Sinclair Ferguson writes: “It is a principle in Christ’s kingdom that “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). But in that kingdom, the Lord Jesus also practiced what He preached. His whole life illustrated “little-things faithfulness.” The theme merits book-length treatment, and this brief essay is intended simply to encourage us all to notice some of the little things we may have tended to overlook in the life of the Savior. Here are five of them.
1. Jesus was an Exodus 20:12 boy: He observed the command to “honor your father and your mother.” We know this was already true of Him when He was only twelve, as we see in Luke 2:41–52. When Joseph and Mary took Him to the Jerusalem Passover feast that year, they actually “lost” Him. “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it . . . but then they began to search for him” (vv. 43–45). When they eventually found Him in the temple, Mary’s frayed nerves snapped a little: “Why have you treated us so? . . . Your father and I . . .” (a phrase most boys recognize as a hefty rebuke). She blamed Jesus even though He was their responsibility (v. 48). But watch Jesus: He gently explained that He had gone to the one place in the city they should have known where to find Him (“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”). And then notice what Luke adds: “He went down with them . . . and was submissive to them” (vv. 49–51). Yes, although they had wrongly blamed Him, Jesus honored His Father’s fifth commandment in obeying His earthly parents. Indeed, He paid detailed attention to all His Father’s commandments.Our Lord’s faithfulness in little things was simply the reflection of the perfect beauty He saw in the face of His Father.
2. Jesus was also a Deuteronomy 8:3 man: He lived “not . . . by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (see Matt. 4:4). Every word. Jesus believed not only in “verbal plenary inspiration” but in obedient “verbal plenary feeding.” Each word of His Bible was vital to Him. He took a delight in detailed faithfulness—He wanted to know, love, and obey every single word God had breathed out.
3. In addition, He was a Proverbs 16:23–24 speaker: He valued and employed “gracious words.” They “are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (v. 24). And so, people marveled at the “gracious words” He spoke. According to Proverbs 16:24, such speech has both the sweetness and the medicinal properties of honey. Paul echoes that comment and urges us to follow Jesus’ example (Col. 4:6). Jesus paid attention to how He spoke. His speech gives the impression of deep and careful thought and a concern for others. Plus, He never seems to have wasted a word. How? Because He had “the tongue of those who are taught” and knew “how to sustain with a word him who is weary” (Isa. 50:4). And His gracious words did so.
4. Our Lord was also an Isaiah 42:2–4 exemplar (Matt. 12:20): in particular, “a bruised reed he will not break and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” Watch His reaction when tension-filled Martha confronts Him and complains that Mary isn’t helping with the meal and Jesus isn’t doing anything about it. “Martha, Martha,” He says (Luke 10:41). Yes, words of correction will come, but first are the words of deep affection to secure and calm His friend.
5. Then Jesus was—on His own confession—a Matthew 11:28–30 Savior: He was, indeed, “gentle and lowly in heart.” He treated the sick as though they were His own family; He was “gentle” in the way He approached widows as though they were His mother; He was “lowly in heart” in His attention to the “little people”—the poor, the sick, and, yes, also the children. These are not “big stage” things but little details. It is surely significant that a man who “reviled him” was converted by watching the way He died (Matt. 27:44; Luke 23:42–43) and perhaps not least by the way He cared for the mother who had loved Him (John 19:26–27).
Is there an explanation for this? We find it, at least in part, where Jesus Himself did—in Isaiah 50:4: “Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.” Although He owned no Hebrew Bible of His own, He had hidden it in His heart. He listened to God’s Word each day and meditated on it. That means something more than merely reading it. He was reflecting on it, letting it sink in, digesting it.
Jesus’ parents should have known that if He were to be found anywhere in Jerusalem, it would be in the temple. Had they not taught Him to desire one thing, namely, to “dwell in the house of the Lord . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Ps. 27:4)? That was exactly what He was doing when His “father and . . . mother [had] forsaken” Him (v. 10).
Our Lord’s faithfulness in little things, then, was simply the reflection of the perfect beauty He saw in the face of His Father as He listened eagerly to what He had to say. May that be true for us also.”
Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow and Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is author of numerous books, including Maturity.