Friday, August 15, 2008

"Hail, Rabbi!"

Judas is one of the most infamous characters in the Bible. Most people with at least a limited knowledge of the Bible know who Judas was. He was the one who betrayed Jesus.

How could Judas betray Jesus? After all, he was one of the 12 disciples. He had been with Jesus throughout His public ministry. Why betray Him?

We may have a clue given in the betrayal account for one of the reasons Judas could have betrayed Jesus. Notice Matthew's account:

"While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, 'Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.' Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, 'Hail, Rabbi!' and kissed Him" (Matthew 26:47-49).

Did you notice what Judas called Jesus? He called Him, "Rabbi."

Rabbi meant teacher. While it may have been a title of honor, it was also used to refer to many religious leaders and teachers (Matthew 23:6-7). Jesus, of course, was different than all these other men. He was more than a teacher. He was the Son of God, Savior, and Lord.

Did Judas view Jesus as just another teacher? Possibly. It is interesting that earlier, when Jesus tells His disciples that one of them would betray Him, Judas' response was different than the others. The eleven asked, "Surely not I, Lord?" (Matthew 26:22). Judas asked, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" (Matthew 26:25).

The other disciples certainly recognized Jesus as a teacher (John 9:2; 11:8), but they also knew He was the Lord. We don't see Judas calling Jesus "Lord." All we know from the gospels is that Judas saw Him as a teacher. We don't know any more than that.

There are many today who see Jesus as a great teacher who had some good things to say, but not as the Son of God and Lord. Failure to recognize the Lordship, and therefore, the authority of Jesus, leaves us with no strong motivation to obey Him. If Jesus was merely a good teacher among many, we can take some of His words and reject others, just as we do with other men's words.

We cannot treat Jesus as if He were just another man. He was (and is) special. He was God in the flesh (Matthew 1:23; Colossians 2:9). If we wish to be saved, we must obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). This means obeying all of His commands, not just the ones that sound good to us (Matthew 28:20).

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