‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
Translation: A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above his lord. Enough for the disciple that that one may become like his teacher, and the slave like his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more the ones of his household?
Background and situation: The book of Matthew has five major sections, each one featuring an extended teaching by Jesus. (These five teaching sections mirror the five books of Moses.) The Sermon on the Mount is the first major speech; the discourse on missionary activity in chapter 10 is the second.
At the beginning of chapter 10, Jesus gave the twelve disciples authority over unclean spirits. The disciples are then named, and sent out. Verses 5-23 have to do with mission strategy and facing opposition.
Versions of some of the verses in this text appear in Mark, Luke, John, and Thomas. The section from 10:26-33 has a parallel in Luke 12:2-10; 10:34-36 has a parallel in Thomas. Verse 39 has a parallel in Mark, Luke, and John.
Slave not above his master: Our lection this week begins with two proverbial sayings, the purpose of which seems to be to inform the disciples that followers of Jesus should not expect different treatment than what Jesus himself received. Jesus faced persecution, and, therefore, it should not be surprising that his followers will face persecution as well.
Matthew was writing around AD 80-85, which means that this is post-war literature. It follows the devastation of the Roman-Jewish War of AD 66-70 when blood ran in the streets of Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed.
During and after the war, significant numbers of Jerusalem residents fled to the northern regions (Galilee, Syria) in order to escape the siege of Jerusalem. In the north, pharisees tended to dominate and took the lead in organizing and settling these war-time refugees. With the Temple now destroyed, the local synagogue and local rabbis became the focal point of Jewish life.