In John 13 we have the record of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet on the evening before the commencement of His trials and then crucifixion. Jesus took a towel, poured water into a basin and washed His disciples’ feet and wiped them with the towel with which He was girded. Jesus served His disciples, intending to teach them to serve one another: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13:14-16). But what does that have to do with our subject? Jesus then said in verse 17, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”
Jesus here taught the correct order for the actions that we take, and that is this: First, the thinking in the mind must know the right things – “if you know these things.” Second, knowing these things you must do, then you must “do them.” And finally, “if you do them,” then “happy are you.” “Happy” here is the equivalent of “blessed” in the beatitudes, so it is not some temporary jolliness; it is the highest form of happiness man can enjoy. This blessedness from God includes contentment and peace and inner joy.
Here are some points to take to heart:
Jesus prayed to His Father for His disciples in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” First, we must get our knowledge right, and our knowledge must be based upon the truth of the Bible, the word of God. Knowledge is the starting point to blessedness. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). No wonder Paul exhorted Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” Let’s open our Bibles and read and study to gain knowledge and understanding.
Many come to know truth, but few do it. Some are as James describes in James 1:22-25: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” Jesus said that the hearers who do are wise, and the hearers who don’t do are foolish: “Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man….Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man…” (Matthew 7:24,26). Upon teaching the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus asked the lawyer about who was neighbor in that story, and the lawyer answered rightly. He knew, and now Jesus said to him “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). It wasn’t enough for him to know. He needed to do what he knew was right, and likewise we need to go and do what we know. James also tells us that “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). There’s no blessedness in that, is there?
Clearly Jesus taught in John 13:17 that blessedness follows the doing: “happy are you if you do them.” Oh that we could always remember that! Remember the previous citation from James 2? “This one will be blessed in what he does.”
One preacher described to me the “know-do-blessed” in John 13:17 as the “think-do-feel train,” and that has stuck with me for a number of years now. The “think” in the train relates to the idea of knowing, and the “feel” in the train relates to the idea of being blessed or happy. The “think” is the engine of the train. It pulls the “do” car, which pulls along the “feel” car, which is the caboose. That’s how it ought to work. But a lot of people get their train out of order. They want their feelings to drive their doing, and sometimes without thinking. They have the caboose – the “feel” car – trying to drive the train. As a result, the “do” car only moves when they “feel” happy or blessed, or, put another way, when they feel like it. The opposite is actually what needs to happen: we need to do because we know to do, and when we do, we are promised that we will be blessed.
In summary, consider two aspects of know-do-blessed. First, when you know to do and don’t do, you don’t feel good. Your conscience is making you uncomfortable, and that’s exactly what it should do. You’re leaving out the middle link in the train – the “do” car which connects the “think” engine to the “feel” caboose. As a result, the “feel” caboose can’t come along, so you are not blessed. And secondly, we often wait for the right “feeling” – happiness, joy, etc. – to do a good deed or to do the right thing, when all the while we know what we need to do. Feelings are real, but they shouldn’t be the engine driving us. We don’t always feel blessed or happy, and we don’t always feel like doing. The best thing to do when we feel that way is to get busying doing what we know to be right, because we believe what Jesus said – that we will be happy or blessed when we know what’s right and do it.