This week’s session was inspired by the introduction of Larry E. McCall’s Walking Like Jesus Did: Studies in the Character of Christ (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 2005). All Scripture quotations in this post are from the New King James Version.
Many Christians are familiar with the statement in Matt. 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We probably think of this in terms of laying our burdens down before Jesus in prayer, and being given rest from them.
What most of us don’t do is read the next two verses, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We may forget that there is, in fact, a yoke. A horse that has its yoke exchanged for another one probably does not assume that the workday is over – and neither should we.
Jesus seems to want us both to learn from Him and to take responsibility for the mission He has called us to. The Apostle John seems to say the same thing in 1 John 2:5-6. There seems to be a sense in which we learn from Jesus’ teaching as well as from His actions.
Romans 8:28 is another often-loved passage that talks about how “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” The next verse talks about that purpose. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” It seems that the Apostle Paul wanted people to make sense of Jesus’ example for believers by appealing to believers’ sense of their ultimate calling of “conformity” to the “image” of Christ (Romans 8:29-30).
Human beings were originally made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:26). Yet in Adam and Eve we lost our dominion (Heb. 2:6-9). Hebrews 2 describes what should have been, yet is no longer – except that in Jesus Himself humanity regains what has been lost. This makes perfect sense if Jesus is indeed the very image of God Himself as attested in places such as Col. 1:15, Heb. 1:3 and 2 Cor. 4:4. In order for human beings to be in God’s image we must be conformed to Jesus Christ’s image.
In fact, it makes even more sense if we go on to Heb. 2:10, where the author notes that Jesus is the one “for whom are all things and by whom are all things.” If all things are for Him, it is not much of a stretch to suppose that it had been “predestined” for Him to become human and live among us whether or not we needed salvation. In other words, we were always intended to be in Christ’s image. Being conformed to Jesus Christ’s image is, in effect both our calling and our destiny (1 Cor. 15:45). (For instance, if redemption is the family business, what role do we have now that we are part of the family?)
This engendered a great deal of discussion within our group about how much of this calling comes about entirely by grace and what, if anything, we must do to make our calling and election sure. If Jesus refers to His calling for us as a “yoke” it may behove us well to take this lighter burden and continue working. Next time we’ll begin examining some aspects of Jesus’ teaching and work to see if we can understand more fully how to “walk just as He walked.”