William Barclay was a popular Christian preacher and Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow. While professor, he decided to dedicate his life to “making the best biblical scholarship available to the average reader”. The eventual result was the Daily Study Bible, a set of 17 commentaries on the New Testament, published by the Church of Scotland. Here is part of his commentary on Mark 10: 17-18:
As Jesus was going along the road, a man came running to him and threw himself at his feet and asked him, ‘Good teacher, what am I to do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? There is no one who is good, except one – God.’
Here is one of the most vivid stories in the gospels.
We must note how the man came and how Jesus met him. He came running. He flung himself at Jesus’ feet. There is something amazing in the sight of this rich, young aristocrat falling at the feet of the penniless prophet from Nazareth, who was on his way to being an outlaw. ‘God teacher!’ he began. And straightaway Jesus answered back, ‘No flattery! Don’t call me good! Keep that word for God!’ It looks almost as if Jesus was trying to pour cold water on that young enthusiasm.
There is a lesson here. It is clear that this man came to Jesus in a moment of overflowing emotion. It is also clear that Jesus exercised a personal fascination over him. Jesus did two things that every evangelist and every preacher and every teacher ought to reminder and to copy.
First, he said in effect, ‘Stop and think! Don’t get carried away by your excitement. I don’t want you swept to me by a moment of emotion. Think calmly what you are doing.’ Jesus was not cold-shouldering the man. He was telling him even at the very outset to count the cost.
Second, he said in effect, ‘You cannot become a Christian by devotion to me. You must look at God.’ Preaching and teaching always mean the conveying of truth through personality, and thereby lies the greatest danger of the greatest teachers. The danger is that the public, the scholar, the young person may form a personal attachment to the teacher or the preacher and think that it is an attachment to God. Teachers and preachers must never point to themselves. They must always point to God. There is in all true teaching a certain self-obliteration. True, we cannot keep personality and warm personal loyalty out of it altogether, and we would not if we could. But the matter must not stop there. Teachers and preachers are in the last analysis only pointers to God.
Taken from The Gospel of Mark (Daily Study Bible) by William Barclay pp 282-283