(…continued) I don’t know why. I am confused by Jesus’ reply. And the man was discouraged, because the next verse says his face fell, and he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Now, that was a bad choice on his part, because all his wealth is now long gone, but the eternal life he was asking about would still be his. But why this confusing answer by Jesus? I don’t understand it, and neither did the disciples. And then Jesus goes and makes it even worse by saying, “How hard it is to enter the kingdom of heaven.” First he said how hard it is for ‘the rich’ to enter the kingdom, but then Jesus says it a second time and this time says “How hard it is to enter the kingdom,” PERIOD. Well, not quite period. Jesus then adds that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. And here we thought it was easy to be saved—a little water on the head after you are born, when you learn to talk just say, “Yes, I believe it,” and you are good to go. Not so fast, says Jesus.
At this, the text says the disciples were ‘amazed’ at his words. Well, from what I remembered, this translation is a little weak on that word. So I looked up several other translations, and they didn’t say ‘amazed.’ These other translations said the disciples were stunned, bewildered, astounded, staggered, perplexed, shocked, and even afraid. So now what? In the next verse it says the disciples said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Who indeed? And Peter said, “We have left everything for you, Lord,” (and that’s not enough?).
Verse 27 is the key here, but not in any simple sort of way. The disciples asked who then can be saved, and Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.”
Well, there you go; so there is no problem after all, right? It’s all in the hands of good old God, and so once again, we are all set to go for eternal life. Salvation by grace, not by works, so, no worries. Right?
Well, Jesus did not say all of that. He just said, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” It is all in God’s hands, but what should make us so sure we know what God has in mind? So next, we have to ask what that means, and what that does to us.
Well, first of all, this verse gives me hope. I have known many people for whom faith seems impossible, or, seemed impossible for those who are no longer living. They were not interested, or they could not bring themselves to believe, or they had some bad experiences with the church, or whatever. But with God, says Jesus, all things are possible. There is no guarantee here, but there is a word of hope. Perhaps no one is beyond the grace of God. Perhaps. It is in God’s hands, Jesus said.
But secondly, there is a warning here. It is in God’s hands, so, are you right with God? What does that mean? Can we just assume we are all okay with good, old God, even if we have ignored, despised, and disobeyed God? Do you know for sure how this all works? Are you even paying attention? Of course, I know some of you are; but I know some of you aren’t. Sometimes someone will say to me, “Well pastor, you won’t see me too often, I’m not much of a church goer, you know—Ha, Ha, Ha.” So I wonder, or perhaps even ask them, “Do you keep in touch with God in any ways, other than church?” God gives his grace freely to all who will receive it, but God will not force himself on anyone who is not interested. If you do not want anything to do with God in this life, God will not force himself on you in the next life—and you will be on your own. And how do you think you will manage that once the coffin lid slams shut on your face?
The man in the text asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and after what was admittedly an odd conversation, he walked away sorrowful—and Jesus let him go. If you choose to stay away or walk away from God, God will let you go. That is a terrifying thought.
There is some comfort in this text—it is all in God’s hands. There is a comfort in that because eternal life is more than I can manage. There is also a warning in this text–it is all in God’s hands. I better pay close attention to God and His Word and what he wants from me in this brief life, because there is nothing I can do on my own about eternal life. I want to know what God says about how this works. (continued…)
Philippians 2:12-13 — Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Hebrews 2:1…3a — Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it… For how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
Acts 4:11-12 — (Peter said), “This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner. Amen.
–Ancient Jesus Prayer