peter was bold, impulsive, and expressive. He was the one who said he would never deny Christ, come what may. Yet, under pressure, he denied him three times, even as Jesus had prophesied.—Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:66-72.
2 Peter was the apostle who said to Jesus, “You will certainly never wash my feet.” Then when Jesus admonished him, he went to the other extreme and said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:1-17) It was this same Simon Peter who, when Jesus was arrested, acted boldly by drawing his sword and slashing off the right ear of Malchus, the slave of the high priest. That also drew a rebuke from Jesus: “Put the sword into its sheath. The cup that the Father has given me, should I not by all means drink it?”—John 18:10, 11.
3. What can we learn from Peter’s example?
3 What do these and other incidents indicate about Peter? That very often he did not think and reason like Jesus. Further, that he did not always have the mind of Christ. That is often true in our own case. We fail to focus on matters in line with Jesus’ way of thinking. Our reactions are flawed by our imperfect human nature.—Luke 9:46-50; Romans 7:21-23.
4. What events later affected Peter’s way of thinking? (See Galatians 2:11-14.)
4 However, things began to change for Peter from Pentecost onward. Moved by holy spirit, he spearheaded the preaching work among the Jews in Jerusalem. (Acts, chapters 2–5) Under the illumination of holy spirit, he also adjusted his thinking to be in line with the mind of Christ regarding the Gentiles. (Acts, chapter 10) Peter showed humility, a quality that is essential for us if we want to be in harmony with Christ.—Matthew 18:3; 23:12.
Unseen but Known
5, 6. Is the fact that we have never seen Christ a hindrance to our following his example?
5 By the time Peter wrote his first inspired letter, about 62-64 C.E., there had been time for him to reflect on his ministry with Jesus and to understand Jesus’ mind on matters better. Early in this letter the apostle recognizes a simple fact—that most of the brothers in Asia Minor had never known Jesus personally as he had. But was that a barrier to having Christ’s mind and imitating his example? Peter states: “Though you never saw him, you love him. Though you are not looking upon him at present, yet you exercise faith in him and are greatly rejoicing with an unspeakable and glorified joy, as you receive the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”—1 Peter 1:8, 9.
6 Peter’s words should have equal application to all of Jehovah’s people today. We have not known Christ personally, but if we make “a diligent inquiry and a careful search” and ‘keep on investigating’ as did the prophets, then we can, to a greater degree, acquire the mind of Christ.—1 Peter 1:10, 11.
Jesus, the Perfect Model
7, 8. (a) What general counsel does Peter offer in his first letter? (b) What is the basic meaning of hy·po·gram·mosʹ? How does Peter apply it?
7 With his clearer understanding of Jesus’ thinking and under the guidance of the holy spirit, Peter could offer counsel to his fellow believers on how to reflect the mind of Christ in their differing circumstances. (2 Timothy 3:16) Thus, he exhorts all Christians “as aliens and temporary residents” to abstain from fleshly desires. He encourages them, although they are suffering for righteousness’ sake, to maintain fine conduct in their daily lives.—1 Peter 2:11, 12.
8 A few lines later Peter introduces a subtle illustration, saying: “If, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God. In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.” (1 Peter 2:20, 21) The Greek word translated “model,” or “example” in many other translations, is hy·pogram·mosʹ. This literally means “under-writing,” or “writing-copy, including all the letters of the alphabet, given to beginners as an aid in learning to draw them.” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, J. H. Thayer) Thus, schoolboys were sometimes given waxed tablets on which the teacher had written letters in model script with a stylus. The student had to follow the example and try to make an exact copy underneath. Peter makes a strong point here, for he is the only writer of the Greek Scriptures who uses the word hy·po·gram·mosʹ. He thus highlights the fact that Jesus left a perfect example for his followers to imitate.
9. What is implied by the Greek word translated “mental disposition”? (Compare Matthew 20:28.)
9 Later, Peter draws a lesson for us from Christ’s endurance of suffering. “Therefore since Christ suffered in the flesh, you too arm yourselves with the same mental disposition [Greek, enʹnoi·an].” (1 Peter 4:1) Here again he uses an unusual word, enʹnoi·a, which is found only twice in the Greek Scriptures. (See Hebrews 4:12, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation.) According to J. H. Thayer, enʹnoi·a means “mind, understanding, will; manner of thinking and feeling.” Therefore, we have to adjust to Christ’s way of thinking and feeling. But how can we make that adjustment? To what degree should it be made?
10. What does Peter mean by the expression “arm yourselves”?
10 Peter makes singular use of the Greek verb ho·pliʹsa·sthe, which means ‘to arm oneself as a soldier.’ Any soldier who arms himself halfheartedly is not likely to survive very long in battle. Peter’s words, therefore, leave no room for lukewarm imitation of Jesus’ manner of thinking. We must be whole-souled in our desire to have Christ’s “mental disposition,” or “way of thinking.” (1 Peter 4:1, Today’s English Version) This reminds us of how Paul emphasized that a Christian must arm himself with “the complete suit of armor from God” in order to be able to stand firm against Satan and his world.—Ephesians 6:11-18.
Christ’s Mental Disposition for Wives
11. What counsel does Peter give for Christian wives?
11 Halfway through his letter, Peter turns his attention to wives and husbands. In that ancient pagan world, where women had very few rights at all, it was extremely difficult for a Christian woman to maintain her integrity if she had an unbelieving husband. She was subject to reviling, suffering, and possible divorce for having abandoned the ancestral gods. The situation is not much different in modern times. But Peter again emphasizes the importance of having Christ’s mental disposition, being willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake. He says: “In like manner [that of Christ, as mentioned in the previous verses], you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.”—1 Peter 3:1, 2.
