October 18, 2015 Text: Mark 10:23-31
Dear Friends in Christ,
Most of you will remember the TV program Mission: Impossible, and you young bucks in the congregation have become acquainted with it through the recent Tom Cruise movies. The TV program revolved around an agent originally named Dan Briggs and later replaced by Jim Phelps, receiving dangerous government assignments. The tagline you may remember at the beginning of each show was, “Your mission, Mr. Phelps, should you decide to accept it, is…” After listening to the rest of the message, the end of the tape would say, “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.” The assignments, I suppose, seemed impossible. They were certainly difficult. By the end of the show the team of agents solved the cases and had done the “impossible.” Mission: Very Difficult just doesn’t have the same zing.
In our Gospel lesson Jesus talks about how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God. It is like a Mission: Impossible assignment. Not really impossible, but extremely difficult. In another scenario he uses the word impossible. So which one is it?
“IS THE MISSION DIFFICULT OR IMPOSSIBLE?”
The Holy Spirit begins our text, “Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ (v. 23) This amazes the disciples. They are assuming that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and therefore man’s relationship with God. But riches can get in the way of our devotion to God. Riches can hinder our trust in God’s provision. Many of the rich and famous in our world live apart from God.
But then it appears to get worse as Jesus continues his teaching. “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.’” (vs. 24b-27a) A man cannot put a camel through the eye of a needle. It’s hard enough to get a little piece of thread in there! Riches are a hindrance to the kingdom of God. It is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom. But not just the rich. It is impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven on their own.
It is not just riches that get in the way of heaven. Many of God’s greatest gifts can become idols – parents, children, and spouses. How many people forego church because of their family members? How many leave a church where God’s Word is properly taught to join a church that errs in some doctrine because they want their kids to have a “better” youth group?
The truth is that no one can save himself. It is impossible. There are no exceptions. No matter what race, no matter how smart, no matter how rich, no matter how poor, no matter what age, no matter what gender. Man cannot do it even with a little help from God. It isn’t that man does his part and God does His. What mans brings to the table is the impossible. Man merely brings sin.
Man needs the God of the possible to do the impossible. “’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.’” (vs. 26b-27)
Do you believe this? Can you fathom the impossible? Jesus took an impossible assignment and paid the price that was impossible for you to pay. He went to Calvary’s cross for my sin, your sin, and the sin of the whole world. In Jesus, God died for you. God can turn stony hearts of unbelief into faithful Christians. He can make a camel go through the eye of a needle. Your salvation and your conversion is all God’s doing. God doing the impossible.
Even though He has redeemed us and turned our hearts of stone into believing hearts, until we enter fully into the kingdom of God, the journey will be rough. Jesus calls us to our own Mission: Difficult as He calls us to pick up our cross and daily follow Him.
Contrary to modern day health, wealth, and prosperity preachers, your best life now might entail the cross. It might involve persecution for your faith. Our text says in the age to come we will have eternal life. In the meantime, we might lose family members over our faith. We are going to deal with temptations of wealth and security. We may be called to the public square to declare Jesus as Lord.
But hang on to this in the innermost parts of your being, no matter how difficult it might get the Mission: Impossible is Mission: Accomplished because Jesus has completed His mission for us. We are assured the victory in Christ because He did the Mission: Impossible.
Oh, by the way, this promise of God will not self-destruct in five seconds.