I found this opening “parable” in Eduard Schweizer’s Lordship and Discipleship to be quite profound in describing the essence of the Christian life as participation in the story of Jesus. At the heart of being a Christian is not an ethos of substitution (“Jesus did this for me, so that I don’t have to anymore”) or moralism (“Jesus sets a nice example that we need to now reduplicate in our own will power, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps”). Rather, Christ died and rose for us, so that we might now die and rise with him in the power of the Spirit (participation!). This is what Hebrews means when it describes Jesus as our “forerunner” who has gone before us to make the way:
“When in a valley in the mountains there is a sudden heavy fall of snow, a child visiting his grandmother may not be able to reach home again. But when father comes home from his work he will fetch him, lead the way and with his strong shoulders make a way through the snowdrifts. The child follows, step by step, in the footsteps of father, and yet in an entirely different manner. If the father wanted to be just an ‘example’ to the child, then the child would have to make his own way ten yards away from the father and merely imitate the manner in which the latter makes his way. If the father wanted to act ‘vicariously’ for the child, in the strict sense of the word, then the child would stay with grandmother and think: Father is going home in my stead.