Why Jesus Doesn’t Need Servants

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October 28, 2020

John 15:14-17

You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

CONSIDER THIS

I see a progression of maturity for the followers of Jesus in today’s text I have not noted before. It’s the movement from servant to friend.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends,

Up to this point it strikes me that Jesus did not look at or consider his disciples as friends. They were servants. He expected them to follow and obey him based on incomplete knowledge and understanding. They did not yet know their master’s business. The Greek word for disciple is mathetes and it means a “learner.” They had been learning along the way as Jesus’ apprentices from his teaching, modeling, demonstration, and debriefing. They made errors and misjudgments and experienced outright failure at times. At other times, their successes fed their ambitions more than their faith. Still, at other points they hit the bull’s-eye and enjoyed the deep fulfillment of life as a servant of Jesus.

It strikes me that this graduation to friendship commenced when Jesus identified himself as their servant by washing their feet. Following this he brought them into the inner circle, sharing with them the intimate interrelationships of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, into which they would soon be initiated (i.e., “everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”).

Many servants of God never graduate to friendship with Jesus. Why? There is a big difference between a servant-master relationship and a friendship relationship. The former is characterized by duty—the latter by love. The former is an employee—the latter a relationship. Servants do what is required. Friends do whatever it takes.

I think there’s another reason. Too many of us fail to grasp that before we are servants we are sons and daughters. Our deepest identity is not that of a servant, but of a beloved son or daughter of an adoring Father. The gospel begins at the river where we hear our name and receive the pure, unmerited, unchangeable blessing of adoption. We will only receive the gift of friendship with Jesus to the extent we can embrace the blessing of adoption by the Father—and all of this made palpably real in our experience by the Holy Spirit.

Servanthood is neither the beginning of our identity nor the end of it. Servanthood is the essence of our vocation, the character of our love, and the gift of ourselves to one another. Servanthood, in the words of Thomas a Kempis, is the “royal way of the Holy Cross.”

The road to friendship with Jesus begins with the gift of adoption as sons and daughters. We are discipled as servants in the way of the cross. We arrive at the gift of friendship, never graduating from servant work but raised to the level of holy love. We are transformed in our self-understanding from responsibility to a master to the obedience of love. We become the friends of Jesus to find ourselves no longer his servants but the empowered servants of others.

And then there’s this word that takes us all the way back to the beginning.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

There’s only one thing to do now: love each other.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, apart from whom we can do nothing and without whom we would never find this royal way. Remind us of our baptism—every single day. Train our minds to serve and transform our hearts by the obedience of love. We need you to take us by the hand and lead us step-by-step. We will follow. Come, Holy Spirit. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

THE QUESTIONS

1. Do you see how we always simultaneously live in all three of these realities: son/daughter, servant, friend? Where do you find yourself most challenged today?

2. Think (or read back) through the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) and the two brothers and their confused sense of identity and vocation and process it through today’s text. Insights? Implications?

3. What do you make of this notion of graduating from being a servant of Jesus to a friend of Jesus and yet fully commissioned to become a servant of other people? Resonate with your understanding and experience? Push back?

Today, and every Wednesday at noon central time, we gather on a global Zoom call to sow together for a great awakening in prayer. It is powerful. Would you join us today? ZOOM LINK HERE.

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “Just a closer walk with thee”, pretty well sums up my take on today’s DT. So far these lessons reveal that I’ve known mentally these lessons most of my life having been taught them through catechesis, but up to this point never completely tried to apply them.Thank you for emphasizing the need for a close personal relationship which Jesus, our brother, Master, and friend.

  2. When I have come across this scripture I have wondered why there was never more talk about how the disciples went from being servants to friends.

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