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“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone.’”—Mark 10:17–18 (NIV)
In The Hobbit, after Bilbo says, “Good morning” to Gandalf, he responds, “Do you wish me a good morning; or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” Snark aside, the lesson is that “good morning” can mean a bunch of different things.
In today’s passage, Jesus was stopped on the road by a young man we’re later told was extremely wealthy. This man was no doubt very familiar with Jesus; He’d likely heard of His miracles and teachings. He probably heard the whispers that Jesus could indeed be the Messiah. So, he seeks Jesus out and falls before Him, calling Him “good teacher.”
Now, unlike Bilbo’s “good morning,” the word here for good is agathe, which speaks of an inherent goodness, goodness in nature, which originates and can only come from God. Now, here’s the thing: Though it seems like a harmless, common way to refer to someone, similar to how you may hear someone say, “good sir,” the title of “good teacher” was never applied to other rabbis in Jesus’ time because it implied the sinless nature of God.
Now, this title does in fact apply to Jesus. In fact, it only applies to Jesus! So, you may be asking yourself, “Then why did Jesus question the young man about it?” Good question!
On the surface, you may think Jesus was upset by the young man’s use of this title. You may wonder if Jesus was trying to dissuade him from using this title, similar to how Paul did when the people of Lystra believed he and Barnabas were Greek gods. To that, Paul asked, “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God” (Acts 14:15 NIV).
Is that what Jesus was doing? Not at all! He wasn’t denying His goodness or divinity. Instead, He was inviting the man to reflect upon it. He was basically saying, “You know what you’re calling me, right? You’re saying I’m God in the flesh.” Now, if He is indeed the good teacher, the good shepherd, the Messiah and Savior, then He and only He has the answer to the question of eternal life, which is what the young man asked about. If He is what He’s just been called, then His every word should be obeyed! He should be followed and worshiped without question or hesitation. Jesus is establishing all of this before answering the young man’s question about eternal life.
Friends, Jesus is the only good teacher, and He is God! Like this man, we’ll all have to confront this truth and choose how to respond to it!
Pause: Why did Jesus respond to the man in the way He did?
Practice: Jesus is good and He is God! Tell someone today about the good things He has done in your life!
Pray: Jesus, You are good. You are my God! I thank You for calling me into Your family. I thank You for giving Your good and perfect life for me, who is not good and who, apart from You, has no good in me. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.