john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Hebrews 4, Mark 10: "Why do you call Me good?"

    Good Shepherd Morning Communion, 11/10/2009

    Hebrews 4.12-end , Mark 10.17-31

    "Why do you call Me good?"

    - said Jesus to the young man...

    - said Barack Obama to the judges of the Nobel Peace Prize...

    - said me, to myself, thinking about being treated 'special' by new relatives because I'm a vicar...

    - said you, perhaps, when people have called you good...

    Three things about being called good:

    1. It's good to be called good
    ... when you have been, and you should accept that and be thankfule for it...

    2. Being called good brings its burdens...
    - you have to be good! (or be seen to be good!) to live up to your name.

    3. Being called good brings its temptations...
    - believing you are better than others ... going off the rails...

    Calling someone else good might be a way of distracting attention from yourself... 'You're good - so I don't need to be..' (the priestly role in society... the churchgoers' role in society - is it all bad?)

    But surely Jesus was good? If Jesus is God, why in Mark 10 does Jesus reply "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God" in response to the young man's question, "Good teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?"

    The answer to this question is that, Jesus is, speaking here as a human being. Notice that the young man calls him "good teacher," not "messiah" or "saviour"; and so the human Jesus responds according to what his human nature prompts him to say.

    "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God" The word God, in Jesus' day and in a Jewish context, meant only the heavenly Father. It did not mean the Trinity, much less the Second person of the Trinity. You could rephrase what Jesus said as "No one is good but the Father alone." Jesus is not denying he is divine. He is making it clear that it is the Father who in the first instance is the source of all goodness. In his divine nature, Jesus was one with the Father, but in his human nature he was distinguishable from the father and could speak in purely human terms. [SOURCE: Beliefnet: Ben Witherington]

    The human Jesus can only point to the Father as the source of all goodness.
    And the human you and the human me can only do the same.

    As the writer of Hebrews said,
    For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
    This should give us confidence about our own goodness, when it's there, or our own potential to be good, when we think we need that. The writer of Hebrews continued,

    Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

    Just as Jesus the man approached the Father's throne of grace with boldness, to receive mercy and find grace to help in his time of need, so can we appraict the Father too.

    Let's enjoy being good, and seeing good in others this week, with the eyes of Christ and the grace of God.