“They were even more astonished, saying to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
One of the more memorable illustrations I remember from by days in youth group was when we were all given a coconut and told to figure out how to break it open. We all got pretty creative. I think my group went outside and smashed it on the ground for all we were worth. We made some dents, but didn’t ever get much more than that. It wasn’t until the leaders gave us a little prompting that we finally realized the trick. We needed to ask for help. It was not something we were going to be able to do on our own. Once we asked for help, our leaders gave us a hammer, and we were set. The task was a fairly easy one to accomplish, but it wasn’t going to be able to happen until we got the help we needed. The whole point was that this is how salvation works. The task of salvation is a fairly easy one for us to accomplish…but not on our own. We take this kind of thing as a matter of course in the church, but there was a time this was pretty big news. This morning we’re going to look at one of those times.
How do we manage to lay our hands on eternal life? That was the question that prompted the conversation Jesus was having with His disciples. A man came up and asked Jesus how he could get eternal life. Jesus ultimately called him to get rid of everything in his life that was standing between him and God, and to then come follow Him. Unfortunately, the man had a lot of stuff standing between him and God, namely, a lot of money. It wasn’t that he felt any less about God for it, he just didn’t understand the power it held over him and wasn’t all that thrilled to discover it.
His dejectedly walking away prompted an observation from Jesus that left everyone still standing there utterly shocked. They were completely baffled as to how such a thing as this could be true. Jesus observed that gaining access to the kingdom of God is incredibly difficult for people who have a lot of money. As we talked about yesterday, this wasn’t a statement intended to disparage money per se. Rather, it was an observation on the ease with which money can grab hold of our hearts and prevent us from giving ourselves wholly over to God in order to receive what He desires to give us.
The reason this was so shocking to the disciples was they were under the impression that wealth was an obvious sign of God’s favor. As we talked about the other day, we share that same impression. We assume rich people are closer to God than poor people. After all, would God really grant wealth to someone who didn’t deserve it? Now, of course, we don’t say that kind of thing out loud in the church. Well, at least we don’t in non-Prosperity Gospel churches. In the church, we talk about humility and moderation and the like. But in many of those same churches, the people sitting in the most influential positions are often the biggest givers with the deepest pockets. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.
If, then, this obvious sign of God’s favor is not really an obvious sign of God’s favor after all, how do we come by a right relationship with God? If the people everyone thought were obviously close to Him aren’t really, who is? How can we tell?
But there was more here too. It wasn’t simply that Jesus turned their world upside down when He said what He did about money. The man coming to ask for eternal life had kept the Law. No one questioned him on that, even Jesus. But his keeping the Law didn’t gain him the prize he was seeking. This one-two punch is what broke their worldview. Not only was wealth not a sign of God’s favor, but keeping the Law wasn’t enough to gain eternal life by itself.
If this is all the case, how can anyone be saved? Jesus didn’t let up. With man it is impossible. In other words, on your own, you can’t be saved. Your efforts, as incredible as they may be, are not going to be enough to gain you the prize of eternal life. And again, in the church, we take this as a matter of course. Of course salvation is by faith alone through grace. If you’ve grown up in the church, this idea has been the water in which you swim.
For Jesus’ audience here, though, this broke the mold. In fact, it shattered the mold, ground it into dust, and spread the dust across the ocean. They had spent their entire lives thinking salvation worked one way and now they were learning it worked an entirely different way. If we can’t do anything to gain our salvation on our own – it is impossible, Jesus said – how do we get it?
We need help. On our own it is impossible, but with God it is possible. All things are possible with God. Now, quickly, this is not a blank check from Jesus. Context matters and we can’t ignore it or we’ll wind up thinking something that isn’t true. You’re not going to develop super powers or somehow escape the consequences of your bad decisions because all things are possible with God. What you can gain, though, is eternal life where it had once been impossible.
Eternal life is possible, but not by yourself. You don’t have what it takes. You can’t manage to earn it or gain it by effort or resources. It is impossible for you. But with God, it is possible. In fact, in Christ, it is a guarantee. You simply trust in Him and He’ll take care of the rest.
This, my friends, is good news. It is incredible news. It means salvation is something available to everyone without condition. You can be saved in Christ. There is nothing about you or in your past that will keep you from receiving it. He gives to all freely and without reserve. You simply go to Him. I hope you will.