Matthew 10:24-25 “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!”
Not everything about Jesus’ ministry was all chuckles and grins. The people of his home town tried to throw him off a cliff. The Bible experts of the day and the church leaders challenged his teaching, questioned his credentials, and tried to ruin his reputation. Jesus wanted his disciples to realize that they could expect opposition, too. “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.”
Consider the relation between these twelve men and Jesus. Jesus calls them his students, more literally, “disciples.” A disciple is a learner, a follower. He is devoted to more than a set of teachings. He is committed to the teacher himself. These men were attached to Jesus. That would never change for the rest of their lives. They would always be his disciples, and he would always be their teacher.
Jesus also calls them his servants. The kind of servant he means is not a mere employee, free to quit and work for someone else whenever he wants. This kind of servant is a slave. And he will always be one. That reflects our relationship to Jesus, too. Once he makes us his servants, we remain his servants, and he our master, forever afterward.
So what’s the point? Neither a disciple nor a slave is above the teacher or master. They don’t take the teacher’s or master’s place. They certainly don’t expect to be treated as if they were vastly superior. They aren’t destined for a life of greater honor, privilege or ease. At most, they might look forward to a life something like that of the teacher or master. “It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.”
Jesus wasn’t in heaven yet. Neither were the Twelve. Neither are we. While we follow Jesus on earth, we can expect the same kind of treatment Jesus received here. If we are like Jesus in the things that we say, and the things that we do, then we can expect to be like him in the way others will treat us, too.
Sometimes they aren’t very nice. “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!” “Beelzebub” was not a compliment. The name means “Lord of the flies.” It suggests that the person is Lord of the place where flies are most often seen: “Lord of the manure.” From ancient times the Jews used the term as a title for the devil. Thus Jesus’ enemies were not suggesting he was stupid, or strange, or worthless. They were saying that he was evil. We might compare using this title to calling someone “Hitler” today.
It’s not hard to see that Jesus’ warning holds true, is it. Should it surprise that many consider the Christian message not just strange, or stupid, but evil? “How come you Christians are so mean to people with different ideas about sex and marriage, and tell them that what they are doing is a sin? Why are you so hateful and prejudiced against them?” “Hate” is never a Christian attitude. But is it hateful to warn someone about their sin and its consequences? Or, if there are negative consequences, is it really a loving thing to do? “How come you Christians are so arrogant and narrow-minded and think that you are the only ones going to heaven? Everyone worships the same God. People just call him by different names.” But are we just “narrow-minded” when we try to convert people from religions in which people must live in constant doubt of heaven and must pay for all their own guilt? Is it just arrogance that leads Christians to introduce people to Jesus, the only God who loves them to death? They called Jesus “Beelzebub,” the prince of demons. If you let your Christianity be known, don’t be surprised if they call you mean, intolerant, hateful, evil, or worse. Your Master was called things like this. You and I will, too.
But don’t forget the kind of Teacher and Master you follow. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet…” (John 13:13-14). “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Our Master served us to the point of dying to save us. We lose nothing by following him to the end.