Does Jesus Have Servants Or Not?

Harmonizing An Alleged Bible Discrepancy

Sam Shamoun


The Gospel of Mark says that Jesus didn’t come to be served (10:45), whereas in the Gospel of John Jesus identifies his disciples as his servants (12:26). Why are Mark and John teaching opposite things?(1)


To begin with, Jesus in Mark did not deny that he has servants since he refers to his followers as servants whom he will leave in charge of his house (meaning his Church).

"At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send HIS angels and gather HIS elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens… No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts HIS servants (doulois) in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn." Mark 13:26-27, 32-35

Mark even refers to those who ministered to Christ:

"When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered (diekonoun) to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem." Mark 15:41

The point Mark was making is that Christ’s purpose in coming was to die as a ransom for the sins of his people:

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served (diakonethenai) but to serve (diakonesai), and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

He reiterates this elsewhere:

"‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them." Mark 14:24

Furthermore, although John does say that Christ has his servants who serve him:

"If anyone serves (diakone) me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant (diakonos) be also. If anyone serves (diakone) me, the Father will honor him." John 12:26

He is equally clear that Jesus didn’t come to be served by them, but to serve and die for them:

"It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me "Teacher" and "Lord," and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant (doulos) is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’" John 13:1-17

Moreover, John also records Jesus telling his disciples that they are more than just slaves:

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants (doulous), for the servant (doulos) does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you… Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant (doulos) is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours." John 15:13-15, 20

Jesus’s point here is not that they are not his servants, but that they aren’t merely servants since they are also his beloved companions. Hence, Christ desires that all who serve him become his close intimate friends as well.

As it stands, both Mark and John are in complete agreement that Jesus does have slaves who will serve him, but that he didn’t come into the world to be served by them. Rather, he came to serve his people, his slaves, by dying for them in order to save them from their sins. It is after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension that his servants began (and continue) serving him as their exalted and risen Lord.


(1) This particular objection is taken from amateur Muslim apologist and Deedat devotee Ali Ataie, in his book In Defense of Islam, p. 27 (source).

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