Over the years, I’ve become more and more convinced that the most difficult verse in the Bible is John 13:17.

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

The difficulty is not in the knowing; it’s in the doing, which happens also to be where the blessing is.

What do you think?

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  1. I agree. A lot of times people think that once they become Christians it is downhill from there. Perhaps that is false advertising?

    Granted, Christianity is a life filled with abundant blessings and virtues. But there is also that aspect of the Faith that involves life-change, repentance, and being agains the world that is omni-around us.

  2. Paul, what makes this saying difficult is that it is somewhat counter-intuitive. I know I don’t have to tell you this but word for “blessed” (μακάριος) does not carry the meaning of being prosperous. One might be inclined to read this as “if you do these things you’ll be comfortable.” Rather, it carries the meaning of being happy/joyful. Jesus is saying that happiness is a result of having served others; of having lived according to God’s will in humble obedience – obedience first, then happiness. Furthermore, it’s not enough just to know – we must put what we know into practice (James 1:22-27).

  3. Daniel:
    Seems to me that every new believer should be introduced straight way to 2 Tim. 3:12, eh?

    My blog (a.k.a. X):
    Agree that the heart of Jn 13:17 suggests that obedience is required before experiencing blessing/happiness/joy. Ergo, obedience is the precursor to happiness. But, I wonder…is obedience the starting point or is it too dependent upon some other condition? Put differently, is obedience the necessary and sufficient condition unto happiness in the Christian life (we could safely rule out the logical complement = sufficient but not necessary)? Or, is obedience merely necessary, but not sufficient? What I continue to marvel over is that Jesus ties “blessing” to “knowing” here in Jn 13:17. After all, we cannot obey what we do not know or understand. This is not to say that mere knowledge is sufficient unto obedience. Instead, it’s a qualified kind of knowledge like “knowing-the-Spirit-inspired-truth -burned-into-my-heart-such-that-I-
    can’t-wait-to-comply”. Could it be, therefore, that this kind of knowing is both the necessary and sufficient condition for obedience? Consequently, when obedience does occur, then blessing/happiness/joy is the outcome.

    Whew….did I write that?

  4. …in addition to my previous comment,

    Love is to obedience what motivation is to action. The overall pericope of John 13 shows that John’s concern was to put Jesus’ love on display as expressed through service to others (see esp. Jn 13:1, NIV “he now showed them the full extent of his love”). And so, while knowledge (in a qualified sense from my previous entry) is the necessary and sufficient condition for obedience, love is the necessary and sufficient condition for blessing. Sacrificial love is where John and Jesus begin and so must we.

    In fact, obedience without love is mere duty. No doubt we could all attest to the lack of blessing from carrying out a stale set of rules to obey. Conversely, lovingly and sacrificially serving others (as you say, X) is the only road to full-orbed blessing, which is precisely where John 13:1-17 ends.

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