Imagine you’re in a doctor’s office. Imagine the doctor comes in, sits down in front of you and with a somber look on her face says, “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, however your blood levels clearly show that you only have about 24 hours to live.” As you walk out of the doctor’s office, what do you do?
No seriously, take a moment to think about what your next step would be.
Do you go home, crawl into your bed and spend your last day drowning in your tears? Or do you decide that you’re going to “party like it’s 1999,” and head out to the bars, spending the night drinking, dancing and even hoping to hook up with someone of the opposite sex? Or do you drive straight to church, kneel before the altar, confess your sins to God and pray for him to receive you into his kingdom? Or do you spend the evening quietly with your family? Or do you drive your car (or maybe a rented Maserati) down the road at 200 miles an hour to feel the rush of adrenaline, knowing that you have nothing to lose?
I know this, nobody walking out of that doctor’s office would waste their time. You would seek out whoever was the most important people in your life and you would do whatever you thought was the most important activity that you could be about.
The reason I propose this scenario is because in my Sunday morning Bible class we’ve been studying First and Second Thessalonians. The Thessalonians were almost at a fevered pitch looking for Jesus to return. They were to the point where some of them were quitting their jobs-because who needed to work and make money if Jesus were coming back right away. Although Paul makes it clear that Jesus could indeed come back at any moment he still tells them to “get back to work.” (my paraphrase)
We do live in a strange tension between being prepared to be done with this life at any moment and preparing for the future. Whether we are called from this life in our death, or in the event that Jesus would return, we need to be prepared. Not living in fear, but in faith.
In 1532 Luther preached a sermon on Luke 21: 25-33 where he spoke of signs of the end:
It should be a pleasant sight to us when these signs appear, for thereby God comforts us and indicates that He is about to punish the world and finally redeem us from all misfortune and misery. In view of this, we should not only expect this blessed Day with joy but also really long, sigh, and cry for it to our Lord Christ and say: Thou hast promised this Day as our redemption from all evil; let it come now, this very hour, if it is so to be, and put an end to his misery.
Would anyone walking out of that doctor’s office ask, “What would Jesus do?” Well, what would Jesus do?
John chapter 13 records what Jesus did when he had less than 24 hours before he died on the cross.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 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 also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:1-17 ESV)
The day before Jesus was to die, he was with the disciples (the most important group of people to him during his earthly ministry) and he gave them an object lesson of how he wanted them to live their lives. I believe that his message to wash feet (serve other people) speaks just as much to us today-no matter how long we have left to live.