Waimea United Church of Christ

 

Luke 18:15-30       “Possible For God”

 

            Let us begin in the beginning and end with the ending this morning. Jesus tells us the main point of his parables is that “All things are possible for God.” That was His “take home memory point” with this certain ruler, who is actually uncertain about Jesus. But, I want you all to be certain that this point we must take home with us today.

            To be certain, I do not really like it when a pastor pulls one word out of a text and makes an entire sermon out of it. I try not to do that; however, today in our reading from the pulpit we have this one wonderful word that describes God—“Possible.” This word in the original Greek is δυνατα, and it is the basis of the English word “dynamic,” which is constantly used in the New Testament to describe the power of God. When the woman with the hemorrhage comes up behind Jesus and touches his robe, making the power come out of him, this is the word that is used to describe that power.

            Sometimes in English we use the word “possible” in this way: “On Tuesday night while playing dominos Elsie got over 500 hundred points out of a possible 1512. What does the word “possible” really mean in this case? It is potential of play or action. It is what one may be empowered to reach in the course of play. This is more the sense of the word in our scripture for today. It is describing God’s potential power.

 

            In the beginning was the Word. That is what we can read in the John 1. The first page of the Bible tells us that God spoke and said “let there be light.” Go look in Genesis 1. Such is the power of God, that if God speaks it, then it is. It becomes. It is created.

            Usually when I speak, nothing happens! Take my dog Nikos for example. If I tell him to sit, he will just lick my face. If I call him to come, he will go to his food bowl and look at me. If God were to call him, he would come. Just like God calls all of us. God has that power. It is the power of the one who creates. The creation cannot deny the creator.

           

In our scripture for today, we have this strange interchange between the ruler and Jesus at the very start of the text. The ruler calls Jesus “Good teacher.” Jesus reacts and says that “No one is good but God.” Do you find that to be a strange reaction?

Jesus knows what is on the ruler’s heart. This man thinks that it is possible to get to heaven by his own goodness. We Christians say this all the time: “Be good so that you will go to heaven one day.” Yet, the problem is simply that we can never be good enough on our own to make to heaven by our own power. For by our own means it is impossible to make it to heaven. There is that idea of power again. God has that power, but we do not. Hence, it must be by God’s goodness (grace) that we make it to heaven, not by our own sense of goodness.

This ruler thinks that he has got it made. He thinks he is on his way to the Kingdom of God. It is just not possible for him to do that on his own. He believes that if he simply follows the Ten Commandments, then that will be his prize for keeping to God’s law. Jesus mentions five out of the Ten Commandments. We can read them there in the text and note to ourselves that Jesus does not mention the other five commandments—this most likely to indicate that the ruler has indeed broken the other five commandments. He has worshipped money rather than God. He has idolized gold coins. He has sworn falsely in business dealings. He has broken the Sabbath by making his servants work. Lastly, he has coveted his neighbor’s wealth—which has led him to break those other four commandments.

In essence the rich ruler is saying: “I never really stole anything outright. I never killed anybody. That should mean I am good enough to go to heaven.” Jesus responds by saying only God is good enough and has the ultimate power to get you to the Kingdom of God.

 

The implication is that the ruler is out. He is not going to heaven. He has seen and stood before that very power and has been rebuffed. Just prior to this Jesus is being mobbed by children. Women are bring infants to him. Jesus says: “To such belongs the Kingdom of heaven.” How can this be? The ruler is out, the children are in.

One theory that I hold to is that the children recognize God in Jesus and simply want to be with him. As a reminder to vote in the upcoming national elections, may I also point out that these children are still too young to have registered as either Democrat or Republican. They see still that the real power is God and that Jesus is all goodness and grace. To these, the Kingdom is wide open.

By the way, these children are really small. Jesus goes on to say that it easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich ruler to make it into the Kingdom of God.

The eye of the needle, by the way, is not a sewing needle, but rather one of the gates to the citadel of Jerusalem. It was a small, low gate. In order to get through it, one would have to bend over, walking through head first—as an adult. I was thinking, however, that children could just walk on through normally. It was a child-sized gate. Instead of calling it the “eye of the needle” they could have called it the “children’s gate.”

Throughout the Middle Ages, towns in Europe installed the gate within a gate, the little door, and continued to call it “the eye of the needle.” I was fortunate once to take the night walking tour of the old town of Rothenburg ob der Taube in Germany, and in that old town they still have an “eye of the needle gate” that is still in use. The main gates are closed, and to get through one must bend low, head first, and as you go through you will note an armored guard with a sharp labris standing there waiting to chop your head off if you are not who you say you are. This is all in good fun now.

I just want you to think about this for a second because Jesus is standing on the other side of that narrow gate. He is letting all the children come dancing on through. Then he sees your face. Does he recognize you as you try to come through? Again, it is only by the grace of God that you are going to make it through that gate. Better start bending low now!

 

Wait a minute, all things are possible with God. Remember, that is the main point. Peter brings up the point that he and his disciple buddies have already done what Jesus has told the ruler to do. What was that? Give up all you have and give it to the poor. Why?

            This ruler has come to rely on his own power, his own sense of goodness, and his own qualifications in this life. Peter is correct in pointing out that he relies rather on the power and goodness of God. Peter knows that God can get the camel through the eye of a needle. If God wants to, God can put even an elephant through the actual sewing needle’s eye. God need only say it, and it will happen—such is the power of the Word of God! Jesus was doing miracles all the time! We still see miracles today.

 

            The Apostle Paul along with the other apostles seemed to be more in touch with that power of God. Paul writes in his letter to the church in Philippi (4:13) “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” That same Greek word “possible” is being used here again: ενδυνουμντ με. God is strengthening, putting that power and possibility, right into Paul in this life.

            Do we understand what that means? All things are possible through God, and God puts all possibilities in us—in this world, in this time right now. That same power of God that created the universe ahs been planted in us. That kingdom of heaven that we wish to enter has already entered us!

            Check out john 14:12 when Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do. . . .” If we start reading through the Book of Acts, we see that promise come true in the miracles that happen with the apostles. Peter is able to preach from Hebrew texts he has never before studied. Peter is able to heal others simply by having his shadow fall upon them. Philip is picked up and transported apparently by the Holy Spirit. We get to see first hand in the accounts of the apostles that indeed all things are possible in God who puts His dynamic power into us.

            If you are facing something that is impossible in your life right now, then be affirmed through faith that God has given you the power through grace to succeed in Him. You will make it through that narrow gate. You can just leave everything else behind.

            You know, I have this vision that heaven is filled with little children. Maybe we all become children. Not big children. Little children. We will look like the Waimea High School football team—little kids, not big ones. If we win in this world, it will be but by the grace of God.

 

Amen.