This parable appears in the Gospel of Matthew 19:16–30, the Gospel of Mark 10:17–31 and the Gospel of Luke 18:18–30.
Despite the evilness of the twentieth century, we have not yet learned the depths of human depravity. Secularists have taught us that we are basically good — all we need is education. Polls also suggest that evangelicals overwhelmingly believe in the goodness of man.
This is surprising, given Scripture’s assumption that we are chronically sinful. Paul tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God Romans 3:23(HCSB). In Psalm 51:5(HCSB)Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;I was sinful when my mother conceived me., David confesses his evil nature was present even at the moment of his conception.
Our Savior once met someone who was confident in his own money and status instead of his allegiance to God. Wondering how he could inherit eternal life, this rich young man came to Jesus wondering what he had to “do” (Mark 10:17). The use of “do” indicates that he thought he could enter God’s kingdom by doing good.
Mark 10:17–31(HCSB)17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One—God. 19 You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.” 20 He said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.” 21 Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” 22 But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. 23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 But the disciples were astonished at His words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.” 26 So they were even more astonished, saying to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to tell Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 “I assure you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields because of Me and the gospel, 30 who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Jesus does not directly reprimand the man for this belief. Rather, Jesus responds by asking the man why he was calling Jesus “good,” for no one is good but God alone (v. 18). Jesus is not denying His own goodness; He is indirectly forcing the man to question his assumption that he knows goodness and therefore, the Lord. In effect Jesus is saying “no one is good but God, and therefore you cannot rely on your moral behavior to inherit the life of the age to come. Like anyone else, you must follow me.”
Christ then gives him a list of ethical commandments and tells him that if he does all these, he will enter the kingdom of God (v. 19). Because he still did not understand, the young man’s response to Jesus was to receive a “laundry list” of commandments that he needed to follow in order to receive eternal life. Jesus replied by listing five commandments that all deal with human relationships. Matthew 19:18-19(HCSB)18 “Which ones?” he asked Him. Jesus answered:Do not murder;do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; 19 honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself. This is important because He was making a distinction between having faith in the law (or in his own abilities) and having faith in God; that is, the difference between the law and grace. The young man thought that the law could save him, but Jesus knew that that was impossible.The man is quite pleased, and he professes his own conformity (v. 20). Even if he did obey those commands, he was still missing something — Jesus catches him on the first commandment. Seeing that he worships the idols of wealth and social status, Jesus tells him to sell his goods and follow Him. But the man is not satisfied, and he refuses to let go of his riches. Mark 10:21–22(HCSB)21 Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” 22 But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.
At least two sins were revealed here: First, the young man was not as blameless as he thought he was because he was guilty of loving himself and his possessions more than his neighbor, and second, he lacked true faith which requires an unparalleled devotion to Jesus. This is when Jesus called over His disciples to teach them a lesson. He said, “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” (Mark 10:25). The disciple’s response was, “Then who can be saved?” or, “Then how is it possible for anyone to be qualified to enter the kingdom of God?” (Mark 10:26)Having seen the true nature of his prideful confidence, this man is bluntly denied the possibility of entering the kingdom on his own merit. He preferred to worship his money instead of God. The next verse 27 This is where the famous and oft quoted verse comes in, which is the inspiration for our question. Jesus replied, Mark 10:27(HCSB) Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.”. This answers our first contextual issue, for we can now see that the “this” concerns salvation. It is impossible for man to save himself by his own merits, or for the law to grant eternal life. The grace offered only by Jesus Christ is necessary. The question now is, “What did Jesus mean by ‘all things?’”
This part of the question concerns God’s omnipotence, or, His power. It is important to understand that omnipotence does not mean that God is capable of doing anything including the irrational or imperfect. There are things that God is incapable of doing, such as lying or denying Himself (Hebrews 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2). Because God cannot do certain things, however, does not mean that He is less God because the things that He cannot do would actually take away from His perfect nature. Instead, omnipotence refers to God’s power, which is unlimited (Job 11:7-11, Job 37:23; Revelation 4:8). That is, God can take the things that are impossible to man, and make them possible because His power is unlimited, while ours is limited. The context of Jesus’ statement in Mark 10:27 is a perfect example of His unlimited power because while it is possible for man to be saved, it is impossible for man to accomplish the goal on his own. God’s unlimited power is needed to make the possibly impossible, possible.
Scripture is full of verses that portray God making the possibly impossible possible. When Abraham and Sarah were awaiting the promise of a son, even after they were well past child bearing years, God told them, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) In the book of Numbers when the Israelites were complaining to Moses about food, the Lord told Moses that he was going to feed over 600,000 people for an entire month. Moses was skeptical, but God said, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23). In the book of Job, after forty-two chapters of trials, Job was able to answer God and say, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). Jeremiah said, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jeremiah 32:17). Finally, in Luke 1:37, in foretelling the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel told Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
It is easy to get hung up on the word “all,” but it is best to remember that the context of this statement is in reference to salvation. God made a way when the way was impossible for us. This is what it means that “with God all things are possible.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues that this interpretation gives in what he calls “cheap grace,” lowering the standard of Christian teaching:
The difference between ourselves and the rich young man is that he was not allowed to solace his regrets by saying: “Never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that God has forgiven me my sins and can have fellowship with Christ in faith.” But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe. In this the young man was quite honest. He went away from Jesus and indeed this honesty had more promise than any apparent communion with Jesus based on disobedience.
Let us never be found professing Christ while remaining idolaters.