Following Jesus: Our Perfect Example – A Couple’s Bible Study

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

This is Holy Week, celebrated by churches around the world. The week we focus on the ultimate reason Jesus stepped down from heaven and–while still fully God–became fully human. This is a truth our finite minds cannot completely comprehend.

Jesus–Our Perfect Example

Jesus was the only person ever born without sin and, therefore, the only person who ever lived who did not deserve to die. Because of this, He was the only one who could die to be that perfect sacrifice for our sins. And this was His ultimate purpose.

Oh, He taught us much by word and deed how we should live this life on earth. Jesus was certainly a good man…indeed, a perfect man. But He was so much more.

For Jesus took our sins upon Himself by dying on the cross. His death once and for all paid the price for our sin–separation from God the Father. By accepting the gift He offers to us and by placing our trust in Him as our Savior, we are forgiven of our sins, made right with God, and guaranteed a place in heaven with Him for all eternity.

What a gift indeed! What a picture of love, grace, and forgiveness!

Our last Couple’s Bible Study series was devoted to forgiveness in marriage. In these lessons, we learned we can never really understand forgiveness until we have experienced the forgiveness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. For it is by receiving His love and forgiveness that we learn to love and forgive others.

Paul summarized it in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. He wrote that he was compelled, or completely controlled, by the love of Christ because by faith he had become convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” We must all come to this place of living for Christ and not ourselves to be the husband or wife God wants us to be.

 

Jesus–His Final Acts of Love

So as we come to Easter, the final events of Jesus’ life on earth have much to teach us about forgiveness. Following Christ’s example will allow God to work through us to be His instrument in our marriage and a witness to the world.

In the Garden

Immediately following what we know as the Lord’s Supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. There, He committed to die on the cross and take our sins upon Himself, for He knew this time had come.

Judas, one of His disciples, betrayed Him by leading His accusers to Him. Luke 22:49-51 says: “When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them [John 18:10 says it was Peter] struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And He touched the man’s ear and healed him.”

Even as Jesus knew His humiliation, torture, and horrible death were imminent, He showed love, grace, and forgiveness. He healed one of the men who came to arrest Him. He kept Peter from some terrible consequences that probably would have happened had the man not been healed. His act of love taught Peter and all His disciples by His response. And so He teaches us about selfless love, grace, and forgiveness–the way we are to treat each other in marriage.

Before the Sanhedrin

After His arrest, Jesus was taken to the chief priest, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin–the court of Jewish leaders. Caiaphas put it all in motion. John 11:49-53 tells us that shortly after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the Sanhedrin met and “Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take His life.”

Matthew 26:57-63 describes Jesus standing before these same men, falsely accused and being hit and spit upon. Yet Jesus remained silent. They finally asked Him if He was indeed the Messiah, to which He responded in Matthew 26:64: “You have said so.” That was all they needed to convict Him, sentence Him to die, and send Him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who could legally carry out their sentence.

Once again, Jesus demonstrated true love and forgiveness by simply accepting all they threw at Him. He had come to forgive and die for those who were sentencing Him to death. These men did not have a close relationship with Jesus, yet He loved them. How much more should we show this love and forgiveness to our spouse–the one closest to us?

 

On the Cross

After appearing before Pontius Pilate, Jesus was sentenced to die by crucifixion–the horrible Roman death penalty. Jesus was hung on a cross, nailed to it by His hands and feet. He was mocked by those who looked on. His few belongings were taken by soldiers. He was forced to drink sour wine. And in the midst of all His agony and pain, Luke records how Jesus demonstrated two of His greatest examples of forgiveness.

First, Jesus looked down at those who crucified and mocked Him and spoke these words about them and all those who had plotted against Him to put Him on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Second, Jesus was hung between two criminals, rightly punished for their crime. One joins in the mocking. But the other says: “‘We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise'” (Luke 23:41-43).

Now that is forgiveness. That is grace, mercy, and love. That is why Jesus came. That is…Jesus.

And that is who we are to be like. This is how we are to treat our spouse. Paul described it well: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:1-8).

Paul references this in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This is what Jesus taught all of us, husbands and wives, when He taught: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). And Jesus’ death on the cross showed us how to love.

Following Him

We know that Jesus died on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. That is what Christians celebrate on Good Friday–the Friday before Easter. And on Easter Sunday, we rejoice in celebrating Jesus’ resurrection–His rising from the dead. We now can have forgiveness for our sins and spend eternity with Him in heaven when we confess our sin and believe what Christ did for us through His death and resurrection.

It is through His forgiveness that we are able to be the husbands and wives God wants us to be. Without what Jesus did, this would be impossible.

When we keep our focus on Christ and remember all He has done to forgive us of our sins, it allows us to forgive each other. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul tells us: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” How can we not forgive whatever our spouse does when we see all Christ gave up to show us forgiveness?

If you have accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation, celebrate Easter with all that you are. Celebrate the marriage He has given you by praising Him for it and by showing love to your spouse–the same love Christ has shown to us.

If you have not accepted Jesus’ gift of love and forgiveness, please read more in Meet Jesus. It could change your life forever.

Questions for Discussion

      • Read the events of Jesus’ final day leading up to His death, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. Each of the four Gospels contains the story…Matthew 26:36-28:10, Mark 14:32-16:8, Luke 22:39-24:12, John 18:1-20:18.
      • What do these verses teach us about forgiveness?
      • Are there specific verses you can memorize and hide in your heart to utilize when you need to forgive your husband or wife–or anyone else?
      • Pray together, asking God to help you follow Christ’s example of love, grace, and forgiveness in your marriage.

Have a blessed Easter.

May God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
David

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org

Header photo by Hans via pixabay (CC0), cropped/text added.
Previous photos, now deleted by: Jerusalem_Church of All Nations_Garden_Noam Chen_IMOT via photopin (license) cropped/text added.

 

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.