12. (a) How does a wife’s submissive, mild spirit reflect Jesus’ example? (1 Corinthians 11:3) (b) How is her mild spirit viewed by God, and possibly by her husband?
12 Yes, an unbelieving mate can sometimes be won over, not necessarily by persistent preaching tactics, but by the “deep respect” and “faithful and conscientious” example of the submissive wife. (1 Peter 3:2, The Jerusalem Bible) Her “quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God,” can also help her husband to perceive the results of having the mind of Christ in daily life. (1 Peter 3:4) Why does that mild spirit reflect the disposition of Jesus? Because Jesus himself said: “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.”—Matthew 11:29.
Christ’s Mental Disposition for Husbands
13 Husbands likewise must reflect Christ’s mental disposition as they manifest true love for their wives. Peter again exhorts: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” (1 Peter 3:7) For that ancient pagan world, this counsel was surprising—assign honor to a woman! But the Christian congregation had to be different from the world. In Christian marriage, there had to be dignity and mutual respect.—1 Peter 4:3, 4.
14. How can a husband show honor and consideration for his wife?
14 Christ was always considerate toward his disciples and toward the crowds who followed him. (Mark 6:30-44) This ties in well with Peter’s counsel to husbands to take into account the feminine condition of their wives. A Spanish translation expresses it this way: “Regarding husbands: have tact in your shared life, showing consideration for the woman, because she is of a more delicate constitution.” (Nueva Biblia Española) If a husband follows Christ’s model, he will take into account the delicate feminine side of his wife’s life. That includes those difficult days when she needs more kindness, patience, and consideration. Certainly a loving husband will exercise self-control and will not be demanding on such occasions. True love is self-sacrificing.—Compare Leviticus 15:24; 20:18; 1 Corinthians 7:3-6.
15. What example did Jesus set in matters of headship?
15 True, the “husband is head of his wife.” But who is his model in the exercise of that headship? Paul clarifies this by adding, “as the Christ also is head of the congregation.” (Ephesians 5:23) These modifying words leave no room for despotism and petty tyranny in the Christian marriage relationship. In his dealings with the disciples, Christ never abused his power (his headship) but, rather, used his power in line with Bible principles.—Compare Matthew 16:13-17, 20; Luke 9:18-21.
Christ’s Model for Men
16. (a) Why was Peter very conscious of the need for humility? (b) Who especially must manifest this quality?
16 In his ministry Jesus constantly highlighted the quality of humility. In his illustration of those invited to a marriage feast, he said: “For everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) Peter was very conscious of Jesus’ mental disposition in this respect. Could he not remember Jesus’ example in washing the disciples’ feet? (John 13:4-17) Therefore, in his first letter he exhorts the older men and the younger ones to manifest an attitude of humility. The elders ‘should not lord it over the congregation but become examples to the flock.’ The younger men should be in subjection to the elders. But then all of them, young and old, should ‘gird themselves with lowliness of mind, because God opposes the haughty but gives undeserved kindness to the humble.’—1 Peter 5:1-5.
17. How does the Greek verb for “gird yourselves” highlight humble service?
17 Here again Peter makes unique use of a word to drive home his point about humility. He says: “Gird yourselves [Greek, eg·kom·boʹsa·sthe] with lowliness of mind.” This verb is derived from a root that means to knot or tie, and its meaning is related to “the white scarf or apron of slaves, which was fastened to the girdle of the vest . . . and distinguished slaves from freemen; hence, . . . gird yourselves with humility as your servile garb . . . i.e. by putting on humility show your subjection one to another.”—A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, J. H. Thayer.
18. (a) What should dedicated men have in mind regarding their motive? (b) In what special way are many sisters an example of humility?
18 How can dedicated men apply that counsel today? By recognizing that any position of responsibility within the Christian congregation is an assignment of humble service. Some may mistakenly think that to be a ministerial servant, a congregation elder, a circuit, district, or Bethel overseer is to achieve a position of prestige and power. In that case they do not have the mind of Christ on the matter. There is no place for selfish ambition if we have Christ’s mental disposition. Our motive for serving God and our brothers must be pure. For example, many of our Christian sisters are taking the lead in pioneer and missionary service. Others are zealous publishers of the good news in spite of persecution or domestic opposition. And all of this without any incentive for ever becoming ministerial servants or overseers!
Love—The Cornerstone of Christ’s Example
19. What is the cornerstone of Christ’s example? How do we know that?
19 What does Peter emphasize above all else regarding the mind of Christ? He writes: “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) How did Jesus reflect that love? He taught: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:12, 13) Shortly thereafter, Jesus sacrificed his life in behalf of mankind. And certainly his love has covered a multitude of sins! Therefore, if we really have the same mental disposition that Jesus had, we, too, will manifest “intense love for one another” and be forgiving.—Colossians 3:12-14; Proverbs 10:12.
20. If we want to follow Christ’s model closely, what must all of us do?
20 Christ’s example is summed up in one word—love. If we truly follow Jesus’ model closely in all we think, say, and do, we will also practice love. As Peter stated: “Finally, all of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly affection, tenderly compassionate, humble in mind, not paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling, but, to the contrary, bestowing a blessing, because you were called to this course, so that you might inherit a blessing.”—1 Peter 3:8, 9.
[Picture on page 18]
The teacher wrote a master text on the top lines; the student strove to make a perfect copy (hy·po·gram·mosʹ)