Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
We all long for the happy life, the blessed life. Many people seem in a frantic pursuit of it. A proliferation of books, articles, podcasts, and seminars espouse formulas for attaining the blessed life. Sadly, many point in the wrong direction and people end up greatly disappointed and spent. Then there is Jesus, God incarnate “in whom there is life” (John 1:4), whose very mission was to impart life, “abundant life”(John 10:10). And yet, philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard observed:
“Strangely, we seem prepared to learn how to live from almost anyone but him. We are ready to believe that the ‘latest studies’ have more to teach us about love and sex than he does, and that Louis Rukeyser knows more about finances. ‘Dear Abby’ can teach us more about how to get along with our family and members and co-workers… And nothing more forcibly demonstrates the extent to which we automatically assume the irrelevance of Jesus as teacher for our ‘real’ lives.” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy)
In today’s Scripture Jesus teaches how “real” life, the blessed life, comes not through self-seeking but through following His example of self-giving. Jesus took the role of a servant, washed His disciples’ feet and then applied His lesson: “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
Jesus called His actions an “example”, a translation of the Greek word hypodeigma, related to our word “paradigm”, suggesting there are other examples of humble, serving love. Taking a servant’s role and washing dirty feet would be an example of humble love and service in first century Judea. In our culture there are endless possibilities for humble, loving service. For us not to follow Jesus’ example is to place ourselves above Him and to live in pride. Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master.” And for us not to follow Master Jesus’ example is to miss out on the truly blessed life.
Notably, Jesus emphasizes His point, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” For example, in the twelfth century Francis of Assisi learned from experience the words he prayed: “…for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is dying that we are born to eternal life.” Yes! We are blessed if we do these things.
John was a young man whose life was transformed by Jesus’ love for him. Decades later John wrote in a letter to Christians: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16). This is the way to the blessed, abundant life Jesus promised: giving our lives in service to others. It is the way to peace and joy, even in the storm. “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
- Jesus says, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Do I ever confuse ‘knowing’ what Jesus says with actually ‘doing’ what Jesus says? If so, how?
- How might Jesus be calling me today to specifically lay down my life to serve?
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)