We focus a lot on the death of Christ. It was important. In fact, His death was symbolically practiced for centuries before He actually did it Himself — for the last time. Beginning with Adam’s son, Abel, a sacrificial death of a pure and “undefiled” animal became the symbol of the soon-to-come final sacrificial death of Jesus for man’s sin. Someone had to die for sin and wrong. He did.
But, it appears that the life He lived was also important. If the only reason He came was to die for us, then He could have showed up as a fully grown man, died for us, and then returned to heaven.
It seems that the three to three and a half years of public ministry was designed to show us how to live — how to perpetuate His mission. It is interesting that the term “Christian” means “little Christs.” Our name defines our mission.
It is now our turn.
The life He proposed for those who would choose to follow is also sacrificial. He used phrases like “putting others before ourselves,” choosing a life of following Him over a life of minimizing Him while we gave preference to meeting the expectations of family members, treating our enemies in loving ways and dying for our friends if necessary. He said it would be an incredibly hard life — being misunderstood, mistreated and unappreciated. But, it would also be a life full of contentment and peace in spite of those difficult circumstances.
The sacrificial kind of love He proposed for us was elaborated on by a guy that initially thought of Jesus as a threat and a false representation of God. Paul describes love as intentional and sacrificial, especially for husbands with their wives.
Jesus also emphasized the value of being a “seeker of lost sheep.” It seems that all of His references to sheep had to do with those that belonged to Him. Being His substitute then means “leaving the safe 99” and going out after the one lost and straying sheep — that believer that got hurt, disappointed or discouraged while with the other sheep.
He seemed to believe that part of His time here was designed to teach and equip those who would still be here when He left. There were some occasions when Jesus taught large crowds of people, but most of His recorded teachings were to the small group of committed followers who would represent Him when He returned to Heaven. Teaching others the practical basics of a life lived with purpose and meaning reinforces our own belief while fanning the flame of theirs.
Being like Him has some perks. Even though He was God’s son, He said He was unable to do what He did without the direction and empowering of His Father. As His present-day representatives we have access to the same clear directions and power/strengthening He did. In fact, He said we would do even greater things than He did. All for the asking.
Ready to take His place?