In Mark 10:18 Did Jesus actually “refuse to be called good”? What actually was his answer and why? Let us see the testimony of the gospel writers.
Mk. 10:17-29″ And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had † great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s.”
See also Matt. 19:16-22 .
And for the context, please notice the emphasis of the question on “man” Mk. 10:17,”what shall ( I ) do that ( I ) may inherit eternal life?
Also, this trust in what “man” can do was reiterated in Luke 18:9-30, in v-9, “And he spake this parable unto certain which (trusted in themselves) that they were righteous, and despised others…”.
Moreover, in Mk 10:28-29, even when Peter and the disciples claimed that they (humans) left material things for the sake of Jesus and the gospel, He categorically denied that claim. Not so much as the disciples did not forsake material things for Jesus. But what they did, self-sacrifice as those were, would not be the “requisite to have eternal life”.
All the preceding statements attest to the focus of Jesus’ answer. It was to emphasize that “eternal life” is impossible for man (even rich man or apostles they maybe) to achieve on his own. That the “righteousness of God” is not anchored on a human; it is a gift of God and by grace. He was even giving a parallel regarding how ridiculous (and easier) it is for the “camel go through the eye of a needle”. And Jesus knowing that those around him saw him as a “man”, he therefore had to deflect and redirect to a “default answer”, that no man, yes “none is good but God”. Even Jesus, as a man that they see, can not do it. He was there to honor God, his Father.
It is clear that, Jesus did not “actually refuse to be called good”. Rather, he answered the question with wisdom, emphasis and direction on God the Father who is good and who is the only one who can give “eternal life”. There was nothing in the narrative that states or should be assumed that Jesus denied his deity, nor his divinity. He is the Logos in John 1:1, The Lord God/Creator God/YHVH ELOHIM in Genesis who incarnated into man-Jesus, the “same yesterday, today and forever”(Heb.13:8)… and that is a fact.