Making the Impossible Possible
Text: Mark 10:23-31
Proper 24, B
The wealthy young man of last week's sermon has just left disheartened. All the good he thought he had done for the kingdom, all the hard work, the good living, the costly sacrifices, they had all just been undone by Jesus' piercing comments. In the decisive moment it seems that his love for God's kingdom was not as strong or enduring as his love for wealth and material possessions. What Jesus had asked him to give up proved more to him than the promised return.23And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 24And the disciples were amazed at his words.
Even though they had just seen this very thing in action the disciples are stunned by Jesus' words. The Jews regarded wealth as a mark of God's favour. It was generally thought that rich people had the best chance to enter the kingdom of God because of all the good things they could afford to do … because of the favour God had already shown them in giving them so many blessings. It did not make sense that Jesus should tell them just the opposite of what everyone could see must be true. Rich people can make a difference. Rich people are blessed by God! If only all people could be thus blessed!
Tell me you have not thought the same and I will tell you that you lie. We all have deep down inside of us the very same heart of that young ruler, of those astonished disciples. We all instinctively know that if God loves us He must bless us. The more He loves us the more He will bless us. But we also think that blessings can be measured and weighed. Counted and stored. Displayed and enjoyed. All this good stuff that comes from God comes because He knows that, unlike others, we will use it for good. Because we have suffered for it, worked hard for it, because we deserve it.
But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." 26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Talk about an understatement! No one will ever enter the Kingdom based upon their own reason or strength. Even the rich fail to enter the kingdom of God by their own efforts. A camel, such a large animal, had a better chance of slipping through the eye of a needle, such a tiny opening than the most favoured human being had of entering the Kingdom of God through his works. In other words – none. Such a thing is simply impossible. The disciples rightly understand what Jesus is getting at when they cry out “Who then, can be saved?” It sounds like Jesus is telling them that no one can be saved.
The disciples are knocked off their feet. How could they not, when they discover that they must be perfect for a perfect and holy God. Yet no one is good but God alone. It is hard to enter the kingdom of God. No, it is impossible. For all self-righteousness and sin must be left behind to enter through the narrow door. Old things must pass away before all things can become new.
All of our working, all of our suffering, all of our sacrificing is worthless. None of our works earn us a single thing before God's perfect judgment. It must all be discarded, disposed of, gotten rid of. Not one shred of that self-righteous heart can remain or all is lost. To any self-righteous person coming to such a knowledge of what God expects for eternal life must be knocked off their feet and led to ask “Who then could possibly be saved?”
27Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." No person can be saved … at least not on their own merit. Not by any payment or exchange they can offer. So the last door of hope on that side is shut and sealed forever. Here perishes all Pelagianism, moralism, synergism; man himself can do absolutely nothing toward his salvation by any natural powers of his own.
But the more all hope in ourselves dies, whether we are rich or poor who simply wish they were rich, the more our hope in God and in His grace rises like the morning sun with healing in His wings. All things are possible with God, and greater assurance no man can ask. God is able to make the impossible possible. He calls and gathers only unworthy people into His Kingdom by His grace! Nothing is impossible for God. All sin is cleansed by the blood of Christ. Faith is created in hearts dead in trespasses and sins. That Faith clings tight to that God who is able to do the impossible. Even a rich man trusting in his good works can be brought to repentance, and be forgiven by Christ.
And this is truly good, for ever it must be. As we see directly. 28Peter began to say to him, "See, we have left everything and followed you." From one extreme the disciples fly straight to the other. They first fear that on the basis of what Jesus said none of them can be saved; now, after those fears have been allayed by the sweet Gospel, they want assurances that, in addition to being saved, they will be rewarded according to the sacrifices which they have made. It is the heart of the rich young man all over again. It is the heart of every man, woman, and child on earth. We are all willing to give some small things up but only if more is promised return. We are never far from this desire for what should be ours.
Yet see, dear friends that Jesus doesn't send Peter and the others away for not getting it. He doesn't shoo them off after the unrepentant young man, whose lead they seem so ready to follow. Instead 29Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
There is a return for all that we are asked to give up of ourselves in following Jesus. For following Jesus entails persecutions, the loss of possessions, even life itself. satan will not cease to stir up opposition against God's people until that coming life. Family and friends may become estranged, your money and possessions are no longer simply your own. Your time, talents and treasures all come from the hand of another, and are given to be used for the sake of others. But in doing so God will never leave us without. The family and friends you lose by standing behind the Gospel will be more than compensated by the brothers and sisters you gain in Christ.
The flimsy treasures of this life and world, will be more than made up for with the everlasting treasures of heaven. God will more than simply replace what we have lost to follow Him both here and in the life to come. A hundred-fold return, but not based upon our deserving gifts, but His undeserved grace in Christ. A grace that makes even the impossible, possible.