Read John 13.
Of the four gospels, the Gospel of John gives us the most extensive description of Jesus’ final hours before his arrest. Here in chapter 13, that description begins. The Passover meal is set to begin and Christ is distinctly aware that his betrayal, trials, torture, and execution will follow. John stressed to his readers that Jesus knew what was about to happen. Verse 13 says “…Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father…” and verse 3 says “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;” Meditate on this for a moment. If you knew that your death was coming, that it would be extraordinarily violent and painful and that it would culminate with the rejection of God the Father, what would you be thinking about? What would you want to do with that time? How would you handle interactions with other people?
Personally, I’m pretty sure I would be preoccupied with what was coming and that I would be a nervous wreck. It would be natural to turn to those closest to you for comfort but when your friends are completely oblivious to what is coming (vv. 22, 36-38), they are in no position to comfort you. So, in addition to being preoccupied with myself and my fears, I think it might be irritating to be around friends who don’t get what is about to happen and are, in fact, in high spirits due to the Passover. It would be easy to be angry with them for not understanding and to run from them to be alone with your fears.
But that’s me; then there is Christ. He knew that he “was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet… “(vv. 3b-5a). Instead of being preoccupied with himself, he was intent on loving and serving his disciples; in the words of verse 1: “he loved them to the end” which I interpret to mean “to the fullest extent.” This was a genuine act of love but it also set an example to us who follow Jesus of service (vv. 12-17) and of love for others (vv. 34-35). Christ’s example and his command to us, then, is not to allow our anxiety and fear to take over our lives; rather, despite the real emotions we feel about our lives, put others first and serve them lovingly. What is the result of this kind of selfless service? Verse 17: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed [happy, benefitted] if you do them.” Serving others is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when we think of how to be happy. Often being happy to us means having someone else serve us. Serving others rubs our sin nature raw; it tempts us to resent the ones we’re serving or the fact that we’re put in a place where we have to serve. But Christ promises the blessing of joy to those who take the lower place and choose to serve others because we love Him.
So not only does our faith in Christ call us to have a servant’s heart toward others, it calls us to serve others in love even at the very moments where we could be expected to forget other’s problems because we have so many of our own. If you are lacking joy due to problems and difficulties in your life, find someone to serve. Not only will you be obedient to our master and Lord but you will also be blessed if you do it (v. 17).