Jesus’ Purpose Wasn’t Himself. Too Bad I Fail at Imitating Him.

Reading through the gospels over the last couple weeks has been one of the most beneficial things I’ve ever done when it comes to reading the Bible.

As a Christian in today’s society, it’s really easy to get a twisted, inaccurate view of who Jesus is and what He was about. And that’s not just from the secular world, but also from the Christian world. Different religions and different groups of people have different views of who Jesus is and what He was about. The answer to the question “Who is Jesus?” separates the world’s major religions, and even some minor ones, from Christianity. Judaism, Islam and Mormonism all differ from biblical Christianity on their interpretation of who Jesus is, and it makes all the difference.

The secular world looks at Jesus and generally has one of two reactions. One: they scoff and say He’s not worth their time, He was a bigot who had a bunch of rules. Two: they talk about His love and His goodness to people and say Christians should be better at following Him.

How often do Christians really line up with that first group? I think a little too much. Maybe they don’t say He’s not worth their time, but the way they act, the real Jesus clearly isn’t worth their time. And some Christians take what the second group says and goes way overboard.

I could use any number of examples of who Jesus really was to illustrate how we all miss the mark at following in His obedient, God-glorifying footsteps. Today, the one that sticks out to me is His humility.

In Mark 9, Jesus is transfigured on a mountain in a shocking display of God’s power, leaving Peter, James and John terrified. After the transfiguration, Jesus says, “And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (v. 9). There are several instances like this in the gospels where Jesus performs some miracle or something awesome happens and Jesus tells the person He healed or His disciples to not say anything.

As I read this, I wondered why He took that approach. There’s something really interesting in Jesus’ constant insistence on not telling what He’s done or not until a certain time. It’s a unique approach compared to other religions’ leaders, who are generally either super “look-at-me” or super-secretive or guarded about their actions. Jesus wasn’t guarded or super-secretive with what He did; most of His ministry was public for lots of people to see. He just displayed a heart of humility.

This is no surprise, really. I mean, a good chunk of Philippians 2 is all about Jesus’ humility and what it means for us:

[3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I don’t know exactly why Jesus told people to not talk about what He did for them. I can’t say for sure what it was. But my best guess is that He wasn’t doing what He did for Himself. He did it for two other entities.

First, He did what He did for God His Father. One instance where Jesus does permit someone He healed to speak was the demon-possessed man in the country of the Gerasenes in Mark 5. He tells the man, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (v. 19). Everything Jesus did was for the glory of God, it was FOR God. In John 5, Jesus says, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgement is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (v. 30). He spoke, healed, obeyed for God.

Second, He did what He did for us. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

And when I examine why I do things and match it up to Christ, I fall woefully short. Now there are some things I should do for myself. It is good for me to eat so I can be nourished. It is good for me to sleep so I can be refreshed. And, every once in a while, if the funds are available, it is good for me to buy a new soccer jersey so I can look fly.

OK, maybe that last one is a little iffy.

But here’s the point: Often I do so many non-life-preserving things for myself. Often I serve others for myself. Often I give money for myself. Often I lead prayers for others for myself. Often I follow Jesus for myself. My life can become very insular and encapsulated by one word: me. Oh how I wish this were different! I see the example of Jesus and I know that I fall short. Often I don’t do things for God or for others, but for myself.

Praise God for grace.

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