As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard 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 man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
A couple months ago my wife and I saw the movie, “Mission Impossible—Fallout.” I think this is the sixth Mission Impossible movie made. But it doesn’t matter if it was the TV series starring Peter Graves or the movies starring Tom Cruise, the plot is always the same. Some evil guy is up to no good and no one can stop him. They call in Jim Phelps who mobilizes the IMF or Impossible Mission Force. Using state of the art gadgets, special peel away masks and their own ingenuity, they would foil the evil guy’s evil plans and save the day.
What makes Mission Impossible so popular? The action is face paced and exciting. The idea of secret weapons thrills us. But I think the title explains it all: even though the mission is impossible, they find a way to win.
But Peter Graves and Tom Cruise have nothing compared to another hero. He does the impossible, but he doesn’t do it with fancy computerized action scenes or secret weapons. Let’s sit back now and see how Jesus achieves the impossible.
I. With man salvation is impossible.
“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.””
Parents, if your daughter dated a young man like this, you would be thrilled. He is respectful. When he approached Jesus he knelt to the ground. You don’t see that anymore. He is kind. He will be faithful to your daughter. He is an honest, hard worker who would never think of stealing or cheating. He doesn’t lie. He will honor you as his own parents. In Luke we are told he is a leader in the church so he church is covered. And to top it off, he has money, lots of money.
So if he asks you for your daughter’s hand in marriage, what would you say? You might consider saying, “No.” Yes, he would make sure your daughter’s physical and emotional wellbeing are be taken care of. But listen to him carefully. Spiritually he would harm your daughter. He would lead your daughter away from Christ and take her down a spiritual dead end road that would make it impossible for her to have eternal life. How do we know that? He tells us.
First, he had no idea who Jesus was. Sure, he had a high respect for Jesus. He knelt before him. He put Jesus in a high category right up there with doctors and counselors and professors. But Jesus was not God. Jesus was not his Savior.
Next, he had no idea who he was. We see this in his question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
That sounds reasonable. If you are overweight, it is only logical to ask, “What can I do to lose weight?” He figured heaven is a weight loss program where you follow the program, then you lose the weight. Since he wanted a program to follow, Jesus gave him one. He pointed him to the commandments about murder, adultery, stealing and so on. The young man instantly answered that he had been doing that since childhood. I am sure he was sincere about it.
But he wasn’t that good. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
Jesus didn’t yell at him. He didn’t call him a liar. Jesus loved him. What does love dictate in this situation? Love moved Jesus to warn this man he was going the wrong way. So he made the man see what was going on in his heart. Jesus tested him. He asked the man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor.
You would think this would have excited this young man! This is exactly what he was asking for. You would think he would have rushed away and sold everything. But he didn’t. In fact, he was sad. You know your Commandments. The first one tells us we are to have no other gods. As Luther explained, we should fear, love and trust God above all things. He had a chance to show God how much he loved him, and he failed. He loved his wealth more. I saw a survey that had the question, “Can you love two people at the same time?” I was surprised by the answers. Each one said no. As one person explained in his response, if you are sitting with a girl, but all you can do is think about another girl, then it shows you love the one and not the other. This man loved his wealth over heaven and God.
But he is not the only one. “Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard 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 man to enter the kingdom of God.””
The disciples needed to realize the same thing as this rich young man. You see, the disciples could say to themselves, “Hey, didn’t we give up all to follow Jesus? John, didn’t you give up your fishing boat, and Matthew, didn’t you quit your job?” But did they love God more than anything else? Ask them that question when they abandoned Jesus in the garden, or when Peter denied knowing him. Ask them that when they argued over who was the greatest. Look at us. We have given up Sunday morning to be here; where are the rest? We give up some of our money. But is that good enough? Pick your idol: money, family, job, sports, leisure, your life, anything. If God asked you to give it up, would you?
The disciples got it. “The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?””
The answer is, “no one.” With man this is impossible.
II. With God salvation is not only possible. It is guaranteed.
But not with God. A virgin gives birth to a son. We will never duplicate that. Five thousand people were fed with only one lunch. If we tried that, each person would get a crumb. We cannot create matter. In fact, it is a scientific law that matter cannot be created or destroyed, but God created all things from nothing.
And the miracle of miracles, God forgives the sinner. Normally, sins cannot be forgiven. They can only be paid for. If I broke your window, someone has to pay for it. Either you make me do it which is only fair, or you can pay for it so I don’t have to. God has a way to forgive sins so we don’t have to pay for them with an eternity in hell. It is called Jesus. Jesus isn’t just a good teacher, or a doctor or a counselor. He is God made man. In fact, this young man met Jesus on his way to Jerusalem and the cross where he will pay for sins.
Friends, this is why Jesus treated the man as he did. He didn’t see Jesus as God or Savior. He also didn’t see how much he sinned and need Jesus. He led a very nice, decent life, but even then he knew something was missing. That is why he asked Jesus what more he could do. We will always live under a cloud of doubt if we think we can do something. I remember a man who had serious surgery awaiting him the next day. I asked him a pointed question. If the surgery went badly and he died, and God asked him why he should let him into heaven, what would he say? He answered without hesitation that he prayed a lot and went to church often. Nothing about Jesus. He gambled his entire eternity on some prayers and church attendance.
I asked him how many times one should go to church before God let him into heaven. He couldn’t answer. I asked him how many prayers should be spoken before one can go into heaven. He didn’t know. You see the problem? How much is enough? And was every prayer we spoke God-pleasing?
Jesus is doing us a favor. Periodically we hear of a bridge that is out, or there is road construction. They tell you this so you can take an alternate route. Jesus is telling us we need to take an alternate route. Every road we think leads to God and eternal life is out, blocked, impassable.
But Jesus gives us a way. It is impossible to forgive sins, but God made it possible by punishing his own Son in place. Nothing is impossible with God. Think of these words the next time you attend a funeral. It is not only possible for God, but it is guaranteed that this person lives eternally and this body will be raised.
By the way, back to that man awaiting surgery. We read through some Bible passages and stories. When I asked him the question again, why God should let him into heaven, he answered without hesitation, “Because I am saved through Jesus.” Things are so much better when we are on the right path. Amen.
October 20, 2018 Wedding Sermon