Humble Thyself



Sunday, April 7, 2019
Luke 9:35, 18:18-30

Those who heard this said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.”

Luke 18:26-27

We can read this challenging parable about the rich man forward or backward, but no matter where we start, we come to the same question and the same answer.

Question: “Who can be saved?”

Answer: “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.”

If only we could just leave it there.

Reading the passage forward we begin with a rich man essentially asking this question, “Who can be saved?” or more specifically, “What must I do to be saved, or to obtain eternal life?”

He walks away disappointed when he learns that he must give up all of his worldly possessions. When given a choice between the Kingdom of Heaven or “the treasure buried in the field” (Matthew 13:44) or the treasure he had already obtained, he chose the one he had already earned for himself.

The first point to notice is that Jesus doesn’t soften the deal. He doesn’t try to bargain for less just to get the man to show up for church on Sunday. He doesn’t sugar-coat the cost of discipleship. Instead, Jesus sadly lets the man walk way.

The people of Jesus’ day assumed that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing and to learn that such wealth and blessing did not guarantee this man a first class ticket to eternity came as a great shock. “Who then can be saved” if not someone who has been so richly blessed?

As much as we want to question Jesus for demanding too much or perhaps to judge the rich man for making such a horrible choice, notice we are not told about this man’s eternal destiny. Jesus still gives us hope. “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.”

We don’t know the rest of this man’s story. Jesus may have only planted a seed that came to bear fruit much later in his life, or perhaps death did come like a thief in the night and take every last penny. The truth is we just don’t know.

What we do know is that no matter how wealthy or blessed this man may have been, it was not possible for him to earn his way to heaven.

But now let’s read the story backwards. The disciples are a bit worried about their own reward. “Look Jesus, we left everything to follow you”, they cried. “What about us?”

Jesus assures them that their sacrifice will be rewarded in eternity, but their eternal life does not come because of their sacrifice anymore than the rich man could earn eternal life through his wealth. It’s still impossible for humans… all humans… rich or poor… selfish or sacrificial… sinner or saint…. It’s still impossible…

Only what is impossible for humans is possible for God.

This is our hope. This is the hope of the rich man. This is the hope of the world.

So perhaps before we presume upon someone’s eternal destiny, including our own, we would be wise to remember… anything is possible with God. There is always hope for salvation, even for those who seem to have no hope. Thanks be to God!