The slogan, “What Would Jesus Do?” was a big thing about thirty years ago. It dates me, I know, but the other day I was reminiscing about it and realized that as lovely as the idea was, it really couldn’t definitively solve any problem. Different people have different ideas as to what Jesus might do in a situation.
The better question to ask is, “What did Jesus SAY?”
I’ve never done a Bible study on all of the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. So, I’ve given myself a challenge: start with Matthew, write down every sentence Jesus said in all four Gospels, and reflect on those. I’m not in a hurry. Three to five sentences a week will keep me interested without burning out. And I’ll pass on verses that really cut to the heart—that Sword of the Spirit wielded by the third member of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit ran me through with the very first verse where Jesus spoke.
Jesus has come down to the river to be baptized by John the Baptist. John objects. Jesus is far greater than he! But Jesus says to him, “No argument with you there, but we’re gonna do this anyway because God told me to. This way we ‘fulfill all righteousness.’” (Linda’s paraphrase except for those last three words.)
Jesus decided to obey His Father before He started His ministry on earth. Baptism:
1. officially consecrated Him to God.
2. allowed John the Baptist to declare Him to be the Messiah.
3. invited others to follow His example.
4. initiated the message that He had come to identify Himself with man’s sins and would be our substitute, the Lamb of God.
If Jesus was obligated to be baptized, how much more are we?
He is perfect. We are not.
Obedience is crucial to our well-being.
Perfect obedience for the length of a day is rare to find in any human. But here’s one instance of perfect obedience.
The perfect day.
It started as Joshua prepared to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River to Canaan. Finally.
Forty years earlier, the generation who exited Egypt had not obeyed God. They never made it to the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb remained of that generation—two of millions of adults—had trusted God one hundred percent.
The children of that disobedient generation were now ready to enter the Promised Land.
God gave Joshua crazy instructions:
1. Cross the Jordan River on foot while it’s at flood stage.
2. Priests carrying the ark go first and stand in the middle of the river.
3. Take twelve stones from the river to build an altar on the other side of the river.
4. Take another twelve stones and build an altar in the middle of the riverbed.
5. The men of the three tribes who would reside on the east side of the river should cross with the rest of Israel. Wear full battle gear.
6. Priests finish the crossing last.
The entire nation never flinched.
The priests carrying the ark stepped into the strong current. They had no idea how they’d be able to keep their footing, but God would do something powerful. Some of them had probably been old enough to remember when the Red Sea parted for Moses.
God didn’t disappoint them. The river rose in a gigantic wall on one side while the last of the water drained downstream.
Twelve men, one from each tribe, picked up a large stone as they crossed the riverbed, hoisted it to their shoulders, and carried it to the west bank.
Meanwhile, Joshua took twelve stones and created an altar near where the priests stood with the Ark. As all the people passed by, he encouraged them. Once every Israelite had set foot on the other side of the river, the priests stepped out, too. The wall of water rushed down the dry bed, then continued to flow as it always had.
Joshua and the people took the twelve stones and built an altar. It would be a memorial of God’s power and Israel’s obedience, a story to tell through the generations. (As I am telling it now!)
It had been a perfect day.
That’s what obedience does. It allows us to grow toward perfection.
Can you imagine the Israelites’ confidence having traversed a dry riverbed while its waters were held at bay? Can you imagine what the people of Jericho were thinking as they realized something was wrong with the river and a horde of humanity was crossing over? Some of them in armor. Those three tribes would soon be joined by the rest of the army. Theirs was not a friendly visit.
Jesus found it necessary to obey His Father. His obedience prepared Him for the temptation in the desert that immediately followed.
Israel obeyed Joshua’s God-given instructions in every detail that day in Joshua 3. Their obedience encouraged further obedience when they marched around Jericho for days. It built their faith and courage when God gave the order to shout, and the walls fell, and the battle began.
When you and I obey God’s Word and any instructions we sense from His Spirit, our own spiritual strength is built up. We are ready to serve as Christian soldiers and join the spiritual war waged all over the earth.
Are you ready?