In Jesus’ day, the name “rabbi” or “teacher” was normally reserved for someone who had studied under another rabbi for many years. Jesus offended the religious leaders of His day by ignoring this system. Instead of apprenticing Himself as a rabbi, He simply laid down His carpenter tools and called twelve ordinary men to become His disciples. Unlike other rabbis, who merely passed on the teachings of the rabbi under whom they had studied, Jesus spoke with an authority that startled many of His listeners.
Two thousand years later, we are called to become His disciples, to stay as close to Him as a disciple would to a rabbi, studying His life, examining His teaching, and allowing His Spirit to remake us in His image. When you pray to Rabbi Jesus, remember that you are praying to the only Teacher who is all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful, able to transform not only your mind but also your heart.
Matthew 23:8 – But you are not called “Rabbi,” for you have only one Master.
John 13:3-8, 12-17 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” … So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Jesus, my Rabbi and Lord. On the night before You died, You painted a picture by Your words and deeds of what it means to be Your disciple. Help me to advance in wisdom, love, and grace as Your disciple. Give me opportunity to follow You by serving those around me. Help me to seek hidden and humble ways to do Your will.
Understanding the Name
“Rabbi” is literally translated “my great one” and can also be translated as “my master” or “my teacher.” During the first century it was customary for a rabbi to take disciples, who would be bound to him for life. After spending several years with their rabbi studying Scripture and the oral and written traditions surrounding it, the disciples would in turn because rabbis through the laying on of hands.
By Jesus’ day, the scribes held considerable power in Jewish society, serving not only as religious educators but as judges. … Many of them, as Jesus pointed out, were consumed with the desire for public acclaim and positions of honor. Over time, the scribes added so many rules and regulations to the Law that Jesus faulted them for placing heavy burdens on the people without lifting a finger to help them.
…Unlike most rabbis, who merely taught what they had learned from another rabbi, Jesus taught with His own authority, as though His wisdom came from above—a fact remarked upon by many who heard Him. Jesus counseled His disciples never to seek the honorific title “rabbi.” He alone was to be their Teacher and Master.
Studying the Name
Why do you think Jesus cautioned His disciples in Matthew 23:8 against the title “rabbi”? Why do you think Jesus washed His disciples’ feet the night before His death, making this one of the last lessons He would leave them prior to His crucifixion? Describe ways in which you have experienced people in leadership serving you. How would your life be different if you understood that your primary identity consisted of being a disciple of Rabbi Jesus?