But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
The house I grew up in had an especially unique and cool history. Built around 1880, it had been the farmhouse for a large parcel of surrounding land in my hometown of Kalamazoo, MI. It had all the charm and hint of mystery that draw people to old houses, including a fireplace in each of its 10 rooms.
The family story was that my Grandpa purchased it for $1,000 in 1953. He had it moved up a big hill on rollers by tractor power and dropped it atop a new basement, creating a spectacle for the entire neighborhood for months. Over the next few years, Grandpa and my dad worked to transform the wreck he had bought into a suitable home. It was divided into an upstairs and a downstairs apartment so we could afford to live there. Only one fireplace remained, and the ceilings were lowered to save on heat, but it was still the biggest, coolest, most “historical” house in our otherwise undistinguished neighborhood.
I can remember fantasizing one day about being able to “take over the upstairs” so we could live in the whole house. I asked my mom, “Are we rich?” My innocent question brought a confusing answer. With frustration and worry obvious on her face, she said, “No, we are not–very far from it!” I left the room in a far more serious and thoughtful mood. Gradually over time I fully realized how hard she was struggling to make us feel secure, despite our precarious financial situation, and that a big old house did not a wealthy family make.
Matthew 19:26 is the last of Jesus’ 10-verse explanation to a rich young man of what is required to attain eternal life. Jesus talks about the commandments that follow us from the beginning of the Bible – no stealing, no murdering, honor your parents. And then, standing alone for emphasis, Jesus gives the final and most unattainable commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. For this rich young man, that includes selling all his possessions and giving the money to the poor. He walks away grieving.
Jesus explains that there is only One who is good. Of course He’s right. To aspire to eternal life we have to put the needs of others before our own self-interest and follow His example of sacrifice and compassion, and He knows we are stubbornly hard-wired to do the opposite. Yet he doesn’t leave us drifting. He gives the final explanation that leaves us probably still confused, but hopeful. “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible!”
The virgin birth, the baby in the manger, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the ultimate release of eternal life – it’s all possible. We may not be able to explain how, but with faith, we can believe it is all possible, even loving our neighbors as ourselves. For God assures us He has it covered.
Have a blessed, hopeful Christmas!
“Jesus Christ the Apple Tree”
Lyrics Unknown; Arranged by Elizabeth Poston
Performed by Seraphim Montreal