A Lesson on Lordship, John 13. 3, 13-17
J. Boyd Nicholson, St. Catharines, Canada
The force and implications of what took place in that upper room are better appreciated when we consider the context. We read, 'And there was also a strife among them which of them should be the greatest', Luke 22. 24. In verse 3 there are three majestic reasons why the Lord Jesus should be acknowledged as supreme in every life.
First because of His glory as the Sovereign. We read, 'the Father had given all things into his hands'. Second, because of His glory as the Son, 'he was come [out] from God'. He came out from the very Godhead as the eternal and only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Third, because of His glory as the Saviour He 'went to God'. His work finished at the cross. His resurrection and ascension would be a glorious evidence of His finished and accepted work.
In verses 13-17, three aspects of His Lordship are presented. There is The Reality of His Lordship. He declared it, 'I am . , . Lord and Master'. There is The Profession of His Lordship. The disciples expressed it, 'Ye call me Lord'. There is The Outcome of His Lordship in the life, 'Happy are ye'.
The Reality of His Lordshiphas been established universally, 'He is Lord of air. It has been established ecclesiastically, He said, I will build my church'. It has been established individually, 'every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord'.
The word translated 'Lord' is used to convey different ideas in the New Testament. Some of these are, 'owner'; therefore all possessions are in His hands. Here His supremacy is in view. In John 12. 35-41 it is confirmed that the Jehovah of the Old Testament, high and lifted up, the surveyor of the universe, Isa. 6, 40, is the Jesus of the New Testament. 'Master'; therefore all power is in His hands. Here His authority is in view, see 1 Peter 3. 22. 'Ruler'; therefore all purposes are in His hands. Here His sovereignty is in view.
The Profession of His Lordship.'Ye call me Master and Lord'. The disciples had called Him 'Lord' in the storm, Matt. 8. 25. There they discovered Him to be Lord of the elements and found peace. They had called Him 'Lord' when He came walking on the water. Matt. 14. 28. There they discovered Him to be Lord of the laws of nature and found power. They had called Him 'Lord' at the grave, though He wept real tears, John 11. 34. There they discovered Him to be Lord over life and death and found comfort.
Their profession of His Lordship was correct, 'Ye call Me . . . Lord'. But it is not enough to call Him Lord. It must be practically worked out in an obedient life. He asked the disciples one day, 'Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?', Luke 6. 46.
Their expression of His Lordship was good. 'Ye say well', v. 13, but their striving for pre-eminence was unworthy of His Lordship. The Lord declared, 'Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven'. Matt. 7. 21.
To thoroughly lay hold on this great truth and live in the enjoyment of it, will bring peace in the storms of life, power in the circumstances of life, and victory over the enemies of life. Above all it will bring joy to the heart of the One who is the Lord over all, blessed for ever. While He is Lord indeed, this blessed One does not impose His authority on His disciples by force. Love and loyalty cannot be legislated.
The Outcome of His Lordshipis set out in the explanation of the Lord Jesus concerning His act of feet-washing. First, by the owning of His Lordship, we will acknowledge our obligation to one another as servants of the Lord, 'If I ... ye ought', v. 14. If the Lord of life and glory has humbled Himself to serve His creatures, there should be no question when it comes to humbly serving one another.
They had said, 'Teacher and Lord', v. 13. That is the order of human experience. As we learn from Him as the Teacher we come to recognize His authority over us and bow to Him as Lord. The order of divine revelation however is 'Lord and Teacher'. If we would bow to Him as Lord first, then we would learn the more of Him, 'If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine', John 7.17.
Secondly, we will follow the example of the Lord as students of the divine Teacher, 'ye should ... as I', It is not enough to serve, it must be acceptable service, following the steps of the Master.
Thirdly, we will submit to the divine order of priority. The disciples had been striving for place, now the Lord presents two principles of priority in verse 16. First they are viewed as servants, not greater than their Sovereign. That is, if they refuse to serve others, then they profess to be greater than the Lord who did! Second, The disciples are viewed as sent ones, not greater than the One who sends them. That is, if they refuse to obey, they profess to be greater than the Lord who did obey. Partial obedience is really disobedience, which results in loss.
Finally, we will enjoy the happy Christian life we all seek, 'If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them', v. 17. The Lord gives the disciples two conditions for their happiness. First, knowing the words of the divine Teacher, 'If ye know these things'. It is possible not even to know His teaching and by self-imposed ignorance of our beloved Lord and His word to live unhappy, unfruitful and unused Christian lives. Second, doing the will of the divine Sovereign, 'If ye do them'. It is a worse thing to know His words and His ways and to choose not to do them. This is outright sin, 'To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin', James 4. 17,
The lesson is clear, the Lordship of Christ is not only a doctrine to be believed, it is a way of life to be lived. It is a life of service, it is a service of love. We need be in no doubt as to what is involved for the Master has said, 'I have given you an example', v. 15.