I reminded you last week of Rev. Ed Hay's
well-known comment that "Jesus' first followers imitated Him long
before they worshiped Him." Most modern Christians believe it's
essential to worship Jesus. We usually try to imitate Him only when we need
to do something for "extra credit."
Sunday's first two readings stress the
imitation aspect of our faith. The Gospel (Jn 10: 1-10) usually is
interpreted as emphasizing the worship dimension.
On Pentecost morning, the crowd asks Peter the
most important question of the day (Acts 2:14, 36-41). After having heard
his explanation of the Spirit-filled phenomena they had witnessed, they
demand to know, "What are we to do, brothers?"
Though Peter's audience seems to have been
convinced by his words - "that God has made both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified!" - they realize that they now have
something to do because of it. They must change the way they live their
In His name
"Repent and be baptized," Peter
answers, "every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy
In Scripture, whenever you do anything in
someone's name, you're doing it as that person would do it. So, those
who are "baptized in Jesus' name" are committed to carrying on
Jesus' ministry. They are to become "other Christs."
This parallels what the author of I Peter tells
his readers (2: 20-25). Directing his comments to newly baptized Christians,
he writes, "If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,
this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ
also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His
Most of us are resigned to having pain in our
lives. No one can permanently avoid it. Yet it bothers us when we have to
suffer for giving ourselves to others. We can always avoid that pain. If we
wouldn't be so generous, we wouldn't have to suffer. Such pain isn't a
"natural" part of life; it's part only of a life lived in faith,
the faith that encourages us to imitate Jesus.
As expected, the author goes into detail:
"When He [Jesus] was insulted, He returned no insult; when He suffered,
He did not threaten; instead, He handed Himself over to the one who judged
justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that free
from sin, we might live for righteousness."
The author's point is simple: Jesus doesn't
stop giving, even when it starts to hurt.
Gates and sheep
John never expressly tells us to imitate Jesus
in His role as shepherd and gatekeeper, but he does zero in on the
characteristics of a good shepherd and gatekeeper: "The shepherd calls
his own sheep by name and leads them out....He walks ahead of them, and the
sheep follow him because they recognize his voice." John then adds,
"I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come
in and go out and find pasture."
Though we frequently take a step back, fall on
our knees and say, "Thank you, Jesus!" after hearing those words,
John presumes Jesus' followers are just as concerned as Jesus for the
well-being of others. Shepherds and gatekeepers don't anticipate being
praised by the sheep they help. Yet, without their help, sheep couldn't
survive for long.
I presume John not only expects us to "Ooh
and Aah" about Jesus' generosity, but also to be a life-giving
element in other people's lives.
Those who believe that faith revolved around
adoration might have a hard time at the Pearly Gates, convincing Jesus that
they actually did what He intended His followers to do.