Mark 10:18 – Scripture Twisting 101

Mark 10:18 Jesus said to him “Why do you call me  good? No one is good except God alone. This is from the story of the rich young ruler  who comes to Jesus. Verse 17 “and  as he was setting out on his journey, a  man ran up and knelt before him and  asked him ‘Good teacher, what must I do to  inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to  him ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’” So  Muslims will go with that and say “Jesus says that he’s not good; only  God is good.” You know the commandments – do not murder,  do not commit adultery, do not steal, do  not bear false witness, do not defraud,  honor your father and mother. Some  will use this to get you to see Jesus is  saying that if you want to inherit  eternal life,  just keep the law. He said to him “Teacher, all  these I have kept from my youth.” This guy’s good  to go right? But verse 21 Jesus looking  at him, loved him and said to him “You  lack one thing. Go sell all that you have  and give to the poor and you will have  treasure in heaven and come follow me.” Verse 22 disheartened by the saying, he  went away sorrowful and for he had great  possessions. Notice it wasn’t enough that he had kept the law. Jesus says “I’m here now, you have to  come and follow me” and the guy didn’t want to do it. He  didn’t want to give up his  possessions and come to follow Jesus. Notice there was  more than simply  keeping the commandments like not bearing false witness, honoring your  father and mother and so on. 

But the  actual claim here is where Jesus says “Why  do you call me good. No one is good except God alone.” The  Muslim claim here is “Jesus says  only God is good. He’s denying his own  goodness.” There should be a problem  right there. According to Islam, could  Jesus possibly be denying his own  goodness here? If  you’re gonna follow the Quran, you can’t say that because Jesus was absolutely essentially  pure and good from conception. Surah 19:19   He said: “Nay I am only a messenger from thy Lord (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.” And he shall be among those  who are righteous (Surah 3:46) And in the hadith, it’s  declared that Satan touches every child  born into the world but he could not  touch Jesus. According to Islam, if we say Jesus was denying his own goodness, we’d  have to say okay Islam as false.

Is that what Jesus  is saying here? Notice at no point does  Jesus say “I’m  not good.” He  asks a question “Why do you call me good?” There’s a big difference between saying “I’m  not such-and-such” versus “Why are you  calling me such-and-such?” Keep in mind this is the same guy who  calls himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the  sheep. Jesus, of one of his titles for  himself, is the Good Shepherd. What  Jesus is saying is “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” There are two  major interpretations of this text. If you knew nothing else, which sadly is  the situation for a Muslim who’s going  to this verse and he’s not reading anything  else that Jesus is saying, he’s not  reading all the Gospels, he’s not reading the Gospel of Matthew,  he’s not even reading the chapter, he’s  going to the verse that his Muslim Imam  told him to go to. And assuming that  Jesus is denying his own goodness, which  would contradict Islam and contradict  Jesus’ own words in the Gospels, and tries to give an Islamic twist in  order to deny the deity of Christ, that’s  what happens. So there are two  possible interpretations here. One that  Jesus is denying his own goodness, if all  you read was this little  verse and you didn’t read anything else  Jesus said, you could say “He’s  saying he’s not good. Only God is good.” Or  there’s another interpretation. 

He’s asking the man “Why  are you calling me good? You know that  there’s only one person who’s truly good. So why are you calling  me that?” In other  words, he’s simply asking this man a  question about whether he understands  who Jesus is. Do  you really understand my identity? Which  one does Jesus mean? In order to  know that, we’d go to other things Jesus  said to see what Jesus believed about  himself, to see if Jesus thought that he  was good, to see if Jesus believed that  he was God. We  see this over and over and over again. Go  to a verse that can be interpreted in  more than one way, give it the  interpretation you want even though  there are other things Jesus said that  make it clear what he meant. And then you ignore all the clear verses that clarify what its meaning is, you throw all of those out  and you stick with the meaning that  contradicts everything else that Jesus  said because that’s how you have to  defend Islam. 

That very chapter proves  that Jesus does claim to be God and  therefore he’s absolutely good because  if only God is absolutely good and Jesus  is absolutely good then he’s absolutely  God. How do we know that? Because the rich  man walked away after Jesus said “give up  all you  have to the poor and you have treasures in  heaven and follow me.” He emphasized the fact that  keeping commands is not what’s going to  save you or perfect you; it’s giving up  everything for me that will lead to  eternal life. And the rich man loved his  riches more than Jesus, showing he didn’t  believe that Jesus was good enough for him to give up everything to  follow Christ. Then Jesus says “How hard  is it for a rich man to enter the  kingdom of heaven.” He says it’s easier for a camel to enter  the eye of a needle than for a rich man  to enter the kingdom of heaven. Notice  what the disciples say in Mark 10:26-27  They were astonished beyond measure  saying among themselves “Who then can be  saved?” If this is the case, then it  is humanly impossible to be saved. And  what does Jesus say in verse 27? Jesus looking  at them said “With men it is impossible.” You’re right. A man cannot save himself,  let alone someone else but not with God. For with God, all things are possible. Jesus agrees it is humanly impossible to  obtain salvation on your own, a man, a  woman cannot obtain salvation, God  has to do it for them. In Mark 10:45,   our Lord says “for even the Son of man  came not to be served but to serve and  to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus says “I will offer my soul, my life  to ransom not just one human life but  many human lives.” In other words Christ  is claiming to be able to do what he  just said was humanly impossible, which  only God could do, save not one life but  many lives. In Mark 14: 24, he said to them “This is my blood of the  new covenant, which is shed for many.” I  will shed my blood, offer my soul for a  ransom to save many lives. Not  only does that show that Jesus has to be  God according to his own statement in  Mark 10:27 “with man it’s impossible but  with God all things are possible.”

Mark 10:45 For the Son of man did not come to be  served but to serve and to  offer my life (literally “soul”, Greek “psuche”) as a ransom for many.  Psalm 49:7 None of them can,  by any means, redeem the other, nor give  to God a ransom for anyone, for the  redemption of their souls is costly, even  so people cease to exist forever,  making efforts live eternally and not  see the pit. The  psalmist said “No human being can offer  the price of redemption for a single  human soul so that they continue to live  forever. It cannot be done. That’s why in  Psalm 49:15 in perfect agreement with  the words of Jesus  “but God shall redeem my soul  from the power of Sheol for he shall  receive me. Jesus just said it is  impossible for any man to save himself;  only God can do that. The psalmist agrees  no human being can redeem another human  life, offer to God a ransom to save a  human life from dying, only God can do  that, and that same chapter Mark 10 Jesus  says “I, the son of man, will offer my soul,  my life to ransom many lives.” Does that  sound like Jesus is claiming to be less  than absolutely good and therefore less  than absolutely God or is that an  explicit clear-cut testimony to Jesus  being able to do what only God can do (i.e.  save human souls) because he is  absolutely good.