A Commentary by John Stott

Matthew 7:28-29. Conclusion: who is this preacher?

3. Jesus’ authority as the Lord.

We have already had occasion to observe that the ascription to Jesus of the title ‘Lord’ does not necessarily imply a recognition of him as the divine Lord. As N.B.Stonehouse put it: ‘The flexibility of the Greek word “Lord” must indeed be recognised: not every instance of its use implies a consciousness of divine authority. Not everyone who addressed Jesus as Lord clearly chose this name as the equivalent of deity; it could as a polite form of address mean little more than our “sir”.’ Nevertheless, in some contexts Jesus seems deliberately to have accepted the fullest implications the title could bear, as when he associated it with his other and favourite title ‘Son of man’, who in Daniel’s vision would receive universal dominion, (Dn.7:14; Mt:24:39,42, ‘your Lord’), and with David’s ‘lord’ who would sit at God’s right hand (Mk.12:35-37).

Only the context can help us to judge how much dominion and deity may rightly be included in the word ‘Lord’. Take as an example the section in the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus referred to people who addressed him as ‘Lord, Lord’ (Mt.7:21-23). He was not complaining that they chose this title, for he accepted it as appropriate. His point was rather that they were using it glibly and were not investing it with its true meaning. He was not just ‘sir’ to be respected; he was ‘Lord’ to be obeyed. The Lucan equivalent makes this plain, as we saw: ‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord”, and not do what I tell you?’ (Lk.6:46). Thus Jesus saw himself as more than a teacher, giving advice which people might or might not heed at their discretion; he was their master, issuing commandments, expecting obedience and warning them that their eternal welfare was at stake. Clearly, in all this Jesus was no ordinary rabbi. A Jewish rabbi’s pupils sat at his feet to study Torah. Jesus was also in one sense a rabbi, since he taught his disciples the true meaning of Torah. But his expectation was not just that they would absorb his teaching; it was that they would be devoted to him personally. This, no doubt, is why he was not content with the title ‘Rabbi’ on its own, for in fact he was their ‘Teacher and Lord’ (Jn.13:13). This too is why they in their turn did not just become ‘rabbis’, guarding and handing on the tradition of his teaching; they were also, and even more, ‘witnesses’ to him.

Tomorrow: 4). Jesus’ authority as the Saviour. 5). Jesus’ authority as the Judge.

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.