I’d love to say that there was one characteristic of Jesus that was the clear choice to with which to start this series. The reality is that it’s hard to pick one aspect which really defined Jesus’ time on earth. But there is one overarching theme that permeated Jesus’ life, even from his earliest years. And I picked it because I suspect it’s the one Jesus would start with.
Because at every opportunity, Jesus made sure that people understood one thing about him:
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. — John 6:38
Jesus sought God’s will from the beginning
Luke writes that when Jesus was 12 years old, Joseph and Mary journeyed with relatives and fellow pilgrims to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. But on the way back to Nazareth, they learned that their caravan had left Jesus behind. So they went back to the city and found him in the temple, talking to the teachers there about the scriptures. When his parents found him, Jesus seems surprised that they were worried: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”
As much as anything else, that sentence defines Jesus’ life. Over and over, we read Jesus expressing a fundamental concern: that everything he did in this life was a means of glorifying God (John 17:4).
He came to the world not of his own accord, but God’s. (John 8:42) And he taught people so that they could be true children of God (Matt. 5:45), and have the same unity with the Father that he enjoyed (John 17:6-10). He taught only what the Father gave him to speak (John 12:49). His continued focus was to reveal the Father to his disciples, so that they could in turn reveal Him to the world. He alone was adequate to that task (Matt. 11:27), and he fulfilled it until his death.
We don’t know a lot about Jesus’ personal life, and outside of three years, we know almost nothing. But in those three years, we see the picture of a person with a singular focus on God. He lived the “disentangled” life that Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 2:4—a life that contrasts sharply to the prediction of the seeds that would grow up among the thorns and weeds and bear no fruit. We see in Jesus a drive that no doubt came from a knowledge that he only had a short time on earth to establish what God had given him to accomplish.:
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, ” Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest ‘? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” − John 4:31-35
He preached that to his disciples, and he lived that in his life. He glorified God in the way that God wishes to be glorified: put Him first.
What does Jesus’ example mean to me?
I’ll never be Jesus. But I can look at Jesus and see God’s plan for mankind modeled before my eyes. We are created in the image of God for one purpose and one purpose only: to glorify God. Every good deed, every work of righteousness or kindness, every act of love—all of it is done “so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
If I am not showing God in my life, if my faith isn’t a defining part of who I am, then I have not accomplished the purpose for which I was put on this earth. If I am not speaking “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11), but instead teaching my own ideas and opinions, or seeking to elevate my own importance as a teacher, I am denying the example of Christ.
Jesus understood that better than anyone who has ever lived. And he calls us to follow him.