“What would Jesus do?” is a good question, but not big enough

“What would Jesus do?” is a good question, but not big enough

What would Jesus do? It has turned up on bracelets now for decades, and many Christians find it a helpful thing to consider. After all, Jesus was without sin, and if we want to live a life that pleases God, surely Jesus is a useful example! And yes, of course we see aspects of Jesus’ life on earth that we should follow. The way Jesus interacts with people, the humility he showed, the confidence in prayer; all of these are things we would benefit from reflecting on.

Yet, if this is the main way we think about Jesus, it is clearly not enough.

Let me explain. I heard a sermon recently where the preacher was explaining Mark 10:46-52. That’s the passage where Jesus healed the blind man outside Jericho. After getting Jesus’ attention, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” After saying that he wanted to see, Jesus healed him, and the man went on to follow Jesus.

The main application the preacher drew from this was that we should notice those people whom others might not, the disabled, the quiet, the ones with problems. And we should ask them what we can do for them. In doing this, we are being like Jesus. That is a valid application of Mark 10, sure. We should do this. The world would doubtless be a better place if we were more observant of the downtrodden and moved to help them.

Do you see the problem though? The blind man asked to see. In the Bible, only Jesus heals the blind. It is something no prophet ever did. It was a sign of the coming of the Messiah in Isaiah 61. It was unique to Jesus. If a blind man asked me to see, even if I had the best intentions in the world, I could not make him see. Only Jesus can do this. That’s the main point of the passage: that Jesus is compassionate and can heal things no-one else can. Which leads to the gospel application, that this is a smaller scale version of what Jesus did on the cross. When Jesus died and rose again, he healed those who believe in a way no-one else can.

So, while it would be a great idea to reach out to help the downtrodden, what they ultimately need is not my help. They need Jesus. The best thing I can do is not try to be Jesus but to point them to the one and only Jesus who can heal them in ways I never can.

It matters a great deal that we don’t make the Bible all about what we should do. It is, at its core, what God has done for us in Jesus (Luke 24:27, 2 Cor 1:20). If all our applications from the Bible are “do this” or “do that”, we have made it into a self-help book. While we do need to practically change our lives in response to God’s word, the ultimate thing we need to do is appreciate Jesus more and worship Him. Jesus did what we could never do.

Next time you open your Bible, don’t only ask, “What would Jesus do?” and try to do that thing. Ask, “What does this passage tell me about how wonderful Jesus is?” We need to be worshippers, not only activists. However well you end up living like Jesus did, you cannot do everything Jesus did, and you certainly cannot make yourself right with God. Bible reading focussed only on what we do leads to guilt; Bible reading focussed on Jesus leads to praise.