Why We Can Follow Jesus
Oscar Cervantes is a dramatic example of Christ’s power to transform lives. As a child, Oscar began to get into trouble. Then as he got older, he was jailed 17 times for serious crimes. Prison psychiatrists said he was beyond help. But they were wrong! During a brief interval of freedom, Oscar met an elderly man who told him about Jesus. He placed his trust in the Lord and was changed into a kind, caring man. Shortly afterwards he started a prison ministry. Chaplain H. C. Warwick describes it this way: "The third Saturday night of each month is ’Oscar Night’ at Soledad. Inmates come to hear Oscar and they sing gospel songs with fervour; they sit intently for over 2 hours; they come freely to the chapel altar.... What professionals had failed to do for Oscar in years of counselling, Christ did in a moment of conversion." We want to take to heart what the apostle Peter wrote in verse 21 of the second chapter of his first letter, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”
As we take this to heart we want to look at some reasons Why We Can Follow Jesus: The first is that 1 He Is Our Standard. Every person who wants to be a follower of Jesus will be measured to His standard. That's what Peter tells us here in verse 21, “...leaving you an example.” He isn't saying that we are at Jesus' standard – that we are perfect or flawless. No, what He's saying is, “Strive towards the perfect example that only Jesus could leave us.” You know, each time when you read through the Gospels you see and hear the stories of a life lived to perfection. His humility was something that left many speechless over the ages. That God left His heavenly glory behind and took the state of a servant is unfathomable. He was indeed the Servant of all servants. When He got up from the table as we read in John 13 to wash His disciples feet Peter was very reluctant about the idea of His Lord washing his feet. And you know, Peter was right. It wasn't a reaction of not accepting Jesus' gift of cleansing. No, it was something of “No, never will the most important One in our midst do this. How can the Lord of lords and the King of kings humble Himself to the lowest point humanly possible?” But that's exactly what Jesus demonstrated – any person should be willing to take on the role of being the least. How do you think does this example of humility go off in our world where people are competing for the best, of people being obsessed with that number 1 position? A man in New York resigned from an executive position in a company to go and manage a food bank for a very modest income. He traded his designer suits for ordinary working clothes and an apron, because many times he dished food for homeless people himself. One day his former employer went by the food bank to offer him the position he had. He told the man, “This place is for losers. You don't belong here; snap out of it.” The man responded in soft voice, “In your glass palace, no one could see Jesus in my eyes. But here, it's like Jesus Himself hands a bowl of soup to someone. It's like he sees Jesus in me.” How much of the humility of Jesus is seen in our lives?
The love Jesus demonstrated was high and deep and far and long. He loved unconditional; He even loved those who rejected Him and those Who beat Him up just before He died on the cross. He loved the whole world while He hung on that cross. How was that possible? St. Paul referred to it as a mystery. It was like the apostle wanted to ask, “How could Jesus have loved unconditionally with everything He was subjected to? It was unfathomable.” But you see, the standard of the love He demonstrated was the “agapé” love. As most of you will know it means to sacrifice. How much have we sacrificed lately to show that we live with the standard of our Lord?
There is a second reason Why We Can Follow Jesus – 2 He Is Our Substitute. Peter says in verse 24, “He Himself bore our sins” in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by His wounds you have been healed.” What does the word substitute mean? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a person or thing that takes the place of someone or something else.” And you see, that's exactly what happened at Golgotha – we were the ones who were supposed to be nailed to the cross, but Jesus became our Substitute. The Father allowed Him to be arrested and tried in a crooked trial and He was sent to die for things He didn't do. There was nothing they could bring against Him. But in spite of that He was brought to Golgotha and the command of the Father was, “Release all those who deserve to be put to death and put my Son on the cross.” You know, it wasn't something like fiction from a thriller novel – it was realty. That's why we read in Romans 5: 7&8, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
A Korean Pastor told Rev. Martin Dale a story that was passed on from generation to generation in Korea. Most probably it was based on fiction. In the 4th century AD in Korea a man had two sons. The elder rose to become Chief Justice in the land and the younger became an infamous bandit. The elder brother loved his younger brother but was unable to persuade him to change his ways. Eventually the younger son was caught and brought before his brother, the Chief Justice. Everyone in the courtroom thought the younger brother would get off because it was well known that the Chief Justice loved his brother. But then the Chief Justice sentenced his brother to death. On the day of the execution, the elder brother came to the prison and said to his brother “Let’s trade places.” The younger brother agreed thinking that once they realized that it was the elder brother, the execution would not go forward. But the unthinkable happened – they went through with the execution. The younger brother was devastated and ran to the place of the execution and insisted that he be put to death as well, because he was the one who deserved to die in the first place. The executioner said, “No, your brother left a document that the penalty had been taken care of. You're free to go.” This story has been told to illustrate how Jesus took our place. And you will appreciate with me that what happened to Him wasn't based on fiction. He truly bore our sins.
There is one more reason Why We Can Follow Jesus – 3 He Is Our Shepherd. In verse 25 Peter says, “For 'you were like sheep going astray,' but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” It was a quote from Isaiah 53 Peter included in his letter. He remembered how much God's people were in need of a Shepherd to guide them from sin and self destruction to salvation and an eternal place in the presence of God. That's why Jesus Christ came to earth – He became the Good Shepherd Who didn't only come to guide the sheep, but to lay down His life for them. And of Him, the Good Shepherd, Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp, said, “When Jesus takes your hand, He keeps you tight. When Jesus keeps you tight, He leads you through your whole life. When Jesus leads you through your life, He brings you safely home.” Where will you and I be in life without Jesus, our Shepherd? I think we will be doomed. But we will never have to be, because He chose to be our Shepherd and so many times He went to fetch us just like what we read in the Parable of the lost sheep when 99 sheep were left behind so that one could be found. My dear friend, Jesus found you and me and He will lead us till the very end of our lives.
As we meditate on all the reasons Why We Can Follow Jesus – that He is our standard, that He is our Substitute and that He is our Shepherd – we can just kneel before Him and acknowledge, “Lord Jesus, You I will follow all the days of my life.”
Amen. Rev. Willem H. van de Wall