Encountering the Goodness of God

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10: 18)

Our Savior replied this way to a petition concerning eternal life. While Christ was teaching throughout the area of Judea, a young man came running to Him, eagerly entreating Him to say what he should do to inherit everlasting life.

Luke described the young man by his dignity, calling him “a ruler,” or a person who held some authority among the Jews (Luke 18: 18). The young ruler asked Christ a legal question, “What must I do?” or, as Matthew wrote, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19: 16). The young man imagined that everlasting joy was available for purchase through the works of the law. He did not carry the smallest seeds of faith. Christ’s answer implies that unless they were perfect and able to fulfill every divine precept, works of the law gave no hope of happiness in another world.

Yet Christ loved the young ruler (Mark 10: 21), who did not address Him with falseness or hypocrisy and who did not intend to test or provoke Christ, only to be instructed by Him. The young ruler came with an ardent desire, asking to be satisfied. He offered Christ a solemn act of respect by kneeling to Him and prostrating himself on the ground. Christ, with the knowledge He had of the hearts and thoughts of men and the abhorrence He had of hypocrites, would have known if the young ruler had been false in his question. The young ruler’s question was sincere, but the first reply Christ makes to him concerns the title that the young ruler gave Him: “Good Master.”

Some think that Christ intended to draw him into an acknowledgment of Christ’s own Godhood: You acknowledge Me “good,” but why do you salute Me with so great a title— one that you do not even give to your greatest doctors? You must believe Me to be God since you believe Me to be “good,” which is an attribute only rightly due to the Supreme Being. If you take Me for a common man, how can you salute Me in a manner proper to God? No man is “good,” no, not one, but the heart of man is evil continually.


From the book “Boundlessly Good”

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