The life of Jesus of Nazareth is recorded in the four canonical books we call the Gospels. Each tells the story from a different angle, and the books fit together to paint a striking image of the man Christians believe was simultaneously human and divine. Thus there are aspects of his life that we can never emulate – his moral perfection, his perfectly clear wisdom, his redemptive death. And there are also aspects of his life that, through the empowerment of the Spirit, we can seek to emulate. So, focusing on those parts of his life we can pursue … what did Jesus do?
First of all, Jesus welcomed. His welcome was as broad as the people he encountered. He was not a power broker; he was not strategically (or cynically) “networking” so as to maximize his potential influence. He did not see any one person as more righteous or valuable than another. Rather, Jesus’ welcome was total. He hung out with people, especially with the marginalized. He loved to be with the poor and the outsiders. He liked to be with prostitutes and drinkers, doubters and thieves. These people found in Jesus someone who saw past their flaws to their inner person — the core part that the God whom Jesus called Father had created in his own image.
Second, Jesus healed. He healed the sick in every way imaginable. He brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, life to the dead. He made people to walk again, speak again, feel again. And he brought spiritual healing. To those oppressed by evil spirits, to those who were manic or depressed, to those whose inner demons had led them to isolation and alienation, he brought remarkable freedom. There is scarcely any clearer New Testament witness to any other aspect about Jesus than that he was a healer.
Third, Jesus summoned. His call was for people to repent and to follow him. He welcomed and healed anyone, but he did not invite them to stay in their painful lives — he called them to change. He gave them hope that there was a different way of life available. He taught them what spiritual power without religious oppression looked like. He showed people what it meant to be convicted by God without feeling condemned. Jesus was remarkable in his spiritual genius, which could draw people to transformation without him having to exert pressure or power.
Fourth, Jesus commissioned. The gospels are replete with language about how Jesus’ ministry, while in some ways utterly unique, was in other ways definitively intended to be imitated. His final words in the gospel of Matthew were “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matt. 28:19). This was not a religion for a single cultural moment.
Rather, it was intended to launch a global movement of the kingdom of God, bringing life and hope to all people.