July 29, 2011

Hard Sayings I: Why Call Me Good?

I told you these were coming...and they are now here. The first of the hard sayings of Jesus. The ones that people can't stomach because of what they require of the believer/non-believer or because they are just downright perplexing and hard to understand.

Mark 10:18 & Luke 18:19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.

You've heard it about many verses, "See! I told you, the Bible's full of mistakes and contradictions! Look right there ---> (Xxxxxx)  Jesus is saying He's not good. If He's God He has to be! If this is true than He can't be God or its a mistake!"

A rich man comes up to Jesus, flops down on is knees before him and spouts out “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Long before answering the actual question, I imagine Jesus looks down with a quizzical look and asks him, "Why do you call me good?" 

A high regard for someone, a word of description this important or implying that one is "good" as opposed to evil is never to be used lightly. In other words, it should not be used as "small talk" to loosen-up or "butter up" an intended reciever to possibly get a response one is looking for as opposed to the truth. Speak frankly or shut-up. Why use $20 words when $2 ones work just fine. In the case of this man, he appears to have used it as "small talk" and used it too lightly. It is not just a word to be bantered around. The word descibes something that is an attritbute of God. God is good. When Jesus said people were good...you can bet He meant it as truth and it was a description based in reality of the person or thing. This rich dude, not so much.

No man is altogether good like God. Human beings are only good in the manners that they reflect God. When we aspire to what God has commanded us which is to solidify a proper holy relationship with a holy God, it is then that we are good. It certainly is not when we think we are doing good by our own flawed measure. Tell me if this sounds familiar. "I'll probably go to heaven because I believe I have been a good person." Good luck. You go to heaven by having faith in the work of Christ and on our behalf not because we are good by our own or the world's standard. Having this faith means that you will also manifest the fruits of a righteous life, accepting isn't all of the story. A transformed life is also.

In reality the question reads like this in the Greek:

διδάσκαλε ἀγαθέ, τί ποιήσω ἵνα ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω
Teacher!-Good!-What-I be doing [for] life eternal-I will inherit

The rich man is asking what he can do [in deed] to inherit eternal life.  Answer: There is nothing he can do. He need only have faith in what Jesus is soon to do on the Cross or have faith in the promises of God.

Jesus' reply is what? "Why do you call me good?"
In Greek it reads like this:

Τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ θεός.
Why-me-you are saying-good-no one good-if-no-one-the-God.

Jesus is making a veiled but definitive statement about both humanity and their motives and about His true identity. There is no indication from this rich man that he viewed Jesus as God. The rich man addressed Him as teacher/rabbi not Messiah, the Christ or Son of God. Noting this Jesus turns the table on his questioner. Jesus isn't just realtively "good" in relation to other humanity who are good in varying levels (most often low levels of good) compared to God. Jesus IS the good or goodness personified in human form. So what is He really saying here? What does the Bible say about Jesus' goodness?

2 Corinthains 5:21 "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

1 John 3:5 "But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin."

Jesus was entirely and completely good. So a little thinking leads us to beleive that not only was he human...he was also divine...and He states as much here in a veiled rhetorical question form. Think about it folks. Jesus is answering the question, "what must I do to be saved?" Jesus essentially responds that there is no act of of humanity or good in humans that would accomplish this. Jesus points directly to God. Then makes the following statement:

Mark 10:19-21 "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven."

...and how does Jesus finish?

"Then come, follow Me.”

Jesus is saying He is the way to eternal life here. If only someone truly good can be the way and only God is truly good, then Jesus is God because He is very clear who he tells the rich man to follow. Jesus is unveiling something else here also. By telling him to relieve himself of all his earthly goods and follow him even after the rich man said that he had followed the commandments which was not a boast...it is clear what Jesus implies here. The man asked what is required to be "saved" and Jesus points away from the commandments (Law)...

...to Himself. God. Jesus. He (Jesus) that is truly good and can save him.

(BTW, this argument against Jesus' divinity from this passage is often used by the Jehovah's Witness.)

One other thing we should probably note in this passage is the latter portion in which Jesus shows what is demanded from the mind and heart of a true Christian. what does Jesus tell the Rich Man to do?

"Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." Mark 10:21-22

Go sell everything. Does this bother you? Ruffle your feathers at all? If you are like three-quarters of people in the world it will. Just as Jesus had said in other passages like Luke 9:59-62:

"He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

God would only ask something be taken away from you if it distracted you from following Him or what would be of eternal importance to you. If you eternal reward is jeopardized it is a safe bet that what ever that risk is it is an impediment that needs removal from your life. You must keep something in mind. Jesus would not have and will not ask something of you just to see you suffer senselessly. In the story of the rich man above the idea is stewardship of money and resources and how they affect a human heart. The man's worldly riches affected his heart adversely and that is why Jesus told him to divest himself of it. Jesus knew what was really in the man's heart (supernaturally) and for his own good tells him to get rid of it because it had a corrupting influence on his soul. The man chose not to thereby rejecting Jesus in the process.

There are different ways to be good stewards of the materials and resources God has put at our disposal. If wealth or material goods ever stands in out way of complete and absolute allegiance to Jesus Christ...then we must rid ourselves of it (this includes your books pastors and theologians).

The fact that Jesus did not command all His disciples to divest themselves of all their earthly goods is only comfort to those that He would actually need to issue the command to today. Just some food for thought.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Andy. Good stuff!

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