In Matthew’s Gospel, it is almost always the case that those who don’t know Jesus as Lord refer to Him as Teacher (cf. 12:38; 17:24; 19:16, et. al.). The disciples, in Matthew, never call Jesus this. This of course does not mean that Jesus was not a teacher. He was. But Matthew seems to use the term to especially refer to those who only knew him as teacher, and often there is a negative connotation. Often the one calling Jesus teacher is (ironically) presented as having an insufficient understanding of the things Jesus taught, as in the case of the rich young man in Matthew 19:16, who asked “Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain eternal life.
In Matthew 26:18, Jesus sends the disciples ahead to Jerusalem with the message to find “a certain man” and tell him “the Teacher says, My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”
The fact that Jesus identifies himself to this “certain man” as simply ‘the Teacher,’ suggests that the man was not a follower of Christ (if Matthew is consistent in the use of this word), but someone who perhaps Jesus had met and who probably even regarded Jesus highly (after all, Jesus fully expects the man to follow his instructions). And that itself is an interesting thing to ponder. Jesus, on the night before he was crucified, chose the home of someone who was not a disciple, but just perhaps an admirer.
When I started to write this blog, my original thought was to draw a distinction between someone who considers Jesus as Lord and those who merely think of Him as a good teacher. It’s an old story though and one that’s been told too many times. Plus, I wonder if the message in this passage, is not (as in so many others) to distinguish between those who called Jesus Lord and those who called him Teacher, but rather of the need to make room in our worship, in our gathering, in our Bible studies and in home groups, for the latter as Jesus seems to being doing in his final hours. I mean, that really is what the former are called to do isn’t it, invite those in who are pondering, who are searching, who are testing the waters, as it were?
And so perhaps Matthew’s final point regarding the designation “Teacher” is, yes there is a difference between calling Jesus Lord and calling Him Teacher. But that difference should not function as a barrier between those outside the community of faith and those inside, but as a reminder of the need for insiders to constantly be inviting, including, and welcoming those who are still seeking and searching.