Is Jesus Good? Is Jesus God?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good.”

Luke 18:18

One of my most popular blog series is called Was Jesus Divine? Early Christian Perspectives. In this series, I show that the earliest Christians confessed Jesus as God, even though they were monotheistic Jews. To be sure, they had not worked out the details of later Trinitarian theology. Nevertheless, the first-century believers in Jesus saw him, not just as an inspired man, but also as God incarnate.

On a regular basis, I receive email responses to this series from people who are not convinced about the deity of Jesus. Some of these come from Christians who are wrestling with deep theology. Increasingly, I receive emails from Muslims who object to the idea that Jesus was divine and who deny that he was the source of this false belief.

One of the passages that is brought up to refute the notion of Jesus’ divinity is Luke 18:18-19. In this text, a Jewish religious leader refers to Jesus as “Good Teacher,” a form of address that was not commonly used among Jews. Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good?...Only God is truly good” (18:19). Those who deny the deity of Jesus take this verse to mean: “You should not call me good because only God is good and I am not God.” But this misses the nuance of Jesus’ point. He did not say he was not good or even that he was not God. Rather, he was challenging the religious leader to consider the implications of his language. By calling Jesus good, given the fact that only God is truly good, this leader was inadvertently saying something profound about Jesus’ identity. His language pointed to the fact that Jesus was good unlike any other human being because he was, indeed, God in flesh.

Surely, this is a mystery we’ll never fully fathom. Yet this mystery, professed by Christians throughout history and throughout the world, lies at the center of our faith. It reassures us that Jesus is truly the Savior. It calls us to commitment and even to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What do you think of the divinity of Jesus? What difference does it make in your daily life that Jesus was God in the flesh?

Fairest Lord Jesus,
Ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son;
Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

Fair are the meadows,
Fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
Fairer still the moonlight
And all the twinkling, starry host;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heav’n can boast.

Beautiful Savior,
Lord of all nations,
Son of God and Son of man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be thine!

“Fairest Lord Jesus” (public domain)