All things are Possible with God
October 18, 2009
20TH Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. S. D. Spencer
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." Peter began to say to him, "See, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus 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, who 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. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
Today's reading is our third lesson from chapter 10 of Mark’s Gospel. Last week, we heard how a rich young ruler had come to Jesus asking for the 1 thing that he needed to do to be saved. Jesus said, “Sell all that you have and give it to the poor, then follow me.” The man went away grief-stricken because he had much wealth. His problem was that the Law had become his god and he believed his wealth was God’s approval of his life. This week, Jesus uses the difficulty of that young man to teach us that none of us, rich or poor can enter the Kingdom of God on our own. Instead, the Kingdom of God comes to us because “nothing is impossible with God.” Whether you are rich or poor, the Holy Spirit's gift of faith in the work of Jesus Christ puts the Kingdom of God in us and us in the Kingdom of God. It is by faith alone we are saved, Sola Fide, faith alone!
If we want to understand today's Gospel properly, we need to understand the different attitudes that some people have toward wealth. Our attitude toward wealth is probably much different than the attitude people had toward wealth in first century Israel.
In today's society, it has become fashionable to characterize wealthy people as villains or oppressors. People promoting class warfare want us to believe that all wealthy people must all be crooks. Young people who inherited their wealth are all spoiled and lazy. Our society today, wants to take a broad brush to all rich people and expose them as scrooges who have yet to be reformed by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.
On the other hand there’s a certain reverence that most western minded people hold for people who take an intentional position of poverty in order to serve others. We admire the doctor who gives up the wealthy practice in the suburbs in order to serve the poor of the inner city. We admire the person who leaves a good job in the United States in order to feed the poor in some third world nation. We in the church have heard the words of Jesus concerning wealth so often that we have gotten used to the idea that the poor have a special place in God's heart. But that wasn’t so in Jesus’ time.
The first century culture of Israel had a much different view of rich people. While people of that time certainly looked-down on people who amassed wealth immorally or illegally, they also considered those who achieved wealth through diligence and hard work to be the favored of God. The honored places in heaven were reserved for people who obtained wealth in legal ways and used it to support the church and the community. The disciples would have thought that the honest rich were the most likely to enter heaven for they were the blessed of God.
It must have been quite a shock when Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." When we hear this statement with the same understanding as Jesus' disciples, then we see that Jesus is saying that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than it is for even the best people of our society to enter the kingdom of heaven. We can see this in the response of the disciples. They were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Who can be saved if even the best person you know, the most righteous person, will have more difficulty than that camel?
The obvious answer is that nobody can do this. No one, not the rich, not the poor, no one can enter the Kingdom of God on their own. Remember last week the rich young ruler chose the Law as his god. That’s the message of the law in today's Gospel. The teaching in today's Gospel is not that being rich is bad. It’s that no one is able to enter the Kingdom of God by their own actions or their own resources. When Jesus said that the most respected members of the culture couldn’t earn their way into God's Kingdom, He was saying that none of us can earn a place in God's Kingdom. All of us are as likely to enter God's Kingdom as that camel is to go through the eye of a needle.
The Holy Spirit inspired David to write in Psalm 51 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”. St. Paul wrote in Romans 5:12 “Death spread to all men because all sinned”. You might remember that St. Paul also listed a few of those sins in Galatians 5 Sexual immorality, impurity and dishonesty; idolatry and lying; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and then in concluded in verse 21 “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”. All of these verses expose our sinfulness. We are sinners from conception and the only thing that happens as we grow older is that our sins get more imaginative and destructive. With man it truly is impossible to inherit the Kingdom of God. It’s impossible for us to enter the Kingdom of God under our own power or by our own works.
Jesus made it very plain when He said, "With man it is impossible, but not so with God. For all things are possible with God." Really salivation does look easy for us because God is doing all the work. What is impossible for man is possible for God.
When the water is combined with God's Word according to Christ's command, we have Christ's promise that the Holy Spirit will do the impossible in us - something that’s more difficult than getting a camel through the eye of a needle. In Baptism the Holy Spirit unites us with Jesus Christ. All those who have been baptized are united to Jesus Christ. Through baptism, the Holy Spirit brings us into the Kingdom of God. This is impossible for us, but not so for God.
Baptism looks easy. Just a few simple words, a little water, that’s it! Although it’s easy for us, it wasn’t so easy for Jesus. A camel through a needle's eye pales in comparison to what Jesus had to do to bring us into His kingdom.
In order to bring you into the Kingdom of God, Jesus, the Son of God, had to take on human flesh and become one of us. He had to a sinless life amongst sinful people. He had to suffer unjust torture and a brutal death by crucifixion. He was cursed of God in our place. That’s the price that Jesus paid so that you could enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus had to take your place on the cross.
When you were brought into the Kingdom of God through your baptism, everything that Jesus did now belongs to you. Jesus lived the perfect life and you get the credit. Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross for your sin and you get the credit. You see everyone who is baptized receives the credit for what Jesus did.
Not only do we receive the credit for everything that Jesus did but we also receive the promise. We receive the promise that just as Christ rose from the dead, so we shall also rise from the dead. We shall rise from the dead and join Jesus eternally in the joys of heaven.
The Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to say it this way in Romans 6:3-5: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his”.
When we think about the miracles that God performs in baptism, they are much more difficult than threading a needle with a camel. First of all, Jesus had to take our place to satisfy God's justice. Secondly, the Holy Spirit had to work the miracle of faith in us. Jesus took our place by living the perfect life, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead. The Holy Spirit did His part by joining us to Jesus so that everything Jesus did now belongs to us. This is through faith alone, a gift given by God. St. Augustine and Luther called it Sola Fide, Faith alone! Faith alone saves us, faith given by God as a gift. A gift of eternal life.
And these are miracles whether someone is ten minutes old, ten days old, ten years old, or ten decades old. Faith is a miracle and miracles are impossible for us, but for the sake of the His (T) suffering, His (T) death, and His (T) resurrection, all things are possible for God. Faith a gift from God to you! Therefore you can know beyond a shadow of doubt that all you sins are forgiven for Jesus sake and in Jesus name, amen and amen!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!