Jesus went out into the world to do something, not for himself, but for his Father, and he devoted himself to it entirely.
He was continually engaged in it himself, while he remained here, going from place to place, encountering hardship and danger and suffering, and all without any reference to his own selfish interests, but regarding solely the work he had to do for the salvation of men.
And at last, when he left the world, his final charge to his disciples was, that they should be faithful and persevering in carrying forward this work.
It is surprising how much the example of Christ loses its power over us, simply on account of the absolute perfection of it. If he had been partly a lover of pleasure, if he had, for instance, built himself a splendid mansion, and ornamented his grounds, and devoted some portion of his time to selfish enjoyment there.
Or if he had entered into political life, and devoted a share of his attention to promoting his own honor, and yet if he had torn himself away from these temptations, so as finally to have devoted his chief time and attention to the glory of God and the good of men, than perhaps then we would view his example as within our reach.
But as it is, since he gave himself up wholly to his duty, since he relinquished the world altogether, Christians seem to think, that his bright example is only, to a very limited extent, an example for them.
Jesus was a man. His powers were human powers. His feelings were human feelings, and his example is strictly and exactly an example for all the world. Still few consider him a fair example. Most Christians think that the general principles which regulated his conduct, ought to regulate theirs, and the most they think of doing is to follow in his steps slowly and hesitatingly, and at a great distance behind.
How perfectly clear it is, that a very large proportion of professing Christians are doing their own business in this world, and not their Father's. There are a great number of nominal Christians who have no idea of the position Christianity takes in regard to our duty.
Our business here is to comfort everyone, and to relieve everyone's suffering. We cannot persuade great multitudes of men to love and obey God, as Jesus endeavored to, but we may lead our brothers and sisters to do it, by our silent influence and happy example. We can bear sufferings patiently, and take injuries meekly, and thus exhibit the character which God wishes to have prevail here.
The light we let shine may be a feeble light, and it may illuminate only a narrow circle around you; but if it is the light of genuine piety, it will be in fact, the glory of God.
The example of Jesus is an example for all mankind. It is intended for universal imitation, and they who pass through life without imitating it, must find themselves condemned when they come to their account.
And how strange it is, that God should find so very few willing to do His business in this world. Even of those few, most, instead of entering into it, heart and soul, do some good accidentally, and call themselves Christians, but they seem to have no idea that God has any work for them to do.
But let us return to the example of our Savior.
Jesus was in some respects the most bold, energetic, decided and courageous man that ever lived; but in others he was the most flexible, submissive and yielding.
There is something very bold and energetic in the measures he adopted in accomplishing his work. The great business which it was necessary for him to effect before his crucifixion, was, to spread it effectually throughout Judea, his coming, and the principles of his gospel.
The delivery of the Sermon on the Mount is, probably, the most striking example of moral courage, which the world has ever seen. Every sentence was loaded with meaning, and so concisely and energetically expressed, that the sentiment could neither be misunderstood nor forgotten.
By this discourse, containing, as it does, so plain and specific an exposition of the false notions of religion then prevailing, the Savior must have known, that he was laying the foundation of that enmity, which was to result in his destruction.
Yet, he brought out all the distinctive features of prevailing error, and contrasted them with the pure principles of his spiritual religion, with a plainness and a point, which was exactly calculated to fix them in memory, and to circulate them most widely throughout the land.
It was always so. The plainness, the point, the undaunted boldness, with which he exposed hypocrisy and sin, and the clear simplicity with which he held up to view the principles of real piety, have no parallel. And yet he knew perfectly well, that in direct consequence of these things, a dark storm was gathering, which must burst in all its fury upon his unsheltered head.
But the enterprising and determined spirit, with which Jesus entered into his work, was not satisfied with his own personal exertions. He formed the extraordinary plan of sending out simultaneously, a number of his most cordial friends and followers, to assist in making the most extensive and powerful impression possible, upon the community. At first he sent twelve, then seventy, who went everywhere, presenting to men the simple duties of repentance for the past, and of pure and holy lives for the future.
Does God have work for us to do? Yes! There is a world to be restored to holiness and happiness, and He asks our help in doing it.
(Adapted from “The Man Christ Jesus” by Jacob Abbott In “The Corner-Stone,” 1834)