So, You Want to Be like Jesus, Do You?
What would you think if you heard that a person’s close friend was deathly sick but the person did nothing for a day or two? You’d think they were uncaring, right?
Unfortunately, that’s what Jesus did when He heard that Lazarus was ill. By the time Jesus had walked from east of the River Jordan, up the wadis of the Judean desert, and over the mountain to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days (John 11:39). Is that uncaring, or plain inhuman?
There is more odd behavior in the first part of the story. When Jesus announced His plan to travel to Bethany, the disciples were incredulous, “The Jews were just now seeking to stone You.” (John 11:7-8)
How can we become like Jesus when He acts this way? Do we even want to be like Him? Here and in many other situations, Jesus violates our most respected values and flies in the face of common sense. Before we draw a line in the sand, stomp our foot, and say, “I will not go that far”, let’s do something. Let’s give Jesus the benefit of the doubt. Assume (as we are told to) that He is the Son of God and that He came to show us how to live as God’s children—a life more abundant than we could ever attain naturally.
In order to live life the way He did, Jesus had to have laser-like focus. He had to dismiss the presuppositions, values, and customs of society. He had to ignore the opinions and criticisms of those around Him. He suppressed His instinct for self-preservation. He had to challenge, even force, His followers to walk into dangers they dreaded. Because of Him, His beloved friends had to mourn hopelessly when Lazarus died. Jesus’ focus was elsewhere.
Life is different when you’re the Son of an invincible King. For sure Jesus was fully human but, although He understood and joined in human nature and culture, He refused to give human thinking and practices first place. Always, His actions and words rested on kingdom foundations—the logical way to live when you know the King. That’s how He knew the sickness would not end in death but glory (John 11:4, 40). Walking in the daylight of His Father’s will was safe, even in enemy territory (John 11:9-10).
So, how do we become like Jesus? He already told us:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Someone who is completely poor has no possessions or resources. The poor are entirely empty and dependent on others. Similarly, the poor in spirit have nothing within themselves to draw on; a gaping hole waits to be filled. To the extent that we are empty of the accumulated and treasured junk of human ways we have inner room for the kingdom life. It does not mean isolating ourselves from others, disrespecting them, or disregarding the culture we live in. We can still have healthy fun at the poolside barbecue. But when the roots of our human ways have been weeded from our spirits then we are ready to learn a whole new way of living—as children of the King. That’s when our words start to bear fruit and miracles start to happen to the glory of God.