Summary: Why should we serve? We have so many others things to do and to be at. Why should that be a priority?
Back in November, I had the opportunity to go and see Rob Bell, the guy who does those Nooma videos (he’s also a pastor, speaker and author), speak at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square. What he talked about and explained was the idea of animal sacrifice that was so prevalent in Jewish culture and the problem it caused for the people.
See, the sacrifices were for cleansing the people from sin and guilt as well as receiving peace, blessing, good harvests and more. If you look in the book of Leviticus, specifically at the first few chapters, you will see that over and over and over again the people were expected to give offering after offering after offering in order to keep God’s blessing in their lives.
So, what did this communicate to the people? Well, for starters it communicated that they had to earn God’s favor and love. It also communicated this never ending cycle of cleansing and forgiveness. Let me put it this way, if we still operated under this law of needing animal sacrifice every time we sinned or disobeyed God, how often would we be sacrificing? I don’t think it would ever end.
On the flip side, if we had to sacrifice an animal or grain to earn God’s blessing or receive peace, we would constantly be stuck in this pattern of giving to keep God happy and pleased. When we would receive the blessing from God, we would have to give again to say thank you and then next time we’d have to give more in order to get the same effect. But if we didn’t receive the blessing, obviously something was wrong with our offering the first time so we would try again and give more to try to make things right.
Sacrifice was a time consuming and endless cycle that would never end in order to keep God happy. The people always had to give, and give more, as this ultimately became the reason that most of the people gave all together. Were they giving simply because they wanted to? Were they giving simply because they loved God? Well, maybe sometimes, but I think too many would have easily gotten caught up in this cycle of giving to keep God happy and to get what they wanted. What do you think about those motives? Obviously, they weren’t good.
The question that some of you may be thinking is what does the idea of animal sacrifice and creating this endless cycle of giving more and more have to do with serving one another? Well tonight the question that I want to focus on is why should we give or serve? I know if I threw that question out for you guys to answer we would hear answers like, we need to love our neighbors or because Jesus said to, and obviously there is truth to both of those responses but the answer to that question really travels a lot deeper than “because I said so.” To get to this deeper understanding about giving and serving lets open our Bibles to John 13:1-17.
***Read John 13:1-17***
Let’s take a second and set the scene for what we just read. When did this take place? Verse one tells us it was right before the Passover Celebration. We know from the accounts of this story in Matthew, Mark and Luke that this took place in a large upper room in a man’s home in Jerusalem. Who was at this dinner? Again, we know from verse one that Jesus was there with His disciples, which there is a huge significance to this that we will come back to in a minute.
So picture the scene we have in your minds. Jesus and his twelve disciples are in a large upper room about ready to have dinner. There would have been a low table in the center of the room with the thirteen men reclined on the floor sitting on bean bag-like chairs. I envision that the men would have been talking, laughing and simply enjoying being together. Though in the minds of two men, Judas and Jesus there was something much deeper going on.
Verse two tells us that, “It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.” Judas must have been filled with guilt and little nervousness; at least I know I would if I had been in his shoes. I think he would have put on the face of a happy disciple trying to hide what he was about to do. Jesus, on the other hand, knew exactly what was going on as he states to everyone in verse 11 that, “Not all of you are clean,” referring to Judas. Beyond that though, Jesus knew much more than simply the fact that Judas would betray Him, he knew what that betrayal would lead to. I think verse 3 is really significant to understanding what happens next. “Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God.” That’s really a powerful comment. Jesus knew three very important things: 1) God had given him authority over everything! 2) Jesus had come from God meaning that He was God’s Son, and 3) He knew He was going to die and return to God.