|It is good to remind ourselves of the basic
mind-set of Christian discipleship. Here, in our passage this morning,
the Lord gives us a good lesson about what we can expect as disciples of
our Teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is also our Master, who owns us
in every aspect of our being.
The expression found here was used by the Lord, on at least, four different occasions: here, John 13, John 15, Luke 6 (It is probably an indication that he frequently repeated himself on the subject). And the basic idea that is taught here is clearly repeated many more times in the recorded sayings of the Lord. It must have been important to him and it does us well to think about how we fit into the phrase and its meaning. Can I say, Can you say -in all honesty: "It is enough that the disciple be as his teacher and the bond slave as his master." Can you join me in affirming that truth?
I. FIRST, THINK ABOUT THE REASONABLENESS OF THE WORDS.
1. Nobody could quarrel with the thesis. It is a matter of common sense and proper humility that the disciples take a subordinate place to their teacher and servants are subjugated to their masters. (For such is the meaning of the word doulos which is translated with the more general word "servant" here in the R.S.V.) It is one of the five Greek words in the New Testament for a servant: diaconos, one who serves; huperetes, a hired servant; pais, a boy servant; misthios, a worker. Doulos, the word used here, is one who was owned by his master.) Jesus' disciples would have, no doubt, understood it that way as he spoke these words in Aramaic, which presumably had corresponding synonyms to the Greek words of our text. Those disciples would not, for a moment, have thought that they should have better food or better living accommodations than their Teacher-Master.) The idea of a princely-living, globe-trotting cadre of ministers living in five star hotels, which we sometimes see in our day, would have shocked the Christians of the first century.Do you have this view of your salvation and relationship to God -- this Biblical view, God's view? It has not even occurred to many professing Christians, and is one of the things making the Biblical form of Christianity something unique and much different than membership in a fraternal order, or like our American citizenship. Is this Biblical view, your view about yourself? It will have significant consequences whether it is, or is not.
II. AND THINK ABOUT THE WEIGHT OF RESPONSIBILITY THAT THESE WORDS PLACE UPON US.
1. "It is enough that the disciple be as his teacher and the bond slave as his master." This rule governs your life in its every aspect, if you are a Christian. There are aren't any exceptions.Think about this: If you were to take the whole company of the people that you believe to be true Christians, what percentage of them do you think are making the work of Christ's Kingdom a major part of their life? And what percentage of them are merely out for the best bargain, with the particular church that offered them the most services, entertainment and solace for their time and money and the least amount of obligation? And, in this, they are no different from many of their leaders who are out for the best bargain in church employment. And how do you stand -- how do I stand, in connection to these categories of people?
The Lord is seen in the Gospels as living a somewhat normal life. He obviously enjoyed himself with friends. Probably, he enjoyed human ingenuity, seemingly having been trained as a carpenter. He obviously enjoyed creation as he saw it around him. And yet there was a purpose for his life. He lived his life for, and died for, his church. We do not imitate him in the specifics of his life, but yet there is a lesson there. He is your teacher and your master; my teacher and my master. "It is enough that the disciple be as his teacher and the bond slave as his master."
5. Certainly, another sense in which this applies, is the willingness to suffer hardship for the sake of Christ without bitterness and without complaint. For some of us, this seems to be almost harder, even than martyrdom. This may be due to the unlikely possibility that they would really rather be martyred, or to the fact that no one gives you credit for suffering hardship, but at least you would have your 15 minutes of sympathy if you attained literal or figurative martyrdom for your faith and obedience. Who knows? But it is difficult to submit to hardship for Christ's sake without bitterness or complaint.
6. And it applies to entering into the sufferings that are a normal concomitant of life in the world. God has not exempted us from the law of suffering -- pain, physical affliction, accident, the burden of other people dependent upon us, or untimely death. We may think it is too bad, but God has not exempted us. And, presumably, the Lord Jesus Christ experienced all of these things in some form or fashion. And "it is enough that the disciple be as his teacher and the bond slave as his master."This is a heavy responsibility and sobering thought. There might be somebody here who will be called to have a more than average portion of these natural forms of suffering and difficulty during their earthly pilgrimage. What aspect of your life is like this? Remember your Master Jesus Christ, who, as Peter puts it, "first endured the sufferings and then the glory." So you, too, will be rewarded in heaven-to-come for your faithful endurance.
"It is enough that the disciple be as his teacher and the bond slave as his Master."
And, in the meantime, be assured that your Master is looking on approvingly, giving you grace through the Holy Spirit, permitting exactly the right combination of things for you (since he knows you thoroughly to the core, and what is best for his glory and for your eternal welfare). Do you believe this?
III. NOW, HOW MAY WE RELATE THIS TO THE COMMUNION WHICH WE ALWAYS OBSERVE ON THIS FIRST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH?
At your baptism, you entered into this covenant that included all the implications of v.24. You may not have known this. You may have had parents who put the mark of God's kingdom upon you as an infant, without your consent, and claimed you for God in holy baptism. Or, you may have been pressured into a wrongful second baptism as is often the case in anti-paedo-baptistic churches. But it was part of the commitment, part of the covenant. You became his servant. You became his disciple, and
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his Master. It is enough that the disciple be as his teacher and the servant as his master.Be assured, in the Communion, that God is with you, in the person of his Holy Spirit, comforting you, bearing you up, "lest you should dash your foot against a stone," or suffer the slightest difficulty contrary to the will of God, and giving you immeasurable satisfaction and joy in the serving of the Lord Christ -- for, in the Communion, he gives you symbols to eat as a sign that he will provide for all of your needs according to the will of God. But all that comes under the heading of "the glory" in Peter's expression "the sufferings and the glory," will come later on!
For now, it is mostly "the way of the cross," the way of relative or profound suffering, as God shall choose in his infinite wisdom. Oh, it is suffering that is mixed with unspeakable blessing, along the way. But, still, that is not "the glory!" The "glory" shall be "revealed hereafter," Peter says. "First the sufferings, then the glory," he says. But, for now, you must realize:
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his Master. It is enough that the disciple be like his teacher and the servant like his master.Can you find a comfortable fit for these words in your life, even though it is in such a radically different style of life from that of the first century disciples? May God the Spirit enable you to do so!
This morning, on this first Sunday of the month, we regularly celebrate
communion as a whole congregation. As we do so, we not only renew
our confession of Christ as our Savior, but also as our Lord who has the
right to designate the burdens and difficulties and responsibilities of
our earthly pilgrimage which he in his providence has permitted to come
our way! As we partake of this communion -- the symbol of the Saviorhood
and the Lordship of the Son of God, let us use it now, and always, in this
regard and with this in mind!
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