What Stops me? Obstacles in the search for Eternal Life

Some people ask Jesus about divorce and re-marriage.  Jesus tells them that marriage is permanent unless there has been sexual immortality.  Jesus denies a man permission to leave his wife if he finds fault with her. The disciples are shocked. They say

“If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”[1]

A young man comes to Jesus and asks him what to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus talks to him about the commandments, giving a list. The man says “I’ve done all that! What else?”  Jesus loves him and says

“If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”[2]

The man goes away sad because he is very rich. Jesus says that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s Kingdom. Again the disciples are shocked.

“Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.[3]

Do you notice the link? Here are two strong statements by Jesus provoking amazement and incredulity from the Disciples. Jesus is asking the impossible.

Then notice something else. In between these two shocking statements, some people bring their children to Jesus. They want him to bless them.  The disciples try to turn them away. But Jesus says:

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children”[4]

When reading the Gospel accounts I find it fascinating to see the threads that hold the different passages together. The threads that seem to hold this section together are

  1. Things that seem impossible to us like fully faithful relationships and giving up everything this world offers
  2. Obstacles to faith in Jesus whether that’s a command that appears to difficult to obey, the entrapment of riches or those who should be welcoming and drawing people to Christ setting up barriers and acting as gate keepers.

The third thread that runs through this thread is the incredible ability of Jesus to overcome these obstacles, to break down the barriers and to do what seems impossible. Things that seem impossible to us are possible with God.

These three little incidents point us to our wonderful Lord who is able to save.  Whether we consider ourselves rich, powerful and important in the World’s eyes or small, poor, vulnerable like a child we can be saved only through him.

[1] Matthew 19:10.

[2] Matthew 19:21.

[3] Matthew 19:25.

[4] Matthew 19:14.