Following in the Footsteps of Jesus
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps.
— 1 Peter 2:21
When Denise and I were first starting our traveling ministry many years ago, we would occasionally make time to stop at the Oregon coast to enjoy the sights with our young sons. We didn’t have a lot of money back in those days, so we stayed at some relatively low-class hotels, but the good thing about those hotels was that they were located right on the edge of the beach. The rooms might not have been the nicest, but the locations were terrific!
Denise and I would take our young sons to walk, run, and play on the beach. It was such fun to stand in the water and watch the ripples of the sea come in and slowly wash the sand out from between our toes. We’d collect seashells, chase seagulls, climb the big rocks that jutted out into the ocean, and eat Dungeness crab for lunch every day. But the funniest thing about those trips was watching Denise and the boys as they tried to walk in my footprints!
I’d walk out front, and Denise would follow behind me, trying ever so carefully to step exactly in each of my footprints. It was hysterical watching her, because my stride was so much bigger than hers. She would nearly leap from one footprint to the next in order to exactly follow in my steps. But the most humorous moment was watching our small sons trying to step in the footprints I had left in the sand. The boys would stretch forward with all their might to reach the next footprint. They’d step short of my steps, jump to get to the next footprint, sometimes trip and fall, and so on. It is one of my favorite memories of their childhood.
The reason I’m telling you this story today is to illustrate the apostle Peter’s words in First Peter 2:21. He wrote, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps.” Peter told his readers and us that when we face hardships with people or circumstances that make us suffer, we must look to Jesus and “…follow his steps.” In yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, we studied the word “example” (hupogrammos) and learned that we must be committed to copying Jesus’ every movement. But in First Peter 2:21, Peter took it one step further and told us that “…we should follow his steps.” What does he mean by that phrase?
The word “follow” is the Greek word epakoloutheo. It is a compound of the words epi and akoloutheo. In this context, the word epi means after, and the word akoloutheo is the word that means to follow. When compounded into one word as they are in this verse, the new word means to carefully follow after someone with the goal to replicate what he or she does. It depicts a person so committed to imitating another person that he is willing to follow him exactly and to do whatever he does. This is a picture of true discipleship. The word epakoloutheo could only describe a person who is very serious about replicating someone else’s life in his own. Although everyone will not heed it, this call to replicate the life of Jesus is a call that God has given to every child of God.
But as Peter continued, he used a word to explicitly show how closely we are to imitate the life of Jesus in our own lives. Peter went on to say that we should follow “in his steps.” The word “steps” is the Greek word ichnos, a word that really means footprints — precisely like the foot- prints I left in the sand at the beach. It is the picture of us putting our feet exactly where Jesus first placed His feet, stepping in His very footprints and following His actions in every circumstance we face. The verse could therefore read, “We must ardently follow Him with the goal of replicating His life in ours. Yes, we must be so committed to follow Him that we step in His very footprints.”
This means we must learn to walk in Jesus’ steps, even if it seems His stride — His standard, His example, His way of living and loving and forgiving — seems much bigger than the level we’re used to walking in right now. Like my small sons who tried so hard to walk in my footprints, we must be committed to leap from one footprint of the Master to the next until we have learned to easily match His stride and keep the pace He set while He walked the earth.
This must have been very encouraging for the early believers who were suffering so many injustices at the hands of the Roman government and pagan communities. By following the footprints of Jesus, it made it easier for them to know what to do, how to act, what to say, what they shouldn’t say, and so on. Jesus’ footprints were right there in the four gospels — all they had to do was read them and then do what Jesus had done when He was in a situation similar to theirs.
The truth is, no one was ever more mistreated than Jesus. When soldiers spat on Him, Pilate scourged Him, religious leaders laughed at Him, and He was even betrayed by His own disciples, He continued to walk in love and forgave them all. He set the chief example about how we should respond when we find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control. Therefore, in moments when we feel injustice is being carried out against us, it is imperative that we remember the example Jesus set for us and then “follow His steps.”
So instead of giving in to frustration and letting your emotions get the best of you when you’re having a hard time, look to Jesus’ example and strive to walk exactly as He walked. Once you’ve found His footprints in the Word of God, pick up your feet and step forward by faith to follow His steps, which are clearly outlined. With those footprints before you, you can do what He did, you can say what He said, and you can walk how He walked.
If you will let the Holy Spirit help you, it is possible for you to successfully walk through this time in your life. What a blessing that you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself! Just look at Jesus’ steps in the sand, and stretch forward by faith to step in His footprints. By yourself, you can’t do it. But if you will let the Holy Spirit help you, He will show you how to keep the Master’s pace and match His stride through every challenge along the way to a victorious outcome!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I thank You for setting the supreme example for me! Although You were abused, misused, and falsely accused, it never affected Your love or Your steadfast commitment to minister to the world. Today I make the choice to follow in Your steps as they are outlined in the Word of God. I refuse to allow my emotions to dominate me or to permit my feelings to be hurt. I make the decision to ardently follow the example that You left for me. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will give my best efforts to walk in the footprints You left for me in the Word of God.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I will move out of the place of hurt feelings and step forward to walk in same steps that Jesus took. His steps are clearly outlined in the Word of God, so I will read the Word, study Jesus’ life, and learn how Jesus responded to people and situations. With His example before me, I will do what He did, say what He said, and walk how He walked. Following in His footprints makes it much easier for me to deal with the circumstances at hand!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Has there been a time in your life when you didn’t know how to respond to conflict or injustice that was being leveled against you?
- When you look at the life of Jesus and see how He responded to people who treated Him unfairly, how do you fare in comparison to His example? By studying His example, what do you now see that you should do differently when you are confronted with a difficult situation?
- Why don’t you take some time to read through the gospels to see how Jesus responded to the criticism that was leveled against Him just before His crucifix- ion? Take notes of what you read, and see what you can learn about the godly way to respond to false accusations and undeserved blame.