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Imitating Christ
by Dou Ting Didymus
Mark 6:3-34; also: Jer 23:1-6 Psalm 23 Eph 2:13-18

Who is your role model? Who do you look up to? Who is your hero? Who do you imitate?

As little children, we look up to our mothers and fathers. Our heroes are Mama and Papa. Our parents serve as our role models. This is proper. It’s proper providing father and mother are truly good examples for their children.

But as we grow older different role models present themselves. As teenagers, some of us look up to sports heroes or movie stars. As young adults, some of us find our heroes in political leaders.

But then we grow older. We mature. We are no longer children. “When I was a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” As we leave childhood, our thinking changes, our role models change. Today, who is your role model? Who do you pattern your life upon? Who do you imitate?

As Christians, who is that person who we should take as our role model? Who is that person we should pattern our lives after? If we strive to be the best human beings possible, if we reach for perfection… then who has set the best example for us? Who should we imitate?

There was a monk who lived during the 15th Century. His name was Thomas A. Kempis. He wrote a wonderful little book. The book is called The Imitation of Christ. Thomas A. Kempis’ book was originally intended for monks. But over the centuries this small volume has proven to be one of the most popular references for Catholics. In many homes, if there are two religious books on the shelf … one is the Bible and the other is this small volume called The Imitation of Christ. Each word of this book is music. Every passage is a profound truth.

As Christians, Jesus Christ is our role model. Imitating Christ is the essence of our lives. We should pattern our lives after Him. We should imitate Him in all that we do. So what did he do? Who was Jesus Christ? How did He live his earthly life? What was His personality like? Let’s take a few moments to get to know Jesus Christ.

Today’s readings emphasize for us Christ’s role as a shepherd. The prophet Jeremiah, disappointed with his generation’s leaders, foresaw an ideal king to come. The great prophet foresaw the Lord Jesus, a shepherd who really cared. That was and is Jesus. He is a person who really cares about people.

In His earthly life, Jesus was fully human and fully divine. On his human side He experienced all the feelings that we do. There were times when he was dead tired. There times when He was exhausted, physically and mentally. There were times when He desperately needed rest from his teaching and healing. In today’s reading from Mark we get to know Jesus Christ on a human level. We see a Jesus who needed time to himself.

There were times when He desired to withdraw from the crowds. We, too, should sometimes withdraw from the crowd. Jesus was under continuous strain and needed rest. We, too, should take time to rest. It was also necessary that some time be set aside so Jesus could be alone with His disciples … to teach them. We, too, should take time to be alone with our children, to teach them. In addition, Jesus needed time for prayer. And so we should set time aside for prayer.

As we learn from today’s reading in Mark, so many people came and went before Christ and his apostles that these spiritual workers didn’t have a chance to eat. We know from last Sunday’s readings, that the disciples had just returned from a demanding assignment of preaching, healing, and casting out demons. Their energies were spent; it was time for solitude. They were tired, exhausted and hungry. So Christ and His disciples got in a boat and set out in the Sea of Galilee. They meant to get away for awhile. They left the town of Capernaum and headed for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They had to sail about four miles to get to the other side.

Before He left in this boat, the people had been watching Jesus. They were astonished at the things He said and did. They wanted more from Him. It was easy to see the direction His boat was taking. Many people just started jogging around the top of the Sea of Galilee. They meant to be there when Christ arrived. And they had a pretty good idea where He was headed.

The River Jordan flows into the North end of the Sea of Galilee. Two miles up river was a village called Bethsaida Julias. It was for this place that Jesus was headed. Near Bethsaida was a little plain or flat place where the grass always grew. This was to be the scene of wonderful happening. With five barley loves and two little fishes … Jesus would feed over five thousand people. He would feed them because, as a good shepherd, he cared about them. He knew they were hungry. He cared about their physical comfort. Jesus was an extremely thoughtful person.

When Jesus arrived at the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the crowd was waiting for Him. He would get no rest. He would get no sleep. He would find no solitude. The people would not leave Him alone. They needed Him.

What would be your reaction if you were in Jesus’ shoes? You have healed and you have taught, and you have driven out demons until you’re exhausted. You try to get away for a well-earned rest. And still people approach you to be served. What would be your reaction?

Jesus Christ had a reaction. When His boat arrived near Bethsaida Julias, and Jesus stepped off, He saw a vast crowd. There were thousands waiting for Him. Did he chase the people away? Did he plead for a little time for Himself? Did He ask from some courtesy and respect? No, He did none of those things. “His heart was moved with pity for them. And He began to teach them many things.” The good shepherd set aside His tiredness; he ignored His hunger … and he took care of his sheep. He prepared for them a meal in the wilderness. He made it His duty to build up and restore their souls. And, eventually, He laid down His life for them.

The Jesus Christ that we should imitate was a selfless, loving, and caring person. He was an attractive person. Children, who have a special ability to pick out frauds and phonies among adults … children came willingly to seek out Jesus and climb in His lap. When is the last time a group of strange children came to you, seeking your company and your blessing?

The Christ that we should imitate had compassion. He had compassion for individuals and for the vast crowd. We, too, should be compassionate people. The Christ we should imitate brought people together; He did not divide and make factions in His community. He healed personal differences. He made all of humanity one by breaking down the barriers of race and ethnic group that create hostility and keep us apart. If Jesus were to make the seating chart for this church, He would make sure we were all mixed up and sat together. As our lesson from Ephesians teaches us, He created a new man from us, a man who follows one universal law of love for God and neighbor.

Christ is our role model. For Christians, imitating the life of Christ is the essence of our lives. Get to know Jesus Christ. Get to know the shepherd. If you do, you too will run all night around the lake to meet Him. You, too, will marvel at his tenderness. You will be moved to love by His caring.

Be like Him. Be like Jesus. If you endure every trial and slight and slander and even a blow from your enemy … if you do this without hatred toward them and without demanding revenge … then rejoice and shout for joy. Live a life in imitation of Jesus Christ and His great gift of mercy will come to you in the evening, the morning, and at noon time and even when you eat and drink and often in conversation and when you sing and read and pray and lie down on your bed. As the great Psalm says, that mercy will pursue you “all the days of your life.” Be like Him. God bless.