Walking As Jesus Walked: Introduction


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Human beings were originally made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:26).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.”

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About John Valade

I facilitate and teach in Wascana Fellowship. I have been married to Wanda since 1984. M.Div. from Briercrest Seminary, SK in 2011 and B.R.E. Canadian Bible College (now Ambrose University College) in 2000.
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10 Responses to Walking As Jesus Walked: Introduction

  1. James Pate says:

    Hi John. In what sense do you believe Jesus’ burden is lighter? It would seem that imitating the perfect man is a hard task! Is it because the Holy Spirit makes it easier? Or are there other reasons?

    • John Valade says:

      Hi James. To be honest, I had not given it any thought beyond Jesus’ own claim that it is easier. The Holy Spirit undoubtedly makes imitating Jesus easier, but there may be something else in view in the passage. Jesus had just finished pronouncing woe on cities that did not acknowledge Him as Lord in the final judgment.

      Jesus’ forgiveness takes most of the sting out of human life. Death is a hard burden that every human being would otherwise have to bear. Broken relationships are likewise a very hard burden. In Jesus we find healing from all of the results of sin, though only proleptically now. With hope that everything will be made right eventually, our burden is made lighter.

  2. Randy Olds says:

    Hi John,

    Like James, I’m not sure that the ‘rest’ of Jesus is actually easier. Although the Holy Spirit does provide aid, in many ways it is much more difficult (although infinitely more rewarding) to ‘walk just as He walked.

    I wonder if what Jesus meant by “I will give you rest” is more in line with the ‘rest’ that is repeatadly referred to in Hebrews 3:8 through 4:11.

    Especially toward the end of this passage ‘rest’ seems to mean resting from our own works and trusting in the work of Christ.

    What are your thoughts about this?

    Randy

    • John Valade says:

      Thanks, Randy. I confess that I not been reading the “rest” as being simultaneous with the “yoke” in chronology. That’s why James’ question came as a surprise to me. I agree that the rest is absolutely the one being referred to in the passages you mention above. The difficulty is determining exactly what that rest refers to.

      I wrote a paper about that rest for a Seminary class about the book of Hebrews and will attempt to attach it below for your reference. In brief: the passage in question is part of a sermon based on the refusal of Israel to enter the promised land after the report of the 12 spies. The “rest” seems to refer to peaceful settlement in the land of Canaan, as promised to the Israelites. A “rest” without both land and peace probably misses the point of the sermon.

      Link: Entering the Rest

  3. Pat says:

    Hi John, Perhaps if we look at what a yoke
    is for, we might understand some of what Jesus
    meant. A yoke to me is a collar or as my dictionary
    says ‘any frame connecting two other parts’. So to
    me we are fastened to the Christ. (For James and
    Randy) Would you not rather be fastened to the
    Christ than going it alone?

    At first I was thinking, “Christ has already done
    the hard part, which of course He has.” My
    thoughts keep moving here. I thought, ‘Christ
    has done the hard part by plowing the field first,
    so the ground is already soft, much easier for me
    to plow.”

    But then I thought, “Ok, a yoke means we are
    side by side. (if you recall me saying before John,
    about the wonder of all God’s people being yoked
    together, the long line we would make across the
    world!) So if we are side by side then the Christ’s
    strength flows into us and so our yoke is lighter
    because we now have the Christ’s strength in us.”

    • John Valade says:

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks for the additional thoughts. Jesus certainly calls upon His followers to take His yoke upon them. I’m not sure whether that means that we take up the burden He Himself bears alongside Him or whether that means we take a burden that He places upon us.

      The more I think upon this, the less I know…

  4. Pat says:

    Hi again, hope you had a good day. I thought
    I would comment again since I didn’t get in
    today to my usual discussion group. 🙂

    Were you referring to the fact that Jesus bears the
    burden of the sins of the world? That would be the
    burden He bears would it not? Thus we would be
    bearing the sins of the world with Him? That would
    not be a light burden though I wouldn’t think.

    As far as Him placing a burden on us I maybe
    misunderstood your meaning. He asks us to place
    our burdens on Him. He allows us to have trials or
    burdens to strengthen our faith (James 1:2-3 e.g.)
    or for whatever reason He feels is necessary. He
    accuses the ‘experts’ of placing burdens on His
    people. (Luke 11:46) He says His commands are
    not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

    I keep reading what you wrote. This part of the
    verse; “Take my yoke upon you and learn from
    Me” could also mean, if we are yoked with the
    Christ we are walking beside Him. When you
    walk beside someone every day you are going to
    learn all about that person.

    ” for I am gentle and lowly in heart” meaning He
    will be kind to us and will not ‘Lord’ it over us.
    “and you will find rest for your souls.” What can
    be more restful than walking beside someone who
    loves you and gently guides you in how to love Him
    and each other. (Shades of the Garden of Eden?)

    “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” His
    yoke is easy for He is not pulling us here and there
    and loading us with more than we can handle. Plus
    His burden is light because He does most of the work,
    we just have to have faith and follow where He leads.

    • John Valade says:

      Well Pat, we seem to have quite a discussion going right here. My original post was intended to be just the introduction to some explorations of Jesus’ work and character that we as disciples can learn from and incarnate in our own worship and living.

      What I was meaning by “His burden” was actually the redemption of humanity, which only Jesus makes possible. That said, He has a role for His disciples to play. According to the gifts He distributes according to the will of the Holy Spirit we are to further His goal of redeeming human beings into His Kingdom. What that seems to mostly mean is that we are engaged in spreading the gospel – the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as foretold by the Old Testament and told by the New Testament.

      We also seem to be meant to be examples of what the Kingdom could be like in the way we live our lives harmoniously together as a body.

      That is one way we might be able to understand bearing the burden He has given us. This burden is probably much better than actually losing ourselves and all of our family and friends to the ultimate death.

      As for bearing sin, we can’t even bear the burden of our own sin, let alone anyone else’s. Only Jesus has been able to do that. That was uniquely His burden, not ours.

    • John Valade says:

      Pat, I also think you are absolutely right that He means that He will not lord it over His disciples. I like your image of walking beside Him in the garden of Eden.

      I think you are also completely right about Him not loading us with more than we can handle. The one comment I might add is that we may not be as aware as He is of exactly how much that might be, and it might surprise us.

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