It Is Enough: Why Being Like Jesus Is All We Need

When they persecute you in one town, escape to another. For I assure you: You will not have covered the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master. If they called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more the members of his household! (Matthew 10:23-25)

When we read about the commissioning of Jesus’s apostles in Matthew 10, it’s easy for us to extend the whole thing out into our own time, as though his words apply directly to us and our post-resurrection mission in the world. And to some extent, that’s valid. Much of what Jesus says in this chapter has universal application to his followers in all times.

But whenever we’re reading the gospel story, it’s important to remember it is a story — that is, it has a particular narrative with a specific context, and that context matters.

In the verses quoted above, we learn something important about this first apostolic mission: it had a time limit. Going from village to village, and sometimes being driven out by persecution, the twelve apostles would not be able to get through the towns of Israel before a pivotal event happened.

Jesus called that event the “coming of the Son of Man.”

Since time is so tight, the strategy Jesus recommends for his apostles is, “Just keep moving.” Don’t waste any time trying to face down or alleviate persecution; don’t bother sticking around for a long time to win your enemies over — even if those enemies are your own family members. Just keep moving, carrying out the mission.

But what does he mean by the “coming of the Son of Man”?

There is a relatively recent trend in gospel reading that assigns all statements like this to “the end times” and assumes they are still in our future. But this reading has several problems, and a major one is found here: Jesus is plainly saying that the disciples, in their own lifetimes — and in fact, probably in a much shorter space of time than that, given that they are going out in groups of two, are constantly moving, and have a total area of only about 10,000 square miles to cover* — will not be able to finish their mission before this event happens.

*10,000 square miles is just a little smaller than Massachusetts, for those of you in North America.

So if Jesus is not speaking of his far-future return, still thousands of years off, what is he talking about?

Like so many things that Jesus says, this phrase is best understood in light of its Old Testament weight — and few phrases are more fraught with glory than this one.

When the Son of Man Comes

As we’ve seen in earlier posts on this blog, the phrase “Son of Man,” which Jesus frequently applied to himself, had a double meaning — in one case it meant essentially “Average Joe,” and in the other, it meant the Messiah.

This second meaning comes from a vision recorded by the prophet Daniel — and so does the idea of the Son of Man “coming.”

Here’s the passage:

“As I kept watching,
thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took His seat.
His clothing was white like snow,
and the hair of His head like whitest wool.
His throne was flaming fire;
its wheels were blazing fire.

A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from His presence.
Thousands upon thousands served Him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
The court was convened,
and the books were opened.

I watched, then, because of the sound of the arrogant words the horn was speaking. As I continued watching, the beast was killed and its body destroyed and given over to the burning fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their authority to rule was removed, but an extension of life was granted to them for a certain period of time. I continued watching in the night visions,

and I saw One like a son of man
coming with the clouds of heaven.

He approached the Ancient of Days
and was escorted before Him.
He was given authority to rule,
and glory, and a kingdom;
so that those of every people,
nation, and language
should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that will not pass away,
and His kingdom is one
that will not be destroyed.

(Daniel 7:9-14)

Rather than being a reference to Jesus “coming” back to earth after leaving for a time, the Daniel passage speaks of “the Son of Man coming” into heaven, at which point he would receive his everlasting kingdom.

This is exactly what Jesus was saying would happen — before his twelve apostles could finish preaching the gospel in all the towns of Israel, he would ascend into heaven, receive the kingdom, and be (to quote Paul in Colossians 3:1) “seated at the right hand of God.”

(Shortly after Jesus’s resurrection the first martyr, Stephen, looked into heaven and told his persecutors, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”—Acts 7:56.)

The moment when the Son of Man came and took dominion would change everything — but not, at first, on earth. At first, in heaven.

(“Thy kingdom come,” we pray, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” First heaven, then earth. That’s always the pattern.)

Upside-Down Expectations

The really earth-shattering thing here, the thing that makes me tremble, is to realize how Jesus was challenging the personal expectations of his disciples when it came to the nature of following him.

Remember, they originally expected the Messiah to come as an iron-fisted, conquering warrior-king who would challenge Rome, overthrow it, and set up an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.

As his right-hand men, they would naturally expect to be placed in positions of power — to be honored, admired, even feared. They expected to be given power to crush their enemies and rule over them.

They might be persecuted now, in other words, but it wouldn’t be long before they got the upper hand.

But that’s not what Jesus promised them. Instead, in this context of persecution just before the Son of Man comes, he looked kindly at his disciples and said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master. If they called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more the members of his household!”

And then, rather than crush his enemies, he died for them.

Rather than call down fire from heaven or legions of angels, he submitted to betrayal, beatings, and death on a cross — and to the Father’s greater, more far-reaching, more mysterious will, not to judge humanity but to save it.

The disciples, like all of us would, must have desired not only to be delivered from persecution but to show their enemies who was boss. They wanted a clear and obvious victory.

Instead, Jesus told them, “It’s enough for you to be like me.”

Is it? Really?

Is It Really Enough?

Jesus lived a nonviolent life of perfect submission and obedience, and because he was submitted and obedient to the Father, he lived a life of perfect love.

He was persecuted but didn’t retaliate. He turned the other cheek. He prayed for his enemies and blessed those who persecuted him. He gave his life not just for his friends, but for his enemies.

Is it enough for us to be like him? To act like that? Much more, to learn the inner motivations and character of spirit that enables such action — such love?

I don’t think most Christians these days expect that following Jesus will automatically entitle us to power and prestige. But we’re tempted to think it entitles us to comfort, or protection from trials, or consistent health, or happy finances, or good marriages, or a whole host of other earthly comforts.

Is it enough — for us — to be like Jesus? To know him as he truly is and to keep him company on this redemption road?

Yes, following Jesus means inheriting his glory. It means “coming” into his kingdom in much the same way he did. But in the meantime, he calls us to be like him, and he never said that being like him wouldn’t involve picking up a cross or two. He never said we wouldn’t suffer.

Quite the opposite, in fact, for as long as there are still powers and people in this world who oppose the power and people of God.

When we find ourselves facing the promised tribulations and trials, our hearts are exposed. It becomes clear what’s driving us. What is it we really want? Is it escape, power, vindication, victory? Is it to find the quickest way out of suffering and get the compensation we think we deserve?

Or do we want to be like Jesus?

I think there is something supernatural about being able to say “yes” to the latter question. It means we’ve seen something beyond ourselves — that we’ve been captured by a vision of Love so pure and right it hurts, and the Love we see makes us want to be transformed into its likeness.

That kind of motivation is not entirely human, not really of this earth.

And that’s the point, I think. That we would learn to see past the surface of things and understand what a true heavenly victory entails. That the glory of heaven would be birthed in us.

That we would cling to Jesus with so much love, devotion, and desperation that we can say, “Yes, it’s enough for me to be like you — it’s enough for me to identify with you completely and totally. It’s all I need. May it be all I want.”


This is Part 148 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.


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One response to “It Is Enough: Why Being Like Jesus Is All We Need”

  1. ZIna Avatar

    Rachel, I am always so encouraged by your writing and explanations of some of the more difficult passages of Gods Word! I am particularly resonating with your explanation of the “coming of the Son of Man” Passage in the Book of Daniel…. It becomes so much clearer to understand when you put that perspective on it!! Thank you so much for your insight and teaching

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