In this Easter season we are considering the implications for us of the
Resurrection of our Lord and His appearances to the disciples. What
can it all mean? And Sunday by Sunday we are drawing out the
various implications for us.
The Resurrection is taught always in the context of, and as the
fulfillment, the vindication of Christ’s passion and death on the
Last week, we were reminded of Jesus first words to the gathered
disciples on the first day of his Resurrection – Peace be unto
you – and he showed them his hands and his side. As Christians
we have been assured by Christ’s resurrection that His offering on
our behalf has been accepted. We are forgiven if we trust in His
self-offering, we are justified through faith in Him. We do not
need to spend a lifetime trying to make up for the past – Christ’s
suffering and death meets God’s justice for all our sins. Knowing
that greatest gift, the forgiveness of our sins, we know a kind of
resurrection even now, a new freedom. And being filled with that
reconciling love, filled with Christ’s Spirit, He asks us to enter
into a ministry of reconciliation with others – Whosesoever sins
ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye
retain, they are retained.
This morning we are looking at another aspect in which the Resurrection
of Jesus is a vindication of His passion and death upon the Cross –
it is the example of his godly life.
Human beings are by nature imitators. We learn by imitation of those
around us. When we were children, we imitated our parents – like
ducklings following their mother, we watched carefully and copied
what we saw in them – their virtues and their vices, because of
their love for us and our desire to be like them – they were our
gods. As teens, there was often (or is often) an antagonism with
our parents as we struggled to be independent – we see our parents
faults, that they are human, and we are so disappointed that they
are not gods (sometimes we are angry with them for that) and we
search for other models. We slavishly seek to imitate those who
seem to have it together – we follow like sheep.
As has been pointed out by a modern anthropologist (Rene Girard), we
either seek to be like another, to desire what they desire, or we
respond by choosing the opposite things to what someone we admire
chooses – in a sense we are still led by the desires of others –
whether to be like them or to be opposite them, we are still
followers, we are still, very much, like sheep.
When we enter on the spiritual life more seriously, as we begin to
realize, by grace, that we are confused lost sheep, we look around
for mentors, and God graciously places them in our path, to help
lead us heavenward. There can be a kind of slavish following of
them, unconsciously, repeating their words, even their mannerisms,
the way they talk.
It is not wrong, necessarily, it is just the way we learn. We learn by
imitation of what we see – we are sheep.
If our mentors, or we ourselves, who mentor as parents or as teachers,
are wise, they or we will realize the great responsibility and the
great danger of enjoying the mentoring role – having disciples begin
to follow. We must have the humility to know we are not gods, but
point that person to the One who will not fail them, rather than
using that special mentoring relationship for our own benefit.
We think of John the Baptist, as the perfect example of the great but
humble teacher, who brings his disciples to Jesus and then, when He
sees Jesus, says, He must increase and I must decrease. John
is not a teacher for his own benefit, but a true teacher – as soon
as he sees one better than himself, he defers.
The world is full of false teachers, of hirelings. The gurus from
India, for example, who began to come to North America in the 60’s
gathering disciples around them, and gathering, strangely, vast sums
of money also, some choosing to be served on nothing less than gold
plates. But the West has plenty of its own gurus, gathering
disciples, being examples of material success, or of political
success, or who have success because they are famous. Public
figures become lightning rods for our desires for these same
things. Through the media, even without there being any direct
contact between the public figures and the individuals following
them, they can become mentors.
We have this strong desire to rise up, to be more than we are, and we
learn by imitation, we are like sheep.
How do we know who is trustworthy? As we grow up, as we proceed on the
spiritual life, how can we not be taken in by the false teachers?
The Resurrection reveals to us two things about Jesus as the Good
First, that Jesus is the ultimate Mentor to whom all true mentors must
point. He is the Good Shepherd because He giveth his life for
the sheep. Has any guru, given up his life for his sheep, or
have they simply consumed the lives of their sheep? Do society’s
rich and famous and powerful, give up their lives for you? Some do
in limited ways, by their public service. But will any of them be
with us when the wolf comes, at the darkest moments in our lives
when Satan comes to tempt us, or in the final moments of our lives,
even at the moment of our death? Will any of them see you through
that gate of death and bring you through to the other side? Jesus
will. He has shown us by His death for us and by His Resurrection.
Second, the way that Jesus taught by His example is vindicated by the
Father by His Resurrection. His way, His way of the Cross, His way
of redemptive suffering, is the way we are to imitate. And we can
be certain that we will not go wrong by following Him in everything
by being perfect imitators, because He is perfect Love. As
St. Peter says,
thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief,
suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be
buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if,
when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently; this
is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called:
because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that
ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile
found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again;
when he suffered, he threatened not…
We are continually making decisions to follow, to imitate others around
us. And we can get so lost, following the wrong mentors, the
hirelings, or even being led unconsciously by unworthy mentors.
But this will be less and less the case as we trust more and more in
In Jesus and in His way, we find a Teacher, a Mentor, the Good
Shepherd who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the One and
the Way that if followed will never disappoint.
Ye were as
sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and
Bishop of your souls.