When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:25, 26
For those who are willing to honestly confront the demands of the Gospel it soon becomes evident that it is hard to live the way Jesus teaches. In fact, it is impossible. Who can forsake everything, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love their enemies, deny themselves, and give to anyone who asks? Nobody! It is impossible. It is completely contrary to everything in our human nature. Then why does our Lord demand such a standard?
The answer lies in our text. With men it is impossible for anyone to be saved. But for God anything is possible. It requires grace from God and faith from us. He has made known the fact that He is willing to offer His grace. But will we believe?
The disciples have just watched a prime prospect for the kingdom walk away because Jesus was too demanding. He insisted that this rich man sell his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and then come and follow Him. The man went away sad because he was very rich and loved his money more than righteousness. This elicited the comment from our Lord that it is nearly impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. In the disciples' minds this meant that if the best of society couldn't do it then what hope was there for them? Then who can be saved?
The only ones who can be saved are those who will recognize that salvation does not come from us but from God. We recognize that riches, intellect, or even our own virtue cannot save us. We are still sinners separated from God. As St. Paul wrote, "There is no one just, not one," (Ro. 3:10). Only God can save us. He offers us His grace through the saving work of our Lord in His death, resurrection, and ascension. We must respond, not by thinking about what we have to offer to God, but by humbly acknowledging that we have nothing to offer to God and we are beggars in need of His grace. As our Lord said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," (Mt. 5:3).
All of this being true, it is also true that God will not save us apart from our free will. We must choose Him. He offers His free gift of eternal life. We must choose to receive it. We do so by faith. We recognize that He alone can save us and we call out to Him for His help.
Many of us know this. It is the most fundamental of truths in our faith. Yet, it seems that we often are in need of being reminded. For the same way we began is how we are to continue. We must walk by faith. If we are to become more like God, it will continue to be through His grace. He is continually offering this grace. We must keep on believing in order to receive it.
Let us today, once again, abandon ourselves and all the things we think we have to offer to God. May we remember that we are beggars, but that He is most willing to richly supply all the grace necessary to bring us safely home!