Who Do You Look Like?

When a baby is born one of the first questions people usually ask (beside the child’s gender) is, “Who does he or she look like?” What someone means by the question is which parent does the child favor in terms of his or her appearance. Frankly, I find it almost impossible to tell which parent a child looks more like when they are newly born. However, after some time one begins to see how a child resembles one’s parents, or one parent more than the other.

In the narrative of the Sermon on the Plain, Luke records for us these words of Jesus: “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (6:40). Thomas Hudgins in his book Luke 6:40 and the Theme of Likeness Education in the New Testament (Wipf & Stock, 2014) notes that Luke 6:40 is a key text on likeness education. For him, likeness education is basically synonymous with imitation and modeling. According to Hudgins, the core or Christian education is likeness education. The kind of education revealed in Luke 6:40 and the lives of Jesus and Paul is a disciple-teacher relationship, one in which the disciple (or student) ends up being like their teacher. Notice that nothing is said in Luke 6:40 about whether or not the teacher is good or bad. Jesus interacted with unrighteous teachers in his day, namely the Pharisees. He knew the power of their teaching and their conduct on those who followed them. If they were blind guides, then all they would produce would be others who were blind (6:39). The converse would also be true. Those who followed Jesus would end up being like him.

We find this truism elsewhere in Scripture. In the book of Revelation Jesus is called a “faithful witness” (1:5; 3:14). The same phrase is used for a Christian named Antipas (2:13). In 1:5 Jesus is a faithful witness in his testimony about God, which in his case leads him to the cross. Likewise, Antipas’ faithfulness as a witness to Christ would culminate in his death. These connections indicate that Antipas followed the “pattern Jesus set” as one who remained a faithful witness even to the point of death.[1] After being fully trained Antipas looked like his teacher, Jesus (see also the example of the “two witness” in 11:7–12).

Jesus is not the only teacher though. In Revelation 13 we find a description of a “beast coming out of the sea” (13:1) who apes the true Christ (13:3). The people of the earth worshiped the dragon (Satan) and him (13:4, 12). One of the characteristics of this beast is his speech, which included “blasphemies” (13:5). Later, when we come to chapter 16 we read of the seventh bowl of God’s wrath being poured out on those aligned against God and his people. Rather than repent or cry out for mercy from God’s wrath, the people instead “cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible” (16:21). The term translated “cursed” is rendered “blasphemed” in the NASB, which is perfectly acceptable since both the verb in 16:21 and the noun in 13:5 come from the same cognate. The NASB translation helps us with seeing the close connection between the actions of the beast and those who followed him. They have become like the one they worship.[2]

When we reconsider our earlier illustration about children favoring their parents this has serious implications. While parents may often be proud about their child looking like them physically, or even their prowess on the athletic field or in the classroom, shouldn’t we be more concerned about how they look like us in our actions and speech? Are we modeling for them the kind of person we hope they will be when they are fully trained? If we are following Jesus, I hope we desire for them to look like Christ also. In so far as we follow him we present for others, our children included, what Jesus looks like. Isn’t this what Paul is getting at when he presents himself as an example for the church at Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1; cf. 4:16).

So, how do we do this? As important as it is for us to model Jesus to our children, it is also imperative for us to understand how we are to do this. In 2 Timothy 3:10–11 Paul told Timothy to follow him in nine areas: teaching, conduct, purpose, faithfulness, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings. According to Hudgins, these nine areas “represent the clearest explanation of what likeness education entails. When Jesus says a disciple will be like his or her teacher, it can mean nothing less than he or she will follow after the teacher’s teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings.”[3] Notice that this list includes both things to pass on to others (teaching), things to model (conduct, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings), as well as issues of the heart (purpose). In training our children to follow Jesus, we are to consider all of these areas. The training of disciples is to encompass the whole person. It is not just about passing on information in a “discipleship class.” It is whole life training and instruction.

So, who do you look like? One way to answer this question is to look around and see who looks like you.

[1] Craig R. Koester, Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, AYB, Vol. 38A (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), 288.

[2] Keith T. Marriner, Following the Lamb: The Theme of Discipleship in the Book of Revelation (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016), 180.

[3] Thomas W. Hudgins, Luke 6:40 and the Theme of Likeness Education in the New Testament (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014), 221.


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