Jesus - The Rabbi, Teacher, Master

W. Terry Varner
September 25, 2016

How do you see yourself? If a woman, you may answer—a mother (if you have children), daughter, wife (if married), widow, housewife, Bible class teacher, etc. If a man, you may answer—a father (if you have children), son, husband (if married), widower, provider for the home, Bible class teacher, etc.

How do the Scriptures describe Jesus? How did He describe Himself? Every individual has the right to be give a description of himself/herself based on the knowledge of self. Jesus is no different. A caveat we might offer is whatever He claimed of Himself was accurate; whereas, this is not always so with description given by individuals of themselves.

The titles of Jesus drawn from the Bible are many. They define and explain Him. They also define and explain what He does and why. As people listened to Jesus teach and as they witnessed His miracles they raised an important question: “Who is this and what is God doing through Him?” This continues to be an important question in our era. Sometimes the early disciples needed time to grasp the importance of Jesus and His teaching and actions. Twice in the Gospel of John it is clear that some things were not understood by His apostles until after His resurrection. “When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them” (John 2:22). “These things understood not His disciple’s at first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him” (John 12:16). Consider Jesus as the Rabbi, Teacher, and Master.

The term Rabbi was a term that the general populace often called Jesus to show respect for His teaching (cf. Matt. 26:25, 49; Mark 9:5; 10:5; Luke 7:40; 11:45; John 1:38, 49). Other times the common people spoke of Jesus as Master (cf. Luke 5:5; 8:24(2), 45; 9:33,49; 17:13). Often times they used the word Teacher (cf. Mark 4:38; 9:17, 38; 10:17; John 3:2).

The terms Rabbi, Teacher, and Master show the importance of His teaching ministry. These terms also depict that Jesus taught as one with authority. Evident that Jesus’ teaching was considered authoritative is seen in the people’s evaluation of His teaching at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29). Nicodemus acknowledged the teaching authority of Jesus when he said to Him, “we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2).

Further, Jesus makes it clear that at/in the judgment “the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Some Bible students when considering the authority of Jesus seem surprised that He taught with authority. Dunn notes the emphasis on His authority is “because Jesus lacked formal education or training.” We ask, “Can this be surprising?” Indeed, Jesus lacked the formal training of the rabbinical schools of His day, but He was the Son of God and was filled with the Holy Spirit. “For He whom God has sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” (John 3:34).

He did not appeal to Jewish tradition. Six times in the Sermon on the Mount He introduced His teachings with the words, “Ye have heard it said by them of old time . . . but I say unto you” (cf. Matt. 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38,43). This suggests with clarity the His divine authority.