John wrote this to the reader of His epistle, “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” It is another way of saying that a disciple of Jesus must live as Jesus lived, and do as Jesus did, and be (in character) what Jesus was (a true Son of the living God). We’ve all heard many sermons on discipleship and obedience, so there is usually little resistance to that idea in our heads. The challenge comes when we are faced with difficulty, and the idea must move from our heads to our hearts. It is one thing to agree to good doctrine, another thing to repeat it, and still a far different thing altogether to live it.
In the context of speaking about the persecution His disciples will face, Jesus said, “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!”
Jesus’ point is not so much that students are on the path to becoming like their Master – although that is a true point. Nor is the main point that a servant is never greater than the one who employs them – although that too is true. As the student, no matter how sharp they are, cannot replace the teacher while they are under them, so likewise the servant cannot replace the master while they are under the master’s employ. These things, Jesus says, are obvious.
Why then would one object to particular treatment if their teacher – by the very nature of being their teacher – is subject to the same particular treatment? An apprentice bomb-maker cannot complain of being surprised when they are hauled off to prison when they’ve seen their teacher get hauled off to prison for bomb-making. Likewise, a disciple who sees Jesus mistreated and called a partner with Satan cannot complain when people likewise mistreat them.
As Warren Wiersbe put it, “Men persecuted Jesus Christ when He was ministering on earth, so why should we expect anything different? We are His disciples, and the disciple does not “outrank” the Master. They said that Jesus was in league with Satan (Beelzebub: lord of the dung; lord of the house); so they will say the same thing about His followers. However, we should count it a privilege to suffer for Him and with Him.”
Wiersbe’s point is more than valid. Disciples witness of their master. It is a mark of honor – an attainment of sorts – to be treated the same as your master. Surly then we can understand it to be a very high privilege when we find ourselves being treated as Jesus was. It means there is enough of Jesus in us to convict us of being like Him. It means wee have fully discharged our obligation to be a witness. After all, we must remember that in God’s court, not every witness results in the justification of those who are being charged. Sometimes our faithful witness actually results in their condemnation, and all the more so for having so poorly treated God’s faithful child!
As believers share persecutions, as Jesus did, they also share God’s comfort, as Jesus did.Bob Utley
Let us be thankful for hardships, for by them we participate in the Christ-life.