For many years of my Christian life, I’d hear arguments for certain pious and devotional habits based on what Jesus did on earth. For example, someone told me that Jesus prayed in a solitary garden for hours – we should do the same. Or, Jesus took harlots and murderers in and accepted them as they were, so we should as well. Another: Jesus ate like this, so we should too. I’d always balk at such suggestions, but without detailed explanation why we maybe should not do everything Jesus did.
W. Brakel (d. 1711) responds well as he talks about our fasting and Jesus’ fast: “He did not eat at all during that period, nor did He designate His fasting to be an example to be followed by us. Many things He either did by virtue of His divinity or in regard to His mediatorial office, we are neither able nor permitted to imitate” (The Christian’s Reasonable Service, II.7).
That’s great. We can and must “imitate Christ,” but it doesn’t follow that we do everything Christ did in exactly the same way. As Brakel hinted at, when Jesus “designates” his followers to do something, we do it; if he does not, we’d better find other Scriptural principles to guide us in our obedience/piety and our interpretation of Jesus’ actions.