(I’ve been preaching a series of lessons on Judas Iscariot at the county jail. This article was the basis for Lesson 3.)
No doubt Jesus was a great moral teacher. The “golden rule,” the “good Samaritan,” the “prodigal son” – all are teachings of Jesus that have shaped Western Civilization’s sense of morality and ethics, right and wrong. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Take care of people who, for whatever reason, are unable to take care of themselves. Be willing to ask for, and extend, a second chance. These principles are fundamental to Western ideas of politics, economics, and social entities. All come from the teachings of Jesus.
But sadly, many in our world are quite comfortable with the teachings of Jesus, as far as they go. They are perfectly willing to be hospitable, generous, and even forgiving. They may even give Jesus credit for teaching them how. But when forced to choose between what they have been taught and what the want to do, many who espouse the great moral teachings of Jesus find themselves perfectly willing to go against them when they decide the situation so dictates.
But Jesus wants more.
Jesus came to Earth to be more than a rabbi. He came to be Lord. He doesn’t want students; He wants brothers. His message was not just how to live well in this life, but how to conquer death so there could be hope for the next one.
The difference comes down to one question. Is Jesus your Rabbi, or is He your Lord? Is your loyalty to your King, or to yourself or something else? Is Jesus a wise philosopher full of good ideas people should listen to, or is He King of your life, having the authority to inform you of His will and trusting You to carry it out?
When told of Jesus’ imminent betrayal at the Last Supper, every disciple asked Him, “Lord, is it I?” Well, every disciple but one. Jesus was Lord to the eleven who stayed loyal, but to the traitor – Judas Iscariot – Jesus was merely “Rabbi.”
Ultimately the difference between Jesus as rabbi and Jesus as Lord comes down to a matter of trust. Do you trust Jesus? And can He trust you?