Short Sayings of Jesus

A Disciple and Teacher

Matthew 10:24

Teaching t12289


We are in the middle of a series entitled “Short Sayings of Jesus.”  Jesus was a master teacher, and He employed many teaching forms (e.g., lecture, Socratic discussion, parables, etc.).  He also uttered short sayings that are easy to memorize and have wide application.  He used two types of short sayings:

Mini-teachings, which briefly develop an important truth.  Jesus frequently utters these in response to a situation/person, or as part of a longer teaching (Jn. 7:37,38 & UPCOMING TEACHINGS). 

Aphorisms, which are short, pithy sayings that express a general truth.  Benjamin Franklin was master of aphorism: “Fish and visitors stink after three days.”  Many of the Old Testament Proverbs are aphorisms (e.g., Prov. 10:26).  We will consider another one of Jesus’ aphorisms this morning.

  • Luke 6:40 “A disciple is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”
  • Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.”
  • John 15:20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’”
  • John 13:16 “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

General meaning

It’s not clear whether this was a Jewish aphorism that Jesus applied in new ways, or whether Jesus coined this aphorism.  At any rate, the main idea is the profound influence of chosen authority figures.  The life of a student-disciple/servant/sent one is profoundly influenced by his teacher/master/sender.  There are certain aspects of the authority figure’s experience, values and even destiny that the student will come to share because of this relationship.

It is important to know that the relationships described here are entered into voluntarily by the disciple/servant/sent one.  Disciples weren’t assigned rabbis; they chose to be apprenticed by a certain rabbi.  “Sent ones” (apostolos) chose to be representatives of the one who sent them.  Even servant-slaves (in Jewish society) usually chose to become indentured servants for a period of time to pay off debts.

It is also important to realize (as we will see) that the primary teacher/master/sender in this aphorism is Jesus Himself.  Jesus is the Teacher, the Master, and the One who sends.  Whatever is generally true about the influence of teachers/masters/senders in other relationships is much more profoundly true about the influence of Jesus.

Now let’s look at the three lessons Jesus teaches through this aphorism . . .

LESSON 1: Choose spiritual guides carefully because the stakes are high

Read Lk. 6:40.  Jesus says this immediately after saying 6:39 (read).  If you were blind, you obviously wouldn’t choose a blind person to guide you through rough terrain.  That guide will have profoundly negative influence on your physical welfare!  You need to choose a guide who can see!

This is a “parable” – it illustrates an important spiritual lesson.  Elsewhere (Matt. 15:12-14), Jesus called the Pharisees “blind guides of the blind.”  They claimed to know how to get to God (by following their traditions), but they were just as blind as the people they led.  That’s why Jesus lamented that (read Matt. 23:15) – those who chose to let the Pharisees guide them were going to fall into the pit of hell with them!  Conversely, Jesus claimed (read Jn. 8:12) that He is the unique Source of spiritual light who can guide into spiritual life everyone who trust His leadership.

So the lesson is: Choose spiritual guides carefully because the stakes are high.  This lesson is directly contrary to our culture’s religious relativism dogma.  Jesus teaches that:

We are not capable of spiritual self-enlightenment; we are spiritually blind and therefore radically dependent on outside guidance.  The idea that I can find my own way, or that I can choose not to be led by anyone is itself a deadly illusion.  The question is not: “Will I follow and be influenced by spiritual guides?” but rather “Which guide will I follow and be influenced by?”  This binary position may be offensive, but it is true nonetheless (quote Rom. 12:2; paraphrase Ps. 1 – either meditate on God’s Word and become like a tree or be deceived by falsehood and become like chaff).

We do not live in a spiritually safe or even neutral environment; we live among many guides who claim to know the way to spiritual life, but who are also blind.  They may be overtly religious (EXAMPLE); they may be secular (SUZI ORMAN).  They may be consciously deceptive (CULT LEADERS); they may be sincerely deceived (EXAMPLE).  But all other guides except for the biblical Jesus lead ultimately to everlasting destruction (Jn. 10:7-9).

We should not uncritically follow “Christian” guides.  Jesus said that many would come in His name, and yet be false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).  All Christian guides (pastors; authors; podcasts; disciplers) are only sub-guides, and all must be evaluated by their fidelity to Jesus’ word and character (Matt. 7:16).  All Christian guides are fellow-disciples of Jesus (Matt. 23:8), and their sole goal should be to help you become more like Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1).

LESSON 2: Expect ill-treatment from those who oppose Jesus

Read Matt. 10:24,25.  Here Jesus teaches a different lesson from this same aphorism.  He teaches the same lesson again in Jn. 15:18-20a (read).  Those who choose to be Jesus’ disciples/servants should expect to be treated by others like their Teacher/Master.  Specifically, we should expect ill-treatment from those who oppose Him. 

This is does not mean that all animosity toward true Christians is unjust persecution.  Much animosity is well-deserved (e.g., HARSH & MEAN-SPIRITED CITIZENS; CHURCH SHAME; LAZINESS AT WORK; PUSHY &/OR MANIPULATIVE EVANGELISM; AUTHORITARIAN LEADERSHIP).  This is why Peter says 1 Pet. 4:15 (read), and this is why Paul says Rom. 12:17,18 (read), and this is why the New Testament letters emphasize that our conduct as citizens, neighbors, work-associates, and family members should “adorn” rather than “dishonor” the gospel (Titus 2:5,10).

