When people hear Jesus say that masters have servants to wait on them, not to be companions, they think that Jesus is reminding them who’s in charge. “Don’t look for an invitation to dinner just because you did your job.” Sounds like an egotistical boss on a power trip. It doesn’t sound like Jesus.
Repeatedly during his lifetime Jesus explained to the disciples that he was there to give them something, not to get something. He also told them that his relationship with them echoed the Father’s relationship with them. The disciples were too certain that they had this “God thing” down cold. After all, they were Jews, sons of the covenant. They knew God. They didn’t need anyone to tell them about God. They might mess up sometimes but they understood the game: follow the rules, say your prayers, keep God happy and God would give you good stuff and protect you from enemies.
In this smug theological milieu Jesus teaches that indeed a master does not eat with the servants [Lk. 17: 5-10] but a few chapters later, sitting down to his Last Supper he says, “How long I have wanted to eat this supper with you” [Lk. 22:15]. Then, in the middle of that meal he tells the disciples, “I am a servant to you” [Lk. 22:17]. This Jesus whom Luke presents as the revealing presence of God, the savior, refers to himself, and hence to the Father, as “servant” to humanity. Jesus did everything he could to break open the cage in which the disciples held God hostage. Do we still maintain that same cage – gilded with a bit of incense burning in front of it – expecting God to be in there docilely playing the role we’ve assigned him?
Mature Christian faith urges us to drop the image of a God who demands that we please him in return for rewards and join with God our Creator in his work of giving birth to a future humanity that surpasses our best dreams. The goal is a fulfilled humanity, the gift that our God has been offering from the beginning. As unfathomable as it may seem, our Creator wants to be our servant and lover, not our master.