“Servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.” (John 13:16)
One of the temptations Jesus faced was a temptation to pride. Satan told Jesus to jump down from the pinnacle of the temple in the presence of the people so that by so doing, God would send Angels to prevent him from crashing and people would begin to revere him assuming he jumped down from heaven.
This temptation remains forever rife among ministers of God today; it is the temptation to make ourselves appear likes gods; greater than the ordinary. It is a temptation to make people believe we are closer to God and so, therefore, higher, more important, more sophisticated, more intelligent, wiser than other human beings.
Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel passage: “a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” (John 13:16). To get the message Jesus was passing across, we have to read the last verse of today’s Gospel passage: “Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives Me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” (John 13:20)
In very simple terms, Jesus is saying that if we are successful in carrying out our tasks as His ministers, the glory does not belong to us but to Him who sent us. If thousands hear the message and decide to repent and begin a new life, they did not receive the preacher, rather, they received Jesus Christ, and because they have received Jesus, they received God the Father. The preacher has no right whatsoever to boast.
In our first reading today, we hear Paul preach for the first time since his conversion. The fact that Paul who once persecuted the Church could stand boldly to proclaim the faith shows that God can use anybody. We are nothing but instruments in the hands of God. We may assume we are holy, wise and honourable but God can decide to work through those whom we look down upon.
A servant can never be greater than the Master. Let us shun every form of pride. Let us avoid taking the glory during “testimony time.” It is God who has done it, we only joined the person to pray, we are not the cause of the miracle and we dare not boast about it. Jesus says: “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:10).
It is from the lips of St. Paul (in today’s first reading) that we heard how John the Baptist concluded his ministry: “What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.” (Acts 13:25). This is the same attitude every minister must have – to allow Jesus Christ shine rather than take all the glory. Remember, pride goes before a fall but he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Cf. Proverbs 16:18, Luke 14:11, Luke 18:14)
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, instil in me the virtue of humility and service. Amen.
Bible Study: Acts 13:13-25, Psalm 89 and John 13:16-20).