"You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:14-15)

While ecclesiastical sectarian teachers like to interpret these statements by Jesus outside of their context, we know that Jesus was speaking directly with his disciples here.

This, in fact, is one of the reasons why many of Jesus' statements have been misinterpreted: Some take his statements out of their context, imagining that Jesus is somehow speaking to everyone throughout time.

Jesus was speaking with his close disciples. This discussion begins after supper after the passover, where Jesus washed his disciples' feet, and Judas was sent away (John 13). So we know that this discussion is an intimate one: Jesus is speaking with his closest disciples here.

This is also evidenced by the fact that Jesus reveals that he considers them friends rather than servants/disciples now. This indicates that previously Jesus' disciples were considered Jesus' servants, as traditionally, a disciple was both a student and a servant of the teacher.

Why is this? Because according to ancient custom, the spiritual teacher is God's representative, and service to such a teacher by the student is the foundation for becoming God's servant.

But Jesus indicates a change in this relationship to one of friendship. Why? Because Jesus has revealed to them his intimate relationship with the Supreme Being and the spiritual realm: "everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

This also illustrates that Jesus was not the Supreme Being. Rather, he was God's messenger. He is passing on to them what he learned from the Supreme Being.

How could a person seriously claim that Jesus is the Supreme Being when Jesus gained his message from someone else - God? How could they think Jesus is God when Jesus is seeing his disciples on the same level because he has revealed to them what the Supreme Being revealed to him?

Over and over Jesus refers to himself as God's loving servant and the servant of others. This is reflected in the two Greek phrases that referred to Jesus in the New Testament: υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου and υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ - translated into the phrases "son of man" and "son of God."

The word υἱὸς (huios), can only mean "son" when "generally used of the offspring of men" and "in a restricted sense, the male offspring (one born by a father and of a mother)" according to Thayer's lexicon. But υἱὸς is also - according to the same lexicon - "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower." This means that υἱὸς (huios) means, outside a physical relationship of offspring, "follower," "servant" or "devotee."

In both phrases above the word τοῦ means "of." In the first phrase, ἀνθρώπου means "man" or "mankind" or "humanity." In the second phrase, θεοῦ is the Name of God.

This means that these two phrases are better translated to:

"Servant of humanity" and "servant of God."

We could also say "devotee of humanity" and "devotee of God".

These are all consistent with Jesus' position here, seeing his disciples as equals - "friends." Why would he see them as equals? Because he sees himself as God's servant, and sees them also as God's servants. This is confirmed by another statement by Jesus:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:50)
Someone who does the will of another is quite clearly that person's servant. And if the service is done without any coercion, then that is considered loving service. A person who wants to please someone - with no ulterior motive - by doing their will is a loving servant.

Herein lies one of the messages in these scriptures, hidden from view to ecclesiastical institutions that don't partake in loving service: The relationships that exist between God's loving servants and their students. These are relationships of love and mutual loving service. We can see this relationship between Abraham and Lot, Moses and Joshua, Eli and Samuel, Samuel and David, David and Solomon, and John the Baptist and Jesus.

The spiritual teacher is loving God and this love naturally extends to his students. Even though he may be in the role of their spiritual master, he does not feel superior to them. This is because love for God is a humble love. It is not a proud love. Those who feel proud of their position cannot experience love for God. The two emotions are incompatible. But humility and love are compatible. God's loving servant may have taken on the role of teacher to please the Supreme Being, but they never lose their humility. This is the humility that Jesus is expressing here, as he sees his students as friends and brothers.

This friendship and brotherhood in servitude can only be found among someone who sees their actual position in relation to God: As God's servant and care-giver. Most of us do not want to see ourselves as a servant. We want to be the master.

Jesus obviously did not. He did not consider himself great. He was often found praying on his knees and often praised God in his teachings. And this is why he primarily spoke of the roles of "servant of humanity" and "servant of God" in the third person. He was speaking of that particular role as being empowered by God. He was not proudly proclaiming himself superior to others.

And the message Jesus taught also reflected his humility. Jesus was not teaching his own brand of religion. He did not make up his own philosophy. In fact, he was teaching a pure form of what the teachers like Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel and John the Baptist taught before him.

How do we know that Jesus taught the same thing that was taught before him? Just consider these passages:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:1-2)
After John baptized him, Jesus began to teach others the very same message:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 4:17)
Then Jesus told his disciples to also preach this same message:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)
Since Jesus taught the same message as John, and then told his students to teach that very same message we can see that Jesus was in fact passing on the teachings of his teacher, and asked his students to do the same.

At the same time, Jesus also quoted those teachers who preceded John, including Moses, Samuel and David. In fact, Jesus' most important teaching came from Moses himself in Deuteronomy 6:5:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)
Yet Jesus also states here that "everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." What does this have to do with passing on the teachings of his predecessors?

Once again we see the triangulation of the relationships that exist between the Supreme Being, God's representative and the student. God's representative is passing on God's teachings. These teachings are echoed throughout the scriptures, by His representatives, and by God Himself from within (some call this the Holy Spirit). The Supreme Being's communications are consistent: He wants us back. He wants us to come home to Him because God knows this is the only way we will become happy.


(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian institutional influence, see the Devotional Translation  - translated from the original Greek texts.)