Mark 10:23:31
The Impossible Now Possible
Vicar Kyle Backhaus

From time to time, I wonder what the rest of the world thinks of the United States or many European countries or the extravagant wealth of some of those in the Middle East. As members of a community gather together for a little social time around the one and only television in the community, and watch the satellite feed, what do they think? What do they think of houses with more than one room? What do they think of a woman who can't decide what to wear, while their entire wardrobe consists of the clothing they have on at the time? What do they think of people trying to decide where they will have lunch while they wonder if they will have lunch or any meal that day? Even the poorest of the poor in the United States would be judged wealthy by citizens in many other third world countries. That is why the words of Jesus in today's Gospel should terrify many Americans. Jesus said, "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."















 

Mark 10:23:31
The Impossible Now Possible
Vicar Kyle Backhaus

From time to time, I wonder what the rest of the world thinks of the United States or many European countries or the extravagant wealth of some of those in the Middle East. As members of a community gather together for a little social time around the one and only television in the community, and watch the satellite feed, what do they think? What do they think of houses with more than one room? What do they think of a woman who can't decide what to wear, while their entire wardrobe consists of the clothing they have on at the time? What do they think of people trying to decide where they will have lunch while they wonder if they will have lunch or any meal that day? Even the poorest of the poor in the United States would be judged wealthy by citizens in many other third world countries. That is why the words of Jesus in today's Gospel should terrify many Americans. Jesus said, "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."

Jesus words are even more startling when we study the role of wealthy people in first century Israel. There is today a special regard that most people have for the person who is willing to give up all they have in order to serve others. We admire the doctor who gives up the wealthy practice in the suburbs in order to provide service to the poor in the inner city. We admire the person who leaves a good job in the United States in order to feed the poor in some third world country. We in the church have heard the words of Jesus concerning wealth so often that we have gotten used to the idea that he desires His people to show mercy to the poor.  God’s word is rich with encouragement in these ways.  But in first century Israel people saw wealth as a special sign of God’s favor.

While Biblical culture certainly frowned on people who amassed wealth illegally such as tax collectors and soldiers, those who achieved wealth through diligence and hard work were considered to be favored by God. The honored places in heaven were reserved for people who obtained wealth in legal ways and used it to support the church and the community. The disciples would have thought that the rich ones are the most likely to enter heaven for they are the favored ones of God.

Thus the teachings of Jesus that compare the poor and the wealthy were very startling for the people in that day. Jesus must have given the disciples a headache when He pointed to the widow's mite and said, (Luke 21:3-4) "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

We can see the confusion of the disciples by their response in today’s Gospel. They said to him, "Then who can be saved?" If the odds of the rich are the same as the odds of that camel, then who can get into the Kingdom of God? If the rich can't get in, then none of us have a chance.

None of us have a chance. The teaching in today's Gospel is not that it is bad to be rich, but that no one is able to enter the Kingdom of God with their own resources. When Jesus said that the most respected members of their culture could not earn their way into God's Kingdom, He was saying that none of us rich or poor, good or bad, honest or not can earn a place in God's Kingdom. All of us are as likely to enter God's Kingdom on our own as a camel is likely to pass through the eye of a needle.

Our Old Testament reading states, “To whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil, this is the gift of God.” You see money, wealth, possessions in and of themselves are not the problem. Rather we are the problem. David understood this and he wrote, (Psalm 51:5) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Paul writes, (Romans 5:12) Death spread to all men because all sinned. Paul listed a few of those sins in Galatians and then concluded, (Galatians 5:21) I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. All of these verses point to out our sinful nature. We are sinners from conception and as we grow and mature our sins may get more imaginative and destructive. With man alone it is truly impossible to inherit the Kingdom of God.

But while it may be impossible with man, it is possible with God. [Jesus] said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." God is almighty and He loves us dearly. He loves us so much (John 3:16-17) that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. You see none of us have the resources to enter the Kingdom of God on our own, but the Kingdom of God has what it takes to enter us.

And the Son of God is able to sympathize with you and the weakness of your heart. For Jesus was a man, a man who was tempted with coveting and greed like us. Let us remember that Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world if He would just bow down and worship Him.  Yet Jesus sinned not in this or any other.

But Jesus was also God; he was the God-man who came to this earth to make the impossible, possible. And his work was not for the wealth that we value so highly in this world but for redemption. For no amount of wealth could purchase salvation. The price was blood. The blood of the Holy innocent Lamb of God. And so Jesus humbled himself to die on a cross to pay the price for you. And on the seventh day He rested in the tomb. But he arose from the dead, to assure you that the payment had been made for you and for Lillian. For His resurrection gives you and her, the promise of everlasting life.

And the Holy Spirit works within us through God's Word. When we read it ourselves in daily prayer. When we share it with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we learn and study it together. When we hear it in Divine Service and receive His word from the Scriptures and in the Sermon. We can also taste it in the Holy Supper when Christ gives us His true Body and true Blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. The Holy Spirit generously uses all these ways to feed our spirits with God's Word. Through that Word, He creates and sustains in us the gift of faith. He gives you and Lillian faith that believes that the suffering and death of Christ takes away all of your sins. Faith that trusts that the impossible has become possible through the death and resurrection of Christ. With that faith the camel passes through the needle's eye - that is, the rich or poor, good or bad, honest or not, alike all enter the Kingdom of God.

So, enjoy and use wisely the gifts that the Lord has graciously given to you, but trust in the living and active Word of God. Depend on your Savior that put himself last enduring the pain of the cross. Recall the words of our Old Testament reading. “As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and he shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.” We come into this world with nothing and we will exit this world taking nothing with us.  But Christ too came into this world naked, and he brought with him the gifts of God. Christ left this world naked as he hung on the cross for you, and he took with him your sins to the grave. He came with the gifts of God and he took from your sin, so that the impossible would become possible, so that you may enter the kingdom of God.  Thanks be to God!

 

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