Cross Walk Devotional: Footsteps of Jesus

June 17, 2015 was supposed to be another Wednesday night prayer meeting.  Until it wasn’t.

For the members of the historic Emanuel AME Zion Church in Charleston SC, they welcomed a guest from off the streets to join them as they prayed and studied God’s word.  As they studied a passage from Mark’s gospel, Dylann Roof sat quietly next to the pastor. An hour into the prayer/study, without warning he pulled out a pistol from a bag he was carrying and killed nine people, including the church’s pastor.  Church members who had gone to church for solace and encouragement, entered their eternal peace instead.

Roof would later be captured and admit his guilt.  He had hoped his actions would ignite a race war. He also shared that he almost changed his mind about the shootings because the church members had been so nice to him.

Suffering is hard.

Even worse than suffering is unjust suffering.  Suffering visited upon you for doing the right thing.  For choosing God’s way instead of your own. Being a Christ follower never exempts us from suffering, and following His footsteps often take us down a rocky road.

The Bible is very clear about this reality.  In 1 Peter 2:20 (addressed to servants, by the way—see verse 18), we read: “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”

It is in that context, that Peter wrote the words that follow, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).  Peter encourages to view our suffering though the lens of the suffering of Jesus. Jesus’ life teaches us some truths about suffering: suffering was a necessary part of his work as The Messiah (Luke 24:25-27); His suffering was for others and had a greater purpose for salvation (Matthew 20:28; 26:28); if we follow Jesus, we will suffer as he did (Mark 8:34; 10:38-39).

Peter brings out these three points when he writes, “Christ suffered….for you…that you should follow in his steps.”

The word translated “example” means “something written underneath.”  I remember as a child, having a drawing book with thick, bold lines that I could lay a sheet of paper over, trace the lines and draw a picture.  Jesus’ footsteps boldly mark the path we must walk. He set a flawless example for us.

In the process, he “bore our sins in his body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24).  The reference to Jesus’ death underscores the truth that his physical death was essential for our sins to be forgiven.  That Jesus’ sacrifice was real—a matter of flesh and blood—a true historical event and not just the gist of myths. His wounds bring us healing, and through Him we are restored to “the Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).

Even when He was unjustly accused, unjustly beaten, unjustly killed—He didn’t fight back or retaliate.  He trusted God to vindicate Him. In the economy of God, suffering never gets the last word.

And the news gets better—If we share in the suffering of Jesus, then we will share in the victory of Jesus.  Even though we don’t taste it yet, we can be certain of it! Even when our suffering ends in death, we are not helpless victims.  We are not destroyed, even when decimated. We are joined to a Christ who was once dead, but will NEVER be dead again.

During World War II, the French resistance heard on their radios that the Normandy invasion had taken place.  When they heard the news, it changed their spirits. They still lived in a hostile environment. They were still surrounded by the enemy. But, suddenly they knew that victory was on the way.  They weren’t the ones who were afraid anymore—it was the enemy that was afraid.

And Peter is saying the same thing to suffering Christians.  The gospel is good news, and we have hope. Our hope moves upwards from the blackness of the grave to the brightness of glory where Jesus—even now—reigns victorious. Though we might not understand everything we need to know about suffering, we know where Jesus ended up—at the right hand of God.

And Peter is saying, “if you suffer for Jesus, if you follow His footsteps, that’s where you will be too.”

You are loved!