“Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With people it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible….” (v.27, NASB)
A father was rescued far out to sea after several days missing. He was barely conscious but was still dog paddling with his arms tied around his six-year-old daughter. Later he said that he had decided that he could not let her drown: That he could not live with himself if the two did not survive together. She was the most precious thing to him.
In our text we hear Jesus challenging the Rich Young Ruler to be willing to give up the most precious thing that was separating him from relationship with God. He was not willing to give up the things that he perceived to be most precious to him. Then in our story Jesus made one of his most startling statements: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (v. 25, NRSV)
What a dramatic illustration of the impossible. There is no way that a big hairy camel could fit through the nearly invisible eye of a tiny needle. Even if it were a big needle, say for sewing canvas, and a baby camel, it would still be impossible. Jesus’ point is that what is impossible with us is possible with God.
One of the highlights of every Holy Land Trip is riding on a real spitting camel, smell and all. I say spitting because they will do exactly that if provoked. I was on my best behavior as I took my turn. It was a huge animal. Indeed, if there had been a platform saddle, all twenty of us could have ridden on the giant camel at one time. Later we discussed Jesus' “impossibility statement" and knew the vivid picture of his analogy. Jesus' hyperbole exaggerates the fact of impossibility. A giant beast of burden could never fit through the tee-tiny opening for fine thread at the end of a needle. It is an absolute impossibility.
Of course somebody is always trying to skirt around the true meaning of every biblical story and statement. Up on the high stone walls around the old city of Jerusalem the guides always point out what ancient warriors referred to as "needles eyes" cut through the tops of the walls. The slits are about six inches wide and three feet high through which Hebrew defenders of the city could shoot arrows at the: approaching armies. Of course, these slits that resembled giant needles eyes were wider than an actual sewing needle's eye, but sti1l, the slit would never accommodate a huge camel, un1ess the camel were cut into steaks.
The point of Jesus' story is that self-salvation is impossible. “Who then can be saved?" the Apostles asked. The answer is that nobody can be saved--- on their on. "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for with God all things are possible." (v. 27)
The Grace of Christ creates Impossible Possibilities.
The Apostles seemed threatened that since they had given up everything to follow Jesus that perhaps they would miss out too. What they did not understand, prior to the Cross, was that the new paradigm for restored friendship between God and humanity would not be based upon giving up possessions but upon the new life that is given when an soul is grabbed by the great love of God acted out on that tree.
The Good News is that the Almighty has arranged a partnership with us through which He allows the impossible to become possible. We are the poor relatives in the partnership, but because we are His special creation, God has made a way for us to experience the impossible. God has wooed us back into the family by entering into human life and then by sacrificing that life as an illustration of His love for us.
It is impossible for us to be saved on our own, but with God it is possible.
I like to think that the Rich Young Ruler, who went away sad in our story, did later came to Christ after the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. Perhaps he saw Jesus hanging there and realized that it was all played out to grab our hearts and to give us an understanding of the impossible possibility of restored relationship. The young man would not have received eternal life by giving his fortune away anyway, but by plugging into Jesus’ great miracle of redemption he could had it on the same terms as we have.
It is not recorded in the New Testament but it seems highly probable that this energetic young man who was so interested in Jesus did later catch on just as did the twelve Apostles, the many disciples and as did we. Nobody can purchase their way into heaven. Eternal life is not earned by giving away our material possessions. Grace is always a free gift for the guilty. Our peace with God and assurance of salvation is ours, as it was for those first Christians at Pentecost, by experiencing deep within their souls that the Father did it all to recover His lost creatures. “We once were lost but now we are found, were blind but now we see.” We are what we are by the Grace of Christ.
It was impossible for us to save ourselves but makes it possible. Indeed, every mystical incident that we have with God’s Holy Spirit is a miracle, a seemingly impossible event becoming a real experience. Every time we pray we touch the Divine and experience an Impossible Possibility. Most of us have had our lives and situations in our pilgrimage, altered by God’s Will. Hopefully, we all feel led to a calling through the miracle of Grace. I know that it took a miracle to save my soul. It took a miracle to call me to preach, but God did save me and call me and He has never failed me once. Lots of folks who have known me long and well could attest to the miracle that it took to make this rebel into a minister of the Gospel of Grace. If anything, He has been able to use my forgiven heart to extend His forgiveness to others. I know that Christ has a forgiving heart for all the rich, young rulers and poor, old lost souls that think it is impossible that God Almighty could have a place for even them. He always does!
If you are floundering, even just a bit, God can create a way for you to find a life on His schedule and track. He can make a way out of no way.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor