In Matthew 16, Jesus challenges His disciples with the question, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter’s answer is recorded in verse 16, ““You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In John 20:28, we find the confession of Thomas, another disciple. After seeing the resurrected Jesus with the scars from the crucifixion, Thomas believed and declared, ““My Lord and my God!” Peter, Thomas, and the other early followers of Jesus who witnessed the resurrected Christ clung to their confession of Jesus as Christ and Lord even though it cost them their lives.
But there is another disciple I want to focus on today. Take a look at what Judas Iscariot (yes, THAT Judas) says about Jesus in Matthew 26:20-25 and compare to what the other disciples say:
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”Matthew 26:20-25 English Standard Version (emphasis added)
Peter, Thomas, and the rest of the disciples call Jesus Lord while Judas calls Him Rabbi. Jesus’ response indicates that Judas’ question here gives him away, “You have said so.” In other words, while Judas respected and acknowledged Jesus as a good, even great rabbi or teacher, he did not acknowledge Jesus as Lord, a term of authority and submission. This helps shed light on how Judas could agree to betray Jesus. To him, Jesus was not the Messiah, the promised king, the Son of David sent to deliver God’s people. He was a good teacher, but not a king.
Unfortunately, a lot of people today see Jesus the same was Judas did. They respect Him as a teacher of moral virtues, but they do not submit to Him as the King to whom they owe their allegiance and their lives. As with any other philosopher of ethics, they pick and choose which of Jesus’ teachings add value to their lives and ignore the rest. They fail to grasp that Jesus’ claims are all or nothing. Jesus asks for radical commitment from His followers.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”Matthew 16:24-28 English Standard Version
Now, lest we balk and cry “unfair!” Let us remember that Jesus asks of us the same commitment that He made. Jesus is the one who took up the cross and gave His life first. Like a great commander on the battle field, Jesus cries, “Follow Me!” as He charges forward. He does not call us to anything that He has not led the way through first.
So what about you? Who do you say Jesus is? Is He a mere moral teacher with some good ideas? Or is He the Christ, the Son of the Living God, your Savior and King?