Summary: Expository sermon based on 1 Peter 2:21-25. Offers three portraits of Jesus: our standard, our substitute, and our shepherd. PowerPoint avialble if you e-mail me.

In His Steps

Scott R. Bayles, preacher

First Christian Church, Rosiclare, Illinois

In 1896, a man by the name of Charles M. Sheldon penned the words of what has become a classic, inspirational and best-selling novel—In His Steps. In this book, Sheldon retells one of the serial sermon stories he used to read at Sunday evening gatherings. It is the story of a local church whose members pledged, for an entire year, not to do anything without first asking the question, “What would Jesus do if He were in my place?” Following our Lord’s example brought great joy to this small-town congregation, but it also brought misunderstanding, conflict and difficulty. It meant entire dedication of money, talent, career and influence to the cause of Christ.

A hundred years later, In His Steps swept the world like wildfire and became responsible for the most widely recognized acronym in Christian history: WWJD (What would Jesus do?). You remember the jewelry, bumper-stickers and t-shirts emblazoned with those four letters, don’t you? Well all of that stuff came about because of this book. The central concept behind the wildly popular WWJD fad and Sheldon’s original work is found in 1 Peter 2:21, where Peter says that Jesus “is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (NLT).

This particular phrase, however, is just a brief excerpt from an entire paragraph that Peter dedicates to what Jesus has done for the entire world and is continuing to do for those who love him. Let me read passage for you in its entirety:

God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25 NLT)

This passage about Jesus—what he did and how he lived—provides us with three overlapping portraits of Christ. It’s as if Peter used three different brushes to paint this passage. With the first brush, Peter paints Jesus as our standard in life.


Just as Charles Sheldon pointed out, Peter explains “Christ himself... left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps” (vs. 21 TEV). In other words, Jesus is the standard by which every man and woman will be measured. All that Jesus did on earth, as recorded in the four Gospels, is a perfect example for us to follow. Peter reminds us that, “He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered” (vs. 22 NLT).

Jesus was and is the supreme, spotless human being—the God-Man. Even while he was being abused, insulted, humiliated and nailed to a cross he never retaliated in kind, never reacted out of anger or even “righteous indignation.” Instead, he loved the ones who hated him. He prayed for the ones who pierced him.

How do you react when someone insults you?

How do you respond when you feel like someone you love has betrayed you?

Do you leave your case in the hands of God, like Jesus did?

Do you look anything like Jesus when people hurt you?

Most of us don’t.

Do you remember the story of Beauty and the Beast? Of course, you do. There was a time when the Beast’s face was handsome and his palace pleasant. But that was before the curse—before the shadow fell across the castle of the prince. And when the darkness fell, he hid. Secluded in his castle, he was left with a glistening snout, curly tusks and a bad mood.

But all that changed when the girl came. Stunningly gorgeous. Contagiously kind. If ever two characters lived up to their names, didn’t Beauty and the Beast? Somehow the Beauty saw beyond the hairy, drooling, roaring exterior of the beast; she saw something worthwhile. She fell in love with him. And because Beauty loved the Beast, the Beast became more beautiful.

The story’s familiar, not just because it’s a fairy tale. It’s familiar because it’s your story, too. There is a beast within each one of us. It wasn’t always so. There was a time when humanity’s face was handsome and palace pleasant. But that was before the curse—before the shadow fell across the heart of Adam. And ever since the curse, we’ve been different—beastly, ugly, defiant, angry. We do things we know we shouldn’t do and wonder why we did them.

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