Reading Time: 8 Minutes
The book, “Imitation of Christ,” by Thomas a’Kempis has been influencing Christians for over 500 years. What if someone attempted to imitate Jesus Christ in thought, word and deed? A’Kempis answered that question in a compelling book that has been read and re-read by thousands over the years.
In 1896 Charles Sheldon began preaching a series of Sunday evening sermons in story form. He asked what would happen if in every instance people ask, “What would Jesus do?” His book still resonates today and many people wear a “WWJD” wrist band to remind them to ask that question on a regular basis.
Both Sheldon and a’Kempis knew that the most genuine lives are lived when we model them after what Jesus taught and did. Today’s passage in Matthew’s Gospel will illuminate Jesus’ character and behavior as prophesied by Isaiah. We are encouraged to contemplate how we can imitate him and live like he lived.
This is how Matthew related Jesus’ ministry and Isaiah’s prophesy.
“Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.'” (Matthew 12.15-21)
In six short verses Matthew captured a snap-shot of how Jesus conducted his ministry. As we see Jesus in action, let’s see how we can imitate him and walk in his steps.
Life Promotes Life
The preferred method that Jesus used to help people experience the life he came to give was to use healing, deliverance and the announcement of the good news of God’s kingdom. This passage, like so many others, emphasizes the healing aspect of what Jesus did.
I believe that Jesus acted on the principle that life promotes life. When he set people free from illness and oppressive evil forces, he gave them life. When Jesus announced that the rule of God’s effective power was present, he gave people confidence to place their trust in God’s leadership of their lives.
During Maywood Baptist’s Saturday night worship service on the parking lot, Steve spoke of finally getting free from the pain of his father’s death years ago on August 1. He spoke of the Good Foundation and their leaders and how their words and actions have been used by God to give him a full and blessed life.
Who in your sphere of influence needs new life? How can God use you to give that person healing or deliverance or good news? How can you promote life in them by being a life-giving person?
Powered by the Holy Spirit
Everything that Jesus did, was accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Luke emphasizes this aspect of Jesus’ life in the greatest detail. God spoke through Isaiah and said, “I will put my Spirit upon him” (Matthew 12.18, see also Isaiah 42.1).
In the next section we will be studying (Matthew 12.22-32), Jesus highlights the role of the Holy Spirit in his work. Let’s remind ourselves with a quick review of the place of the Spirit in God’s plan.
— Matthew noted Isaiah’s words: “I will put my Spirit upon him” (Matthew 12.18, see also Isaiah 42.1).
— John the Baptist said Jesus would “baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3.11).
— When Jesus was baptized “the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him” (Matthew 3.16).
— Jesus told his followers that they were to depend on the Holy Spirit, when they spoke. He said, “For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10.20).
As imitators of Jesus, are we being directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit? Do we depend on the Spirit to help us give life-giving words to others?
Not Seeking Publicity
Jesus did not seek publicity and, in fact, “ordered people not to make him known” (Matthew 12.16). Jesus was once chided by his brothers for not having a more public ministry. They said, “No one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world” (John 7.4).
Without a doubt, Jesus took a very different approach to a mission that would have world-wide impact. He served in out of the way places in Galilee. He told his followers to not make him known. What can we learn from him concerning publicity?
While walking out of the door of a pastors conference, one of my friends turn to me and said this about the speaker, “He has the gift of self promotion.”
Scott Stoner is someone who has the gift of not seeking publicity. During the Saturday night worship service at Maywood, Scott brought bundles of clothes for men who are entering into recovery. He casually mingled with the men and with no fanfare at all blessed several people.
I wish I had a video to show you Scott in action, serving without self promotion. He learned that spirit from Jesus.
** Care for the Vulnerable
Isaiah also predicted that the Messiah would care for the vulnerable. He said,
“A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory” (Matthew 12.20; see also Isaiah 42.3)
A broken walking stick is no longer useful and needs to be replaced. The linen wick in a bowl of oil that is nearly burned out will not give light to a room. Both the stick and the wick are normally discarded.
Jesus never saw people as worthless and easily discarded. He came to give victory to all persons.
Coach Jake Taylor included stories of Maywood Baptist people in his sermon on Saturday night. Mark Baker told the crowd of a friend he has made who lives in a homeless camp. Mark’s friend wanted a Bible, and Mark was happy to provide one for him.
Not long ago, Mark visited the homeless camp and his friend was standing in front of several of the other people in the camp. He was reading from the Bible and talking about what God has done for everyone.
If we are going to imitate Jesus, we will find ourselves lifting up people whom the world normally puts down. We will include in our circle of friends those who are normally excluded.
Use Confrontation Sparingly
R. T. France, an author that I have been studying for Matthew, believes that Jesus withdrew from Capernaum to avoid a shouting match with the religious leaders. I think that is an interesting thought and is consistent with the prophesy from Isaiah.
“He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.” (Matthew 12.19; see also Isaiah 42.2).
Jesus did not initiate conflict. However, when conflict came to him, he did not shrink away from it. Tomorrow’s article will provide a good example of Jesus engaging in conflict with wisdom and thought-provoking words.
The Book of Proverbs gives us excellent encouragement to imitate Jesus in how he approached conflict. It says,
“A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 5.1-3)
Let’s learn from Jesus today and seek to imitate these qualities in his life. Let’s experiment and see how things work out as we live like our Savior.
Dear Jesus, we marvel at your character and we want to be like you. Please help us through the power of your Holy Spirit.