I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

When Jesus says to his disciples, “no servant is greater than his master” in this passage, who is the master? If you are like me, you quickly answer the way that every Sunday School child is trained to answer all the questions… “Jesus!” Right? Is that how you answered? That is how I have always thought about this passage: Jesus is the master and his disciples are the servants. However, the more I think about it, the more I have a feeling that this is not the best way to interpret this passage. Now, let me be clear, ultimately, Jesus does want us to see him as the person that we would follow as our Lord and Master. However, in the context of this passage, I would like to suggest that Jesus is not the master, but the servant.

You might want to go back and reread John 13:1-17 to get the full context, but if you remember, Jesus just finished washing the disciples’ feet. Although Jesus was the leader of this group and was the least likely person to be washing feet, he got down on his knees and washed all 24 stinky feet. Why did Jesus do this? As vs. 16 says, “I have set you an example…” Jesus was redefining what leadership is. Leaders are to take the role of the servant. So, right here, after playing the part of the servant, the next word out of his mouth is a statement about servants and masters. So, I don’t think that leaves us any doubt on who the servant is… it is Jesus. However, then that begs the question that we began with… “Who is the master?”

Maybe Jesus is making a much bigger point than simply encouraging his disciples to be servants. Maybe he is suggesting that the reason he has become a servant is because he is not greater than his own master. Well, who is Jesus’ master? God the Father. What Jesus is saying here is that God is a servant at heart. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he was showing us what God is like. Wow! Sit with that today. The God of the universe wants to wash your feet. In fact, the God of the universe tells you, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” How will you allow God to wash you today?

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

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