May 7, 2020 (Thursday) - Greater Than Jesus? - A Reflection on John 13:16-20

"Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”

Today’s passage is very short, but it gives us an opportunity to do a little Bible study. And for something a little different, why don’t we do that? Today’s narrative follows the Last Supper, and true to form, Jesus says some peculiar things. He speaks about servants being lesser than their master, but why is he telling them this? We have heard Jesus rebuking his disciples earlier for arguing among themselves about who was the greatest (see Mark 9:33-36), but in today’s passage is seems like they want to be greater than Jesus himself. Could that be possible?  Let’s figure it out together, and I hope you will find it interesting.

Jesus tells his apostles that servants are not greater than their master. A few minutes before he said this, he had dropped to his knees and washed their feet, making himself like a slave. Now, if he was their master, which made them like his servants, and he made himself to be like a slave, that meant they were less than slaves. Right? If a > b and b > c, then a > c. As I said a few weeks ago, the rules of logic hold good for spiritual things too. Then Jesus says that if they know what he is saying, and do what he is asking, they were blessed.

And he said all of them were blessed, except for one of them. Because this dude actually thought he was greater than Jesus! I bet you never thought about this before but this is the inference here. Who was this? Well, WE know it is Judas, but THEY — the apostles — didn’t. But they would eventually come to know, and that would be yet another sign that Jesus is the Messiah. He said this was gonna happen! Then, Jesus quotes a verse from Scripture. “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” This is taken from Psalm 41:9, where King David says, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” Who is David talking about?

He is talking about a guy called Ahithophel. He was David’s consiglieri, a close friend and counselor. Now David had a son named Absalom. Absalom was a really wild guy. He decided to mount a rebellion against his father and take over the throne. Ahithophel, David’s friend, turned against David and joined Absolom’s rebellion. You will find the entire sordid story in 2 Samuel 15. Well, Absolom’s rebellion was eventually crushed, but do you know what happened to Ahithophel? He hanged himself (see 2 Samuel 17:23). Do you see the parallels between David and Ahithophel, and Jesus and Judas? The Bible is full of such stuff.

This is one of the reasons I love Scripture, and I hope that I am able to transmit some of this love to you as well. But a deep love for it can only come if you open your Bibles and start digging into it yourself. If you are not used to reading the Bible, there is much you will not understand at the start but keep at it and you will. So, what lesson do we take home from today’s story? Well, a servant is not greater than the master. Since we have been talking about shepherds all these days, this means that no matter how wonderful a shepherd one might be, in front of the Good Shepherd he is still only a sheep!

God bless you!