Jesus as Just an Example? (Keller)

Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions by [Timothy Keller]

It is a biblical concept for Christians to imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Thes. 1:6, etc.). Of course we can’t imitate Jesus perfectly, but one aspect of living the Christian life is seeking to being like Christ. When we – with the help of the Spirit – imitate Christ, it brings glory to God and is a blessing to other people. However, we do have to understand that Jesus didn’t come to be just an example. He didn’t only come to show us how to live. Here’s how Tim Keller said it as he reflected on the story where Jesus visited a wedding in Cana (John 2):

“Many people say, ‘I don’t like the church and I don’t accept Christian doctrine. I don’t believe in hell and God’s wrath and blood atonement and all of that. But I really like Jesus. If people just imitated Jesus and followed his teaching, the world would be a better place.’ The problems with that view, as common as it is, are many and profound. If Jesus was thinking about his death at a wedding feast, that meant he was nearly always thinking about his death. He did not come primarily to be a good example. And I’m glad he didn’t. Do you know why? He’s too good! He’s so perfect that as an example he just crushes you into the ground. Anyone who really, seriously, seeks to make him a life model, who pays attention to the details of his character and practice, will despair. He is infinitely beyond us, and comparing yourself to him will only grind your genuine aspirations to moral excellence into hopelessness.

But we see here that he did not come to tell us how to save ourselves but to save us himself. He came to die, to shed his blood, to take the cup of curse and punishment os we can raise the cup of blessing and love. The centrality of Jesus’ death is a most important insight for understanding the Gospels…

Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus, p. 76-77.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015