Jesus Servant Model
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Washes Disciples Feet 133

Masters Serving Slaves

Jesus washes feetJesus makes himself a model of the one serving in Luke 14.26. He orders, "Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves." The apostles in 1 Corinthians 11.26b remain leaders for there are "great ones among you." But the leaders are somehow to become as those held in low esteem, as the young, as Jesus servant models.

Conventional Thinking

The ordinary pattern of kings ruling, of their being benefactors, has something negative about it, so that Jesus is recommending an extraordinary change. A benefactor or patron, places a client in an inferior position, so that the latter is indebted to the patron, which Jesus is criticizing. Some interpreters see a close relationship to John 13, where Jesus washes the disciples' feet, although the term "serve" does not appear in the Johannine account. John writes in John 13.3-5, "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." Luke 12.37 in the parables about being ready for the master's coming says, "It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them." Mark 13:33-37 is closer. Slaves in Luke 12.37 wait for the master to come home, who when he finds them awake, "will gird himself and have them recline at the table, and will come and wait on them." The Lukan parable of the doorkeeper astoundingly has the master serving the slaves, quite as remarkable as the Jesus servant models.

Separation of Elite and Slaves

Reading both Luke 12 and 22, interpreters understandably agree that Jesus was serving others reclining at the meal. Such a symbolic action would have been astonishing in a Greco-Roman house. It has been observed that the wealthier the Greco-Roman house, the farther they "segregated" the kitchen and its slave staff from the dining rooms and their elite.

"Jesus Servant Model"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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