For the last ten years or so, I have had the privilege of reading through the Bible each week with people whose first language isn't English, many of them not Christians and little exposed to the Scriptures. Through their questions, with fresh views of the texts, perhaps over the years I have learnt more than they did!
Most of the time we read through the four Gospels. And I am very glad to have "forced" myself into fresh exposure to Jesus. One of the things that has struck me again and again in Jesus' teaching, is that when it looks like he is telling others what they should do, at the same time, perhaps even more so, he is telling others what he does and will do. Whether it is in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, or the in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, etc.
In preparing for a recent sermon on Titus, this idea struck me freshly. That Jesus is not only the message to us, not only the motivation for us to do what he said, but he is also the model.
As I was trying to read through the text in Greek, one thing that stood out was the correspondence between what Paul said God did, and what he calls us to do and desires for us. Specifically how God was abundantly good to all people ("to all men", Titus 2:11; "the love of God our Saviour toward man", Titus 3:4), and he calls us to do good for the benefit of all people ("showing all humility to all men", Titus 3:2; "good and profitable unto men", Titus 3:8). Here, what God did was not only the message of the gospel which motivates us to do what he asks of us in subsequent commands, at the same time, the message is also the model of what he wants us to do.
Jesus is the message, because what who is is and what he did is the content of our trust and belief as Christians. Jesus is the model, because he also sets the example and shows us what it looks like to live out that belief. Jesus is the motive, because at the same time he is the reason, when we understand his love to us, we want to live that different way, and in what he did we discover the power to enable us to put sin to death and live the resurrection life.
We can sometimes argue in principle about whether it is necessary for a leader to lead by example, or the led just need to do what is said because the leader has that authority. But there can be no doubt that God sets a powerful precedent, by putting forth the gospel of Jesus Christ, as message, model and motive, all in one.