Where Rubber Meets Road: The Heart

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

If I were to compose a list of the biggest buts in the entire Bible, this verse would certainly be among them.  In my own lifetime and with my own eyes I’ve seen this play out.  I’ve seen a few miraculous healings—doctors and medicines at the end of their capacities when healing comes in a manner completely beyond explanation.  I’ve seen lives radically changed—addictions broken, lives transformed, and yes, even the most desperate of marriages reconciled.  I’ve seen hardened hearts softened—a couple of those cases among the most miraculous changes that could ever have been imagined.  These things were not possible with man, but with God…

This colossal but is found amidst one of the more popular encounters with Jesus in the Bible, recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke.  A rich young man came to Jesus asking, “What must I do to have eternal life?” Let this sink in a moment: someone asks “What must I do?” and the dialogue concludes “With man this is impossible, but with God…” I feel a sermon coming on!

All three gospel accounts suggest that this young man was very respectful, contrasting his agenda with those of religious leaders who hoped to trap Jesus.  This young man seemed genuinely to desire to please God.  He mistakenly believed that this was possible for man—that there was some deed to be performed or some code of behavior to keep that would earn God’s favor.  In fact, he had done his all to adhere to the laws and traditions as best he understood them.  “All these I have kept,” he said. “What do I still lack?” Be reminded again of where this conversation is going: With man it is impossible, but with God…

To bring that truth home to the young man, Jesus went right to the heart of the matter—right to the man’s heart: “Go sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor and then come follow me.” Who is really on the throne in your life?  Are you willing to perform some deeds for your God, or are you willing to surrender all?

The young man went away discouraged because he had great wealth.  But this wasn’t about the wealth.  Jesus hasn’t commanded that all wealthy people give away their possessions and take vows of poverty.  What he’s done is reveal to this young man where his own heart truly rests.  Jesus watched him walk away, explaining to his disciples that a camel could more easily pass through the eye of a needle than a man change his heart, concluding that with man it was impossible, but with God…

 

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