Sunday, October 14, 2012

No One Is Good But God Alone

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mk 10:18). Jesus seems to be denying that He is God! Is that really what He is doing?

Of course not! Jesus affirmed His divinity in many places in Scripture. He took upon Himself the divine name (cf. Jn 8:58). By calling God His Father He meant to make Himself equal with God (cf. Jn 5:17-18). The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus after He said to them, “I and the Father are one” (cf. Jn 10:30-31). He is the “son of man” who told John, “Fear not, I am the first and the last” (Rev 1:13, 17).

Jesus certainly made no secret of the fact that He was God and would never deny His divinity. In fact, when Jesus had the opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding as to His nature, He did not do it. During Jesus' trial before the Jewish leaders, the High Priest said to Jesus, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God" (Mt 26:63). Jesus responded by saying, "You have said so," or as the NIV has it, "Yes, it is as you say" (vs. 64).

What all this means is that there must be some other way to understand this passage. It appears to me that the rich man thought that flattery would get him somewhere with Jesus, that if he addressed Jesus with enough complimentary words then Jesus would declare him righteous. Notice how the rich man ran over and knelt down in front of Jesus, instead of just walking over to Him. And, he began his address by saying, “Good Teacher.”

Of course, Jesus knew what was in the rich man’s heart. Recall the second reading. Jesus is the one who is “able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” As the Letter to the Hebrews goes on to say, “No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.”

So, when Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone,” He is basically saying to the rich man: “If you are going to call me ‘good’, let it be because you acknowledge my divinity, not because you think that by calling me good you can get something from me. I am good because I am God. Period.”

And since Jesus is God, He knew that greed was what kept the rich man from embracing God fully and so was able to tell the man exactly what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. The rich man, of course, did not expect such a penetrating analysis of his weaknesses, and so he went away sad. But that’s Jesus for you. When you encounter God you encounter yourself.

Pax Christi,


  1. As usual, Nicholas, a penetrating yet simple answer. Thank you. But I want something else from you.

    I've asked a few online friends to assist another online friend, as she counsels a would-be convert. She posted a dozen questions yesterday and asked for suggested answers.

    The woman, a convert herself from Judaism, is a very intelligent person, and writes wonderfully. She could use some assistance, Mr self-proclaimed apologist, if you would take the time. Her blog is at:

    Thanks in advance for any light you can shine.

  2. Thanks! I'll take a look at that list of questions and see what I can come up with.


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