The Goodness of Jesus (1)
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” Matthew 19.16, 17
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by HisSon, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of Hisglory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1.1-4
Jesus and goodness
That Jesus of Nazareth was a good Man, and did many good works, is hardly disputed today. Even skeptics and unbelievers will agree that the records show, as Peter explained to Cornelius, that Jesus “went about doing good” to strangers He’d never met, and without expecting to be paid (Acts 10.38). The word “good” is associated with Jesus throughout the Gospels, both the content of His teaching and as a description of His life and work.
So it shouldn’t surprise us to see one inquirer addressing Him as “Good Teacher”. But we note Jesus’ response to that address: “No one is good but One, that is, God.” It’s as if Jesus were saying to that young man, “Be careful here. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you acknowledge Me to be good, then you are acknowledging Me to be God.”
Of course, Christians believe that Jesus was good, that He did good works, taught good words, and left a legacy of goodness for His followers to emulate and enlarge upon (Jn. 14.12); and that He was also God, and thus good by definition. If we want to learn about the goodness of God, therefore, we can do no better than to consider Jesus, and follow in His steps.
Twice in the book of Hebrews we are urged to “consider Jesus”. In Hebrews 3.1, the writer exhorts us to consider Jesus (κατανοήσατε) so that we will continue believing in and confessing Him throughout our lives. This word means “to discover something through direct observation, with the implication of also thinking about it – to notice, to discover” (Louw & Nida), like one might carefully observe an object in creation, or a work of art, analyzing and delighting in it, whole and part.
We can especially see the beauty and majesty of Jesus by contemplating images of Him presented in the psalms, for example, Psalm 45 (cf. Heb. 1.8; see also Pss. 2, 47, 93, and 110). Here Jesus is portrayed as exalted in glorious array, surrounded by sweet fragrances, beautiful music, and His Church in glory. From there He goes forth conquering and to conquer, gathering and perfecting His followers in the goodness of the Lord, as He prepares them for their eternal dwelling in His holy courts.
This aesthetic and poetic consideration of Jesus stirs our hearts to delight in and adore Him, as we observe the various devices and images the psalmists use to reveal His great goodness and glory.
In Hebrews 12.3, the writer calls us again to consider Jesus, but this time as a work of rational analysis (ἀναλογίσασθε), a theological, as opposed to an aesthetical contemplation. This suggests the need to study, think deeply, meditate, talk with others, and know Jesus in terms appropriate to His uniqueness and mission.
Each of these exhortations to consider Jesus involves the imagination, the first engaging of what Paul calls the eye of the heart (Eph. 1.18), and the second drawing on the mind of Christ and the protocols of reasoning.
By the first, we see Jesus as He is depicted in His glory, garbed in splendor and majesty, bearing the emblems of office, wearing the crown of righteousness, and attended by worshipful saints and angels. We see Him in His majestic loveliness, which is impressed on us by images, sounds, smells, and sweeping vistas of conquest.
By the second, we trace out all Biblical arguments, explanations, reasons, hopes, and joys – all teachings, causes, and events – as they lead us to Jesus, Who is the focus of all Scripture, the consummation of all things, and the end of all meaning and purpose in life. By considering Jesus in this way, logically and theologically, we become persuaded that He alone can fulfill God’s purpose in restoring all things to Himself, and that He is indeed Lord and Christ.
Filling the world with goodness
Thus we may come increasingly to know Jesus as the One Who fills all things in all things (Eph. 1.22, 23), Who, through His Church, is filling the world with Himself, and with the goodness of God (Eph. 4.8-10). Each of these disciplines – aesthetic observation and contemplation and logical and theological analysis – is essential for us to see Jesus and to be transformed into His image by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Paul instructs us to set our minds on Jesus, so that He becomes our constant focus, the North Star of our souls, and the spiritual screensaver of our every conscious moment (Ps. 16.8; Col. 3.1-3).
What a privilege and delight to consider Jesus in these ways! The more we consider Him, the more Jesus will become the desire and destination of our souls. And the more God’s goodness – the very presence of Christ Himself in us – will come to light in the land of the living.
1. When you think of Jesus as good, what comes to mind? What makes Jesus good for you?
2. How would you explain that Jesus is good to someone who doesn’t know Him? Do you think we should do more of this? Explain.
3. How can you begin more consistently to consider Jesus in all your reading and study of Scripture?
Next steps – Preparation: Make sure you understand the two senses in which we are to “consider” Jesus. Begin using these in all your times of prayer and Scripture reading.
T. M. Moore
Three resources can help you to begin considering Jesus more consistently and fruitfully. Download the free PDF, Glorious Vision, (click here), and take up a 28-day journey through Psalm 45, and all the glorious images of Jesus embedded there. Then, order our books, Be Thou My Vision (click here) and To Know Him (click here), and carry your contemplation of Jesus to new heights of insight and worship.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.