We often hear this verse in the context of a hard task before us, a mountain we can’t climb. We feel like we can’t do what is required of us, so we chant: “Nothing is impossible with God.” A big race or game is won, and the winners proclaims, “I knew nothing was impossible with God on my side.”
These are not untrue statements. God is all powerful, and nothing is out of his reach or power. But Jesus isn’t talking about the insurmountable here. He’s talking about salvation, let’s look at the previous story from the Book of Mark.
Jesus is talking to the disciples in Mark 10, after the rich young man comes to the conclusion that his wealth is more important than his need for a savior. Mark 10:17-21-22 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him.
“Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. After Jesus tells the disciples that it is hard for the rich to enter his kingdom, they exclaim: “Then who can be saved?” This is not a statement on the evil of wealth, but the difficulty of the wealthy seeing their need. It’s hard to see the poverty of your own soul when your bank account is full and you lack nothing.
But Jesus knows this, and he reminds the disciples that even the impossible is possible with God. Even the most unlikely to be saved can be saved by God. How many times do I fail to pray for one who is unsaved because I doubt God will do it? I have grown so accustomed to them being unsaved and living in there sinful habits that I don’t even think God could or would save someone. Hearts are hard and sin runs deep, but that’s nothing compared to God’s far-reaching and unstoppable power. So often, my faith is like Peter. I see the waves crashing around me and I take my eyes off the Savior and I am sinking. I don’t believe he will act. I don’t believe he can change hearts. I don’t believe he can make blind, sinful men see or lame people walk or dead people rise.
When I stare down the tunnel of unbelief that plagues the ones I know and love, it does seem impossible that God would ever change them. And in a human sense, it is. I am incapable of doing what only Jesus can do and that is save the lost and deliver the captives. However, I am capable of trusting. I am capable of praying. I am capable of depending on the One who created the world, sustains the world, and will one day make this world new. Jesus is acknowledging that salvation and deliverance is impossible in our own strength. We can’t save anyone, Jesus points us heavenward, to the God who saves and delivers.
It discourages me that I can’t convince anyone that Jesus is better than sin and possessions. It discourages me that salvation doesn’t come through me. And Jesus knows that. He knows our tendencies and tells us “but with God, it’s possible.” This is what we need to remember when all hope seems lost that life and light can't come to a cold, bitter heart. We need to remember that God saves. God saves alone.
Yes, it’s impossible with us, but nothing is impossible with God ! Shalom