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Jesus looked at them and said, “For people this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:26)
These are such powerful words. All things are possible for God. All things. When you’re a human who can do next to nothing, it is extremely impressive to know a Being who can do all things.
These words by Jesus have been memorialized, quoted, engraved, framed, and claimed in countless different contexts by countless different people ever since He said them. When we reflect on these words today, we usually have a very specific “impossibility” in mind. Maybe we’re in failing health and our doctor has told us it’s hopeless. Maybe we’re in need of a job and we just keep hitting brick walls. Maybe we’re short on cash, short on energy, short on love, short on food, or short on sanity. It’s when we find ourselves stuck in an impossible dilemma that we like to remind God of how for Him, all things are possible. Indeed they are. But just because God has the ability to do something, doesn’t mean He has the desire to do it. Before we try to apply this principle in our own lives, we need to understand what God is offering to do for us.
When Jesus said these words, He was speaking about how hard it was for a man who was caught up in a love of material things to scrape up a willingness to part ways with earthly idols in order to wholeheartedly pursue the real Gods.
“I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you that 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.” (Mt. 19:23-24)
It isn’t a love of money that Jesus is talking about here. He’s addressing a far greater crisis—one that we are all caught up in. In our cores, we humans want to live for ourselves. We have no use for submitting to God and aligning with His costly demands. We’d much rather that God submit to us, and if He refuses to do so, we decide that we have no use for Him. He has made His approval a costly thing to obtain—we must accept our place as His servants and submit to Him as our Master. Well, servants don’t get to call the shots. So often God will ask us to give up the one thing that we care most about in this world in order to make room for Him in our hearts. In this scene from Matthew, a rich man came to Jesus claiming to have perfectly followed all of Yahweh’s Old Covenant commands. It was a ridiculous claim, of course, for no one is anywhere close to that perfect. The rich man had decided that he could redefine sin for God and make salvation a matter of works. But Jesus turned it back into a matter of the heart by telling the man to give away the riches he was so devoted to and to come and follow Jesus. The rich man went away sad because he felt that God was asking for too much. He was willing to do things for God as long as those things met his definition of reasonable. But when God asked for a complete change in the man’s soul priorities, that was across the line. Jesus understood what the real issue was. Left to ourselves, we humans will never be able to work up the desire or the ability to submit to our Creators to the degree that They demand. That kind of submission is just not in us. So then what?
When Jesus’ followers heard this, they were very surprised and asked, “Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “For people this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:25-26)
What is impossible for us is possible for God. Our egos gag on the Gospel message which condemns us all to Hell as defiant rebels. We don’t agree with God’s low assessment of us, we don’t agree with His system of eternal torment, and we hate the fact that He says we are never deserving of glory for the things that we have done. How is it even possible for such self-absorbed creatures to ever come up with the soul submission that He requires of us? How can we ever get over ourselves enough to fully cooperate with God’s maturation program and become all that He wants us to be? If we’re relying on our own strength, the mission is hopeless. But Jesus says that for God, all things are possible. When we read these words in their original context, we realize that they are more than just a statement of facts—they are an invitation. Jesus is telling us that when we hit those internal walls inside and find ourselves utterly repulsed by what He’s asking us to do, that is when we need to call out for Him to do the impossible in us. If only the rich man had said, “Lord, I do want salvation, but I don’t have the strength to do what You’re asking. Please help me.” A prayer like that would have changed his life. But instead he gave up and went away sad. After he left, Jesus acknowledged the scope of the problem, but then He urged people to not give up, but to remember that God knows the limits of our abilities and He does not expect us to do these things on our own. He is right there with us, urging us to acknowledge that we have come to the end of our own abilities and to look for Him to do the impossible in us.
When we apply this principle in our lives today, we need to remember the context in which Jesus originally spoke it. He was talking about calling on God to help us with our soul choices. He was talking about internal matters, not external circumstances. We miss the glorious point of what Jesus is saying when we try to turn this statement into some promise that God will always fix our earthly problems for us. It isn’t our earthly circumstances that matter—it’s what’s going on between our souls and God.
In the pursuit of God, we will hit many, many roadblocks in which we find ourselves suddenly holding back internally and saying, “I’ve followed You this far, but now You’re asking for too much.” It’s these moments that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 19. It’s these moments that He says we cannot possibly push through on our own. But then He reminds us that we are not on our own. He is with us, and He is eager to give us the victory. There is no Christian alive who wouldn’t choose to utterly desert God at some point in the journey. If He doesn’t keep us faithful to Him, we will not be faithful at all. But He says that He will keep us faithful. If we depend on Him instead of on ourselves, we will see the impossible made possible. We will see ourselves soar into levels of submission, trust, reverence, and dependency that we never even knew were possible. We all start off utterly self-absorbed and nowhere near close to obeying that first great command of loving God with all that we are. But God can make the impossible possible. He can do all things. When we throw ourselves entirely into His hands and ask Him to make us all that He wants us to be, that is exactly what He will do. When He’s done, we’ll be so changed that we’ll hardly recognize ourselves. All things are possible for God—even turning selfish, carnal humans into beings who really do love Him with all that they are. Jesus has given a priceless invitation to each and every one of us—what are you doing with yours?
Understanding Jesus: “Take My yoke upon you…”