There has been a little confusion about a scenario that happened between Jesus and a young ruler.
The young ruler came to Jesus with these words: ‘…GOOD MASTER, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?…’ (Luke 18:18)
And Jesus responded with these words: ‘…WHY DO YOU CALL ME GOOD? No one is good except God alone…’ (Luke 18:19)
This response has baffled the minds of many believers and some heretics have used this to say ‘Jesus wasn’t God in the flesh’. But what exactly did Jesus mean by that response? Why would Jesus express a surprise in what the man said; ‘…GOOD MASTER, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?…’ (Luke 18:18)
Since Jesus said: ‘…WHY DO YOU CALL ME GOOD? No one is good EXCEPT GOD alone…’ (Luke 18:19)… isn’t it simply logical to conclude that Jesus was saying HE WASN’T GOOD…and that HE WASN’T GOD? The answer is in the context of the story!
Now listen carefully: This man came in the spirit of Pride to boast about how much he has been able to ‘keep the Law’. He personally believed there is no aspect of the Law he has not kept. Hence in his definition, a man can attain the level of being termed ‘GOOD’ based on his ability to keep the Laws of God perfectly. So when he called Jesus ‘Good Master’…it wasn’t a statement of ‘worship’ to Jesus! He was seeing Jesus as a MAN who also keeps the Laws of God perfectly just as he does himself. He never referred to Jesus as Saviour or Lord… but as a TEACHER (translated as Master or Rabbi)! He wasn’t recognizing Jesus as GOD…but as a mere MAN who has the ability to keep divine laws and live morally upright. He came with the mindset of believing He was GOOD ENOUGH to be called GOOD as a man.
So if Jesus had accepted his subtle and prideful gesture of calling Him ‘Good Master’, it will simply confirm to the ruler: that MAN also has ability to be ‘GOOD’! Jesus simply rejected the ‘good master’ accolade in order to burst his religious bubbles of:
– Seeing Him as a Man.
– Thinking Man based on the Law can be Good!
Now follow the context carefully:
‘…A ruler questioned Him, saying, “GOOD TEACHER, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. “You know the commandments, ‘do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “ALL THESE THINGS I HAVE KEPT FROM MY YOUTH.”…’ (Luke 18:18-21 NASB)
I so love this portion of scripture! When it comes to eternal life, there is no such thing as ‘what shall I DO’! But because Jesus knows that this man came to boast of his ability to keep the Law, Jesus listed some items from the 10 commandments for him!
Now listen carefully: the easiest way to know that your ‘village people’ have succeeded on your matter…is when you ask Jesus ‘what shall I do to be saved’… and He replies with ‘Go and fulfil the Law’! At that point, just know your enemies are already ‘cooking your matter’.
Jesus knew that the evangelical answer to that question is simply: BELIEVE IN ME AND YOU SHALL BE SAVED!
‘…Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS, and thou shalt be saved…’ (Acts 16:31-32)
‘…But we BELIEVE that we are saved through the grace of THE LORD JESUS…’ (Acts 15:11)
‘…Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered “This is the work of God, THAT YOU BELIEVE IN HIM WHOM HE HAS SENT.” (John 6:28-29)
‘…We are made right with God by PLACING OUR FAITH in Jesus Christ. And this is true for EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES…’ (Rom 3:22 NLT)
Believing in Jesus remains the only evangelical answer to the question: ‘what shall I do to be saved’! But Jesus’ reply to the man was not to ‘have faith in Him’ but rather to go and ‘try harder’. Whenever Jesus uses the Law to answer the question of Salvation, it is because He has noticed that the questioner only came to show-off his ability to fulfil the Law without a Saviour. Jesus had earlier encountered a lawyer with this very question:
‘…And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, AND TEMPTED HIM, saying, Master, what shall I DO to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, WHAT IS WRITTEN IN THE LAW? how readest thou?…’ (Luke 10:25-26)
When Jesus answers the question of Salvation with the demands of the Law, it’s simply because he knows you either came to TEMPT him on his knowledge as a Teacher…or you want to brag about your ability to fulfil the Law. Jesus is an expert in using the Law to humble those who feel they can fulfil the Law! Let’s get back to the young ruler story.
One thing you shouldn’t miss out in this discussion is how Jesus revealed the ‘impotency’ of the Law in bringing Salvation to man. The man said: ‘ALL THESE THINGS I HAVE KEPT FROM MY YOUTH.’ Since you have been ‘keeping the Law’…why then did you still come to ask Jesus ‘what shall you DO to inherit eternal life’? It simply shows that no amount of ‘keeping the Law’ can SAVE any man! No matter how much you have tried in keeping the Law for your salvation, something in you will still tell you….there’s still more to DO! Since this man wants to show how much he can DO… Jesus went ahead and gave him what to do:
‘…When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; SELL ALL THAT YOU POSSESS AND DISTRIBUTE IT TO THE POOR, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, HE BECAME VERY SAD, for he was extremely rich…’ (Luke 18:21-23)
Jesus got him right there! He came to show off….but Jesus busted his bubbles! It was the FIRST law of the 10 commandments that Jesus gave to him.
‘…You shall have NO OTHER GODS before Me…’ (Exo 20:3)
This man had money as a god…and he went away sorrowful! The man that said he has been keeping the Law FROM HIS YOUTH….has been breaking the same law from the FIRST! Can you now see why Jesus gave him that response? No man is Good except God…simply means ‘I know you don’t see me as God but as a mere teacher…yet you are calling me GOOD’? “I won’t allow you think it is possible for man to be good by the Law…so I reject the false honour you give to me as a ‘good man’…”!
In fact, just after this whole scenario, the people who witnessed this discussion had to ask Jesus a very important question:
‘…They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”…’ (Luke 18:26)
Jesus gave an outstanding answer:
‘…And he said, The things which are impossible WITH MEN are possible WITH GOD…’ (Luke 18:27)
Jesus was simply saying: that guy is just a man and he doesn’t know that it is IMPOSSIBLE for salvation to come from man’s effort in keeping laws. Salvation is only POSSIBLE with God! And guess who that God is? JESUS!
‘…For JESUS is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. There is salvation in NO ONE ELSE!…’ (Acts 4:11-12 NLT)
‘…And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, PREACHED unto the Gentiles, BELIEVED on in the world, received up into glory…’ (1Tim 3:16)
Hallelujah. I hope you enjoyed reading Luke 18 with me. Jesus is not just a Teacher. Jesus is Your Saviour! Those who relate to Him as a mere Teacher…will miss out on the path of Grace which He offers. Those who relate to Him as a Saviour will bask in the euphoria of the Salvation He constantly offers. Before you see Jesus as a Teacher….make sure you are well established in the Truth that He is your Saviour! And great shall be your walk with Him.
Remain under Grace. Amen.