A Dangerous Lie About Happiness
From Gospel Translations
Who is fit to be the representative of Jesus in the world? Not Judas, but those who gladly — from the heart — go low in service, longing to see others blessed, not using others like Judas. So I said the word gladly. You’d expect that from me. Is that in the text?
The kind of people who are qualified to be the representatives of Jesus are not just those who begrudgingly go low. How many of us have done that? For example, if your wife asks that you do something that you don’t ordinarily have the responsibility of doing, and there rises up a complaint — “That isn’t my job!” — that’s not gladly going low; that’s begrudgingly going low. That sort of service doesn’t qualify. You don’t represent Jesus when you do that.
So where am I getting this word gladly in the text? And the answer is John 13:17, where Jesus says, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” We know that word “blessed” — makarios. Blessed are the meek (Matthew 5:5). Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). We know that word: happy, joyful, satisfied, gratified, contented — blessed. You’ll be so blessed if you get down low and do these things.
So what is Jesus saying here? He’s saying the world is wrong. The world — and your own worldly nature, apart from new birth — thinks happiness comes from being served. Nobody has to be persuaded of that. It feels good to stay on the couch. But joy doesn’t come that way. Just brief, fleeting, physical comforts come that way. You don’t sleep better for having sat on the couch all night while your wife serves you like a slave. And there are a hundred other applications for work and church.
The world believes and feels deeply — we all do in our fleshly nature — it is pleasant to be served — really pleasant. But it’s not blessed. It’s not joyful. It’s not deeply sweet. It’s not awesomely satisfying. It’s not wonderfully gratifying. No, it’s not.
Oh, what a gift Jesus is giving us here. Jesus is quoted only in one or two places outside the Gospels. One of them is Acts 20:35 where Paul is talking to the elders at the church of Ephesus and telling them to work hard to bless the poor, for the Lord Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And everyone wonders, “Where did he say that?” If I had to vote, I’d say John 13:17. That’s the point, whether he said it in those very words or not.
So yes, I am saying that the point of John 13:1–20 is that to be suitable, to be fit to represent Jesus in the world so that, when people receive you, they receive him, you must be the kind of person who gladly goes low in the service of others. That’s what I’m saying because that’s what the text is saying.