But no follower of Jesus should be naïve – every follower of Jesus will be mistreated (quote 2 Tim. 3:12; read 1 Pet. 4:12).  In fact, such mistreatment is a cause for rejoicing because it is a privilege to share the same treatment as our Master (read 1 Pet. 4:13), and because it is one proof of our spiritual health (read 1 Pet. 4:14,16).  Followers of Jesus have been unjustly mistreated in every society for the past 2000 years.  Overt persecution has been the norm rather than the exception – more Christians were killed for their faith in the 20th century than in all previous 19 centuries combined.  We live in a historical anomaly that is very fragile, and we will not be spared from mistreatment.

Conversely, to always be held in favor by our society, to never experience mistreatment is almost certainly proof of spiritual compromise (read Lk. 6:26).  What can we expect from a radically self-centered, materialistic, relativistic culture if we urge people to receive Jesus as the only Lord and Savior?  If we stand humbly yet firmly for God’s moral absolutes about sex, money and the sanctity of human life?  If we call fellow-Christians into high engagement in Christian fellowship?  Should we expect to be treated better than our Master?  If we are never accused of being a cult, what does this mean?  Of course, we should “look in the mirror” when we hear such accusations, and make corrections if needed.  Of course, we should respond to such accusations with gentleness rather than getting down in the mud with our accusers.  But overall we should calmly endure them, remembering that we have been called to follow our Master’s example (1 Pet. 2:21).

LESSON 3: Greatness is serving others the way Jesus has served you

Read Jn. 13:12-16.  Here Jesus applies this aphorism to how we should define greatness.  Jesus never reproved His followers for wanting to be great.  The desire to be regarded as great is a noble aspiration – cynical non-aspiration is tragic and deplorable.  The key is to want to be regarded as great by God (rather than by other people), and to pursue greatness the way Jesus pursued it.  Here we learn that the standard of greatness is the very opposite of the world’s standard (lowly people serve the great one; great ones are exempt) – it is serving others the way Jesus (the greatest One) served.

In Jewish society, foot-washing was the responsibility of the lowest household slaves.  In the absence of such slaves, it was the responsibility of the lowest disciple to wash his rabbi’s feet.  This is probably why Jesus’ disciples argued at this dinner about which one was greatest (Lk. 22:24) – no one wanted to admit he was low-man on the totem pole by washing Jesus’ feet.  In this setting, Jesus donned the towel of the house-slave and washed each of His disciples’ feet, taking their filth on to Himself.  This was a symbolic act, demonstrating what He was about to do on the cross when he took our sins and guilt upon Himself so we could be forgiven by God.  This is the epitome of greatness (Phil. 2:6-11), and this is standard of Christian greatness – to use your power and influence to humbly serve other undeserving people (Phil. 2:4,5).  EXAMPLES:

  • Focusing more on the needs of others vs. focusing more on your own needs
  • Using your strengths to build up others vs. exploiting them for personal advantage
  • Forbearing mistreatment vs. lashing out
  • Serving behind the scenes vs. craving the spotlight
  • Entering difficult conversations when needed vs. avoiding them whenever possible
  • Praising God and others vs. soliciting praise from others
  • Accepting interruptions as opportunities to serve vs. resenting them (comfort plans)
  • Persevering with difficult/messy people vs. “I don’t have to put up with this”

This is so counter-cultural and counter-intuitive that unless God provides us with strong motivation, we would never pursue this path.   But He does provide this motivation.  Notice:

Jesus serves us this way (13:12b,14a).  Look at the list above – has He not served you and me over and over again in these ways?  He has set the example (13:15), and we have benefited personally from it.  As we remember and ponder how Jesus has served us, the Holy Spirit ignites this into not only humble gratitude, but also desire to thank Him by serving others in this way.

Read 13:17.  “Blessed” (makarios) means “truly happy.”  Here is an astounding and profoundly motivating promise! 

Our culture tells us that we will be truly happy only when we can have others serve us.  This results in slavery (we are at the mercy of people cooperating with our desires), restlessness (always looking for more cooperative people and circumstances), and deepening misery as we experience the failure of this project and regret for the way our selfishness has affected others.

But Jesus says that we will be truly happy when we allow Him to serve us and then serve others in the same way.  When we choose this path situationally, God’s love as it courses through us to others also seeps deeper into our souls – resulting often in existential peace and hope and even joy.  And over time, this way of life leads to greater emotional health, a good conscience, and deepening contentment.

God worked through my parents to teach me this lesson.  My father chose the former path – he lived for comfort and play, even to the neglect of serious needs in his family.  My mother chose the latter path – she lived to serve others, most of the time with a good attitude.  As I grew up and they grew older, I saw how their chosen paths affected them.  My father grew more and more unhappy and morose – although he came to faith in Christ before he died.  My mother became more thankful, more content, more beautiful in her soul.  She blessed many, many people – and she was truly blessed.  Which outcome do you want?  Which path are you choosing?


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