Sermon

Mark 10:17-27

 

GOD DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE.  (All things are possible with God.)

 

In 1867 Alfred Nobel received U.S. patent number 78317.  It was for the making of tube-like sticks of nitroglycerin and silica mixed together called dynamite.  It was of course this same Alfred Nobel who left a nine million dollar endowment fund when he died in 1896 from which came the funds for the present day Nobel Peace Prize.  It seems ironic that the money for the Nobel Peace Prize comes from patented dynamite.

 

This word dynamite shows up in the sermon text for today from Mark 10.  Dynamite is a Greek word.  It comes from the word “to be able to do something.”  We guess that is why dynamite is called dynamite.  It is able to do something that no one without it could do.  It can blow tons of rock into the air in a loud but easy way.  

 

The words before us talk about things people can do.  The young man apparently had been able to keep many of the commandments.  He hadn’t stolen, defrauded, dishonored his parents, ruined his marriage with infidelity, murdered.  Jesus didn’t question what he had been able to do.  There were some things this young man couldn’t do.  They were impossible for him to do.  He couldn’t go and sell everything he had and give it to the poor.  He couldn’t do that.  His riches had avalanched down on his road to salvation and he couldn’t remove the avalanche.  It was impossible for him.  We call things humans can do possible and we call things they cannot do impossible.  As much as human beings dislike saying it, there are things they just cannot do.  They can’t do one single impossible thing.  But God can.  And God does do impossible things.  Jesus said in the words before us today, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  All things!

 

The question was wrong in the first place.  “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The answer is simple.  It’s Jesus’ answer here.  “There is nothing you can do to inherit eternal life.  It is impossible for you to do something that will save you.  You can’t save yourself.  Only Jesus can save you.  He came into this world to do this thing that was impossible for you and me.  He came to save us.  His name Jesus means Savior…the one who saves.  Jesus is the one who does impossible things for us so that it might be possible for us to be with him in eternity.

 

When people go shopping for a god they want to save them, it is important for them to know this business of possible and impossible.  The word gods (spelled with a little g) describes made-up beings that can do nothing at all.  They not only can’t do impossible things.  They can’t even do possible things.  The people who fashion gods out of whole cloth or tree branches or handfuls of metal ore or blocks of stone…these people can do some things.  They can make gods!  They can then fall down and worship these gods too, but they need to remember that their gods can do nothing.  All things are impossible for the little g gods; nothing is possible for them.  But the passage of the Bible stands true: “all things are possible with God.

 

This holds true for the gods “out there” today.  This holds true for the god of money.  It can do nothing really.  It just lies there flat and thin and green. The god of glitz and glamour can do nothing either.  Nothing.  The god of recreation and entertainment can also do nothing.  Even Satan, who some people worship by the way, can do nothing unless the Lord God of Heaven allows him to.  Jesus one day told one of Satan’s henchmen by the name of Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”  

 

The Old Testament everywhere talks about what gods can’t do.   It says they are blind and dumb and dull.  It says they, like the Philistine god Dagon only have the power to fall over and break off their hands on the threshold of their own temples.  On Mount Carmel the prophets of Baal prayed in vain to gods who couldn’t get a fire going and couldn’t be aroused.  The Egyptians called on their gods to withstand the terrible God of the Israelites who was tearing their country apart with hail storms and infestations of bugs and palpable darkness and dying firstborn children and animals.  

 

You don’t need a god who can just do possible things.  You can do possible things without any help at all.  If all your god can do is manage to get a little more money into your pocket, you can do that.  (Get another job!)  If all your god can do is help you win the game, you can do that.  (Play harder!  Get lucky!)  You need a God who can do impossible things.  You need a God who can put eternal currency into your pockets…treasure stored up for you in heaven.  That’s the kind of God you need.  You need the only God who declares you winners in the only contest that matters: the eternal struggle between the devil and people, right versus wrong, good versus bad.  Listen to this God who does impossible things talk to you…”You are more than conquerors through him who loved you.”

 

Here is something God can do that is impossible for you to do.  He can make camels go through needle eyes.  Humps and all.  And if this “needle’s eye” is a small window in a first century walled gate (as some say it was) he gets the camel through that impossibly small orifice too.  Same power.  Same miracle.  Same impossible thing.

 

Jesus can save rich people from their money.  That really is what is impossible for you and me.  We can’t save rich people from their money.  We can’t save ourselves from our money either! Even dynamite wouldn’t blow our hands lose from their grasp on CDs and coins and collections.  You all qualify by almost any standards as being rich people.  Consider how you might act if you have to chose between the great big pile of your things and God himself.  One or the other.  Let them all be gone…?  Really?  See how you fare with the “impossible” thing of letting all your wealth go.  Go and cancel out every insurance policy.  Take all the money out of every single account and cd.  Take them all down to zero.  Sell your car.  Sign over your house.  Take the sum total and give it to the Salvation Army…or to your Synod to use in bringing God’s Word to Apaches or to Africans or to people struggling in a congregation in Alexandria, Louisiana.  

 

Listen to Jesus’ hard words again, “One thing you lack.  Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”   The only difference between us and the young rich man is that Jesus hasn’t directly made the command to us.  Jesus hasn’t directly spoken for you to give up everything.  The disciples got the point of his command to the rich man.  When Jesus posited his hard position here and told the young man in the words before us today to give up his possessions, the disciples involuntarily reached for their own billfolds. They knew it.  They asked their follow-up question, “Who then can be saved?”  

 

That’s when Jesus says his amazing words: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

 

When God saved you, he did something impossible for anyone else to do.   Someone might possibly fish you out of a raging flood of water.  Someone might safely land your ailing airplane.  Someone might possibly take the bullet meant for your heart.  No one else beside Jesus can save you from going to hell.  No one can deposit enough cash in your account to pay for your transgressions and trespasses.    No man can do this.  No woman can do this.  With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

 

There he stands!  Jesus!  He can do this impossible thing.  He can save you.  Not only that, he already has saved you.  He paid the cost, took the bullet, plucked you from the dark stream of death, pried open your coffin lid, breathed life into your dead soul and decomposed body, raised you to a new life in him, set you flying heavenward.  Jesus can do all these things!  Jesus actually did all these things.  He has the power to do these impossible things.  It’s so certain it is as if he had already done them.  They are done things.  Completed things.  Certain things.

 

The man’s question is wrong from the very beginning.  Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?  The answer: nothing.  You can do nothing that will earn your salvation.  Nothing.  To answer it any other way is to say that Jesus’ words are wrong.  Jesus said, “With man this impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  

 

But if we were to ask, “Jesus, what must we do because you have given us eternal life?” then the answer is: “Everything!”  Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”  And we say by his power and because of his love to us, “I will do what you command and make possible for me.”  We could answer then with the Apostle Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 3:14) God, who can do impossible things, makes it possible for us to do things for him…good things, many things, happy things, lovely things, worshipful things.  Jesus does the impossible thing of saving us from our money too.  Look in the collection basket when it passes you by.  What you see is people doing something impossible because they love Jesus.  It is really true and it really happens.  Here in our church, it happens.  

 

To the only God who can do impossible things, be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.