"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18)Why does Jesus reply with this point? Why does Jesus say that no one is good except God alone?
Isn't Jesus good?
The reality is, this is a poor translation of the original Greek. The Greek word being translated to "good" is ἀγαθός (agathos). This can certainly mean "good," but also, according to the lexicon, "distinguished" and "honorable."
In other words, Jesus wasn't speaking of being "good." He was speaking of being honored. He didn't want to be honored. He didn't come to honor himself. Jesus came to honor God. Jesus came to serve the Supreme Being and honor the Supreme Being.
Therefore, the correct translation of Jesus' statement including the question, from the Gospels of Jesus, is:
A magistrate asked him, “Honorable Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me honorable? No one is honorable except God alone." (Luke 18:19-20)
This is at issue, because Jesus' message to us related to doing the will of God. For example, when Jesus was told that his relatives wanted to speak with him, he said:
"Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." (Mark 3:35)Doing someone else's will means to serve that person. To serve a person voluntarily means to honor that person with service. This is called loving service. And this is the foundation of Jesus' teachings - to love God and serve God.
This also means to honor God above all else. Jesus, therefore, wanted those who were honoring him to honor God.
But wait, isn't Jesus God?
If we were to follow many of the sectarian teachers from the various institutions, the question might be: Isn't Jesus God?
The reality is that this single statement by Jesus reveals much about the identity of Jesus - specifically how Jesus identified himself.
As to the latter question - it is obvious that Jesus is not the Supreme Being - not just from this statement. But from many others, one can easily conclude - if one actually reads the scriptures - that Jesus is not God. Here are a few statements that Jesus made to his students where he clearly differentiated himself from the Supreme Being - God:
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven." (Matt. 10:33)
"Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53)
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)
“My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17)
“Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven." (John 6:32)
“If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me." (John 8:54)
"This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:18)
"My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand." (John 10:29)
"Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. (John 10:37)
"Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." (John 12:26)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." (John 15:1)Indeed, what we find among Jesus' statements is a particular relationship between Jesus and the Supreme Being. What kind of relationship? It is a relationship of love. And a relationship of loving service.
We also see this relationship as Jesus prayed to the Supreme Being:
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39)
“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.” (Matt. 26:42)And when Jesus asked his students to pray, he declared the Supreme Being with the word "our":
"This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." (Matt. 6:9-13)Jesus also clarified that the Supreme Being sent him:
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me." (Matt. 10:40)
“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:37)
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" (Luke 4:18)
“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects Him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." (John 4:34)
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
"For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me." (John 5:36)
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day." (John 6:44)
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
“Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know Him, but I know him because I am from Him and He sent me.” (John 7:28)
“I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the One who sent me." (John 7:33)
"But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me." (John 8:16)
"I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” (John 8:18)
“I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” (John 8:26)
"The One who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” (John 8:29)
“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me." (John 8:42)
"As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4)
"For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." (John 12:49)
"These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." (John 14:24)
"... but now I am going to Him who sent me." (John 16:5)
“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (John 20:17)
“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
What does this say about Jesus?
Being sent by God clarifies that Jesus is in fact, God's representative.
We see this also in Jesus' prayers to the Supreme Being:
"For I gave them the words You gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that You sent me." (John 17:8)
"As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (John 17:18)
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent me." (John 17:25)In fact, Jesus declares that it is not Jesus who saves people (as proclaimed by sectarian teachers), but it is the Supreme Being - his Father - who can save us:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)Jesus also explained that he was returning to be with his Father in the spiritual realm:
“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (John 20:17)Yet with all of these clear statements by Jesus: So many sectarian teachers still proclaim that Jesus is God. Why?
Quite simply, because they do not know God:
"And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form" (John 5:37)
"They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:21)But what about that one statement Jesus makes?
"I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)This, of course, is misinterpreted. Why? Because Jesus is not saying that he is God - that he and God are one and the same person. He is saying they are united - they are one in will. Jesus is saying that because he is doing God's will, there is a unity between him and God.
Just consider this as we see Jesus state the same expression - from the Greek word εἷς (heis) with respect to his disciples in his open prayer to God:
"I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your Name, the Name You gave me, so that they may be one as we are one." (John 17:11)and again later in the prayer:
"I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as we are one—" (John 17:22)
So is Jesus stating that his followers ("they") are now God too?
If we were to accept that this statement "we are one" means that Jesus is God: This must also mean that Jesus' followers must also be God. Right?
We know this is a ridiculous assumption. Certainly Jesus' followers - his disciples - are not God. And by the same token, Jesus' statement about his oneness with God also means that Jesus is not God as well.
What Jesus is saying is that he is doing God's will - that that provides a oneness between God and himself. Jesus is being sent by God. Jesus is doing God's will. Jesus is representing God. This provides a oneness, just as there is a oneness between an ambassador and the president he represents.
The phrase, "they may be one as we are one" relates to a bond of consciousness. Being of the same mind and heart so to speak.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)Yet even with these clear statements, some fanatical sectarian teachers just won't quit. They will also use a couple of other statements - which are mistranslated:
"On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." (John 14:20)
"Father, just as You are in me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent me." (John 17:21)
"I in them and You in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me." (John 17:23)In these statements, the Greek word ἐν can be translated to either "in" or "by" or "with" among a few others. Now should we replace "in" to "with" in the above statements, they come out quite differently:
"On that day you will realize that I am with my Father, and you are with me, and I am with you." (John 14:20)
"Father, just as You are with me and I am with You. May they also be with us so that the world may believe that You have sent me." (John 17:21)
"I with them and You with me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me." (John 17:23)
A relationship with God
We can see with these statements that Jesus is speaking of a relationship with God. Jesus enjoys a loving relationship with the Supreme Being. He is loving God and he is serving his Beloved. And Jesus is wanting his followers to also have a loving relationship with the Supreme Being. Should they do this, they will also enjoy the same oneness that Jesus enjoys with God.
This also explains why, in Luke 18:19 above, Jesus wanted to refer to the Supreme Being as the only person who was "good" - from the Greek word ἀγαθός (agathos), which can also mean "excellent," "distinguished," as well as "honorable" according to the lexicon. These give us a clearer dimension of Jesus' statement. He sees the Supreme Being as "honorable" and "distinguished" and "excellent." Why?
This is how a person sees the one they love. Jesus loves the Supreme Being, and he enjoys a loving service relationship with God:
"I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me." (John 14:31)Jesus also wants us to love the Supreme Being. This was his most important instruction:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)