“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” –Mark 10:27
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 athlete 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. And that gives this verse an entirely new meaning.
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. 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 that I don’t even think God could or would save someone. I, like the disciples, believe it is impossible.
But that’s not how God works.
Saving the lost is like a camel going through the eye of a needle. 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 that of Peter. I see the waves crashing around me and I take my eyes of 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 men see or lame people walk or dead people rise. But wait, he did. And he does.
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—save the lost. I can’t even make a camel go through the eye of a needle, let alone make someone see that Jesus is better than anything the world can offer. But 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 is impossible in our own strength. He is acknowledging that we can’t save anyone, but he doesn’t just leave us there. He points us heavenward, to the God who saves. He takes our weak faith and gives us an answer.
So often my despair over the lost is because I am looking at what I bring to the table, which isn’t much. It discourages me that I don’t love more, I don’t speak more, I don’t pray more. 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 the dead could be raised or that life can come to a cold, bitter heart. God saves. God saves alone. Yes, it’s impossible with us, but nothing is impossible with God.