Mimicking the Master
Reading about Jesus and how He related with His 12 disciples is one of the main reasons why I love teaching and one of the driving factors behind my philosophy of education. I decided in college that I wanted my life ministry to mimic Christ’s life ministry as closely as possible. I am not even close to arriving at that goal, but through working on it, I have made a lot of observations of how He spent His time here on earth.
One area that I find encouraging is how He organized and pursued earthly relationships. As image bearers of His Father, everyone He met was equal in His eyes, but each person had a different role, relationship, or connection with Him. We can relate and mimic Him in that we have people in our lives that we relate with each of these ways.
The first group that I want to point out is the gentiles. He did not connect with them as a whole while here on earth, but rather just with a few individuals that reached out and wanted to connect with Him. This isn’t because He didn’t love or want to have a relationship with them, this is because His earthly ministry had a specific purpose that didn’t include them at that time. He came to fulfill prophecy and complete God’s plan as a sacrifice in Israel. After His death, this entire group’s relationship with Jesus completely changed which God predicted in His promise with Abraham, but until that point Jesus focused on relationships with people connected to the purpose that God had assigned Him.
I also want to separate the Jewish religious people that He connected with on an intellectual basis. This group as an entity rejected Him, struggling to move past their brain to their consciences. There were some that chose to follow Jesus. I think of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who did their best to honor Jesus after His death. Also, Paul was one very difficult religious and intellectual man that Jesus got a hold of, and He ended up being one of the most outspoken apostles after Jesus’ death.
Then there was the general public that followed Him around to hear what He had to say. Jesus actively spent time caring about their needs like food, safety, and their relationships with God, but He also is recorded to withdraw from this group for alone time with God and closer friends.
Next there was a group of close friends, followers, and family members that He visited regularly. These were people that He loved dearly and would often visit because of their closeness. Some obvious examples from this group would be Lazarus, Martha and Mary. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept over his loss, and He wanted to comfort his family. These were people that Jesus was very close with yet was not always with them.
Next we narrow in on Jesus’ close immediate circle of disciples. These were 12 chosen men that He not only loved as friends but also lived with them like family members. As their rabbi, they lived with Him, traveled with Him, watched His every move, did what He told them to do, and sacrificed their family, time, and future in order to learn from Him. Jesus didn’t usually withdraw from His disciples, though He did find private times to pray to God. He used every area of His earthly life to teach and prepare them for how to live a Biblical life. Basically, this was the heart of His day-to-day ministry.
Within the disciples, Jesus had His closest friends (Peter, James, and John). There were three that are singled out as close with Jesus, probably because they wanted to be closer (James 4:8) and because their personalities worked well to encourage and love Him. This doesn’t mean they were the best disciples; it just means that Jesus connected with them and was closest with them personally.
Beyond the three closest to Him, oftentimes John is referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Especially as Jesus came closer to the time that He knew He was going to die, His relationship with John stands out as especially sweet. When Jesus needed someone to take care of His mother, He leaned on John.
These groupings are not to say that any of these people are more or less loved by Jesus. Equality has nothing to do with these roles, considering we all equally bear the same exact image of God. Jesus demonstrated His equal love for every person by carrying their sin, dying on the cross, and conquering death in order to give each person a chance to live with Him eternally as His bride in Heaven.
Rather these groupings show how people hold different roles in different lives. Through the body of Christ, everyone should be connected to believers for love, encouragement, and accountability as well as connected to unbelievers for ministry and outreach, but that doesn’t mean that you or I have to be connected to every single person alive.
Some people are not part of God’s purpose for our lives. Some people don’t want to be a part of our lives. Some people we love, but God’s plan for us as individuals doesn’t always coincide. Some people God brings into our lives to disciple, and yet others He joins our lives together for our earthly ministries.
By looking at Jesus’ example, I have become more open to connecting with strangers while at the same time been able to show deeper love for the people closest to me. Mimicking Jesus means we love everyone as people, but we can organize relationships based on God’s plan for our life and what we need to make that happen.