The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all record the story of the life of Jesus, the One promised and prophesied of throughout the Old Testament. During His ministry there was much discussion over His identity. On one occasion He asked His disciples who people were saying He was. They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14). He then asked the disciples who they thought He was. Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16).
When Peter confessed that Jesus was “the Christ” he was saying that Jesus was “the King.” The titles, Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) mean the same thing. They mean “the anointed one,” referring to the practice in ancient times of pouring oil on the head of a newly named king as a sign of approval. Jesus accepted the designation of “Christ” or King when Peter confessed this truth. When Jesus was before the Roman governor, Pilate, being tried for the accusations brought against Him, one of the accusations was that He said He was a king. Jesus qualified His answer, saying that His kingdom was “not of this world.”
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37).
So how was it that Jesus lived like He did? Why did He not demand royal treatment, insisting that people bow before Him wherever He went? Why did He not live in a place as a king-designate would have been entitled to?
And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-21).
Actually the way Jesus lived is the way He was supposed to have lived. Coming as He did as a man – an ordinary human being – He was able to identify with ordinary human beings. Had He come as one above the average man He could not have approached them as He did. Had He lived above the masses of humanity He could not have participated in our suffering and endured our temptations.
Although the Hebrew writer was referring to Jesus as our high priest, nevertheless the principle holds true for His kingship as well.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).
So, how did Jesus live? Some have the idea that He was a dissenter – a rebel against the government and against the norms of society. While it is true that He did often find Himself at odds with authorities – especially religious authorities – He did not seek out confrontation and controversy. It found Him as He went about His ministry of “doing good” and preaching the kingdom of God. It was the religious authorities’ misunderstanding of God’s law that brought the accusations and controversy. He was often accused of breaking he law when He actually was keeping the law in the way God always intended it to be kept.
Without doubt, the most striking thing about the day-to-day life of Jesus was His humility exhibited in the way He dealt with people. He did not approach people in a condescending manner, but treated them with dignity and respect. That is illustrated in His meeting with the Samaritan woman. The Jews would travel miles out of their was to avoid going through this country because they considered the Samaritans unclean. Jesus deliberately chose to travel through the region known as Samaria, but not only to travel through it, but to actually converse with a Samaritan woman. And not only a woman, but one whom He knew to have been, what some would have considered, a moral failure. He had sent his disciples into the nearby town while He remained at Jacob’s well. When the woman came to the well to draw water, He asked her for a drink. This led very naturally into a conversation…
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:9-10).
This approachability of Jesus was illustrated many times when people came to Him seeking healing for some illness of infirmity. Sometimes people asked Him to come with them. He never refused to respond to the needs of those who needed Him.
“…all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.” (Luke 4:40).
He was tender and compassionate with people who were sinners. The woman taken in adultery is a case in point.
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:3-5).
After challenging the integrity of the woman’s accusers… “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus then turns to her and asks her where her accusers were (they had all fled) and asks to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” When she replied, “No one, Lord.” He simply says to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” No lectures, no berating and shaming her, no humiliation, just “Don’t do it any more.” She had been humiliated enough. She already knew she was a sinner. He treated her with the kind of dignity any creation of God deserves.
One more incident in the life of the king-designate illustrating the kind of life He lived took place at the Passover just before Jesus was to be crucified. He observed the Supper with the disciples and after they had eaten He took a towel, tied it around His waist, took a basin of water and got down on His knees and washed the disciples’ feet! (John 13).
Imagine the scene… Jesus, the one who had come into the world to be King over God’s kingdom, down on His knees doing the menial task of washing His disciples’ feet! He was no less than God – serving human beings! This scene speaks volumes as to the nature of God and the nature of the One who came to “seek and save that which was lost.” Since He came to reveal the Father, this act of humble service was a statement of the nature of God.
It was also a lesson for the disciples about kingdom living. Jesus explained to them when He had finished washing their feet…
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. (vs. 12–16).
Jesus washing His disciples’ feet is a preview of what He was about to do for them – not to cleanse their feet, but their souls. He was about to perform the greatest act of humble service that has ever been done. He was about to die on the cross to save them – and us – from sin. This is what He had come from heaven to do. This is what His life was about.
This was how God was dealing with the problem of sin in the world. Man had fallen by trying to elevate himself to the level of God. In a remarkably paradoxical way God was bringing redemption to man by lowering Himself to the level of a servant. The whole of Jesus’ life is filled with paradoxes such as this. Jesus overcame death by dying! He overcame Satan by yielding to the greatest injustice ever perpetrated! He became King by serving! He rules over His kingdom as a servant! He makes His servants kings!
Unless we see these things in Him, we do not understand Him. Unless we see these things as the model for human life, we do not understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus – a Christian. Truly, the life of Jesus is the pattern for the lives of His people, both the individual and the church as well. We are to live like He lived. Living like Jesus is living like the King!