"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:17)
Jesus has just reiterated by example the way a leader serves. The above was spoken to the disciples after the Last Supper and after He "had taken His garments, and was set down again". He asks, "Know ye what I have done to you?" (verse 12) If we don't know, it's no one's fault but our own. Jesus lived His life for us. And so it behooves us, i.e. it's beneficial, that we seek out a greater and greater understanding of what He went through and subsequently provided, for us.
Ignorance of the grace is no excuse
Jesus says "if ye know these things". Do I know these things? I find a lot of what I know, I barely utilize. For instance, the zoological term for "hoofed mammal" is ungulate. The horse sheds an underside layer of hoof (called a frog) several times a year. And under the Old Covenant of Moses, certain animals were allowed as food based on the fact they were "clovenfooted" (Leviticus 11:3). Does this information help me? Not much, honestly. Just words with meaning and free association, bereft of any real impact. Beyond integrating it into this paragraph, I really have no other use for it. Jesus says that if I know the things, the ways, I'll be happy if I do them. From knowing, to doing. If I take the words in the Bible--the words of God and Jesus--and don't do them, they remain mere words.
"I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs." (Psalm 69:30-31, emphasis mine)
I find that devotions are good, but worship and praise and thanksgiving throughout the day are almost more important.
Growing up, I had a hard time getting down to the living out of my faith. While I have a certain way I think based on my influences, etc. it didn't make the road down which I was asked to carry my cross any easier. And it isn't that I've stopped carrying it. The point I'm getting at is that, inside, we must yearn for that glimpse of God that we can in turn build upon to where the things we do are in concert with the state of our heart and mind. Here's an example. Do you consciously think about the people you see when you shop for groceries? Do you realize that all the things of your day led you to be in the store at that time and with those individuals? Because if you're following God in your thoughts, your day will follow suit. Look around. Time will stop for you because the closer you get to God, the slower time flows. Pray for people. Any that stand out, pray for 'em all and ask God to bless and forgive them. We all need His grace and love and forgiveness. As you go about your day, doing the things that Jesus would do (inside and out), He'll use you in so many ways, you won't be able to keep track after a certain point.
"For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Romans 11:32-33)
Ignorance of the law is excused
I love this scorched-earth policy (so to speak) of God in finding everyone guilty just so that He can love us and show us the right way to do things. Because, contrary to some notions, there are things we can do. But it all springs from truly knowing Jesus. And prior to doing things on the outside, we must do things on the inside. I think this is where the greatest struggle of life happens. Consciously seeking to train our focus on Jesus, so that we allow Him to place us in situations where we can act out the ways of God with people who don't know Him. This is like, next-level Christianity. Whether we're being observed and judged by a non-believer has nothing to do with the fact that God always sees everything that goes on inside us. It behooves us to realize how focused He is on us. How much He cares for every detail and every facet of, not just our life now, but also its trajectory.
There were, it seems, different levels of understanding into which the disciples grew. In verse seven of John's thirteenth chapter, Jesus tells Peter "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." We all know that at this point, Peter had yet to deny Jesus. Thing is, Jesus had already washed his feet, literally. He even prayed for Peter "that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:32). Jesus prepared a place for Peter to enter after he went through the trials that saw the layers of his old thinking slough off (kinda like a frog) and reveal who he truly was underneath. We can do the same for other people.
And Jesus has done all these things for each of us. It's the appropriating and living and doing of these things that ensure we'll be happy. Simple as that.
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." (1 Corinthians 2:12)
"Freely ye have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8b)