Matthew 19:17, God the Son? Part II of IV

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good.”

//We continue our discussion of the Christology of Matthew. In this verse, Jesus denies that he is God. You’ve probably heard it said that Jesus was somehow telling this man that since he (Jesus) was good, he had to be God. Very unlikely. The rule of thumb is, keep it simple. If it helps, try inserting another name to help decipher the meaning of the verse without bias. What would the verse mean if anybody besides Jesus said it?

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Paul replied. “There is only One who is good.”

Now the meaning of the verse comes across clearly. But this is not the only verse in Matthew in which Jesus is distanced from God. Here are a couple more:

26:64, “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Might One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Given Jesus’ words in 22:44, it is clear that “the Mighty One” is God. Jesus and God sit side by side.

27:46, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew portrays Jesus as someone who can be forsaken by God. That would be quite a trick if Jesus was God. Matthew repeatedly shows Jesus and God (not “the Father”) as separate entities. God has to come down out of heaven to form a Son. God has to come down out of heaven to bless this Son at his baptism. God departs from his Son at the cross. God sits beside his Son when they rule. The God of Matthew is not “everywhere,” he is located in space, as is Jesus. They are separate beings, in separate locations.

All through the book of Matthew “the Father” is interchangeable with “God,” but “the Son” is not. You cannot replace “the Son” with “God” or vice versa without introducing syntactical tongue twisters that leave poor Jesus talking to himself, sitting beside himself, praying to himself, forsaking himself. Contrast Matthew’s primitive understanding with the Gospel of John. In John there are no such problems, because in John the Son interacts not with God but with the Father. In John, both the Father and the Son are identified as God, but this never gets in the way of the separate identities of Father and Son.

Jesus is God? John says yes. But it never crossed Matthew’s mind.

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