All kinds of impossible
Mk 9 Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ ‘“If you can”?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’
Lk 18 “… it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”
Mt 26 Going a little farther, [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will…
3 possible – or impossible – things:
In Mk 9 the disciples were unable to expel a stubborn, unclean spirit from a child. Yet Jesus insists that that ‘all things are possible to the one who believes’.
- Some things are impossible for us because we currently lack the spiritual power and authority to deal with them. But we are called to grow in our faith.
In Lk 18 the disciples were mystified as to how anyone could enter the kingdom, if an outwardly ‘good’ person’ did not qualify. Jesus affirms that this is indeed impossible in human terms, but not for God.
- Some things are impossible for us to imagine, because we lack God’s perspective, his wisdom and his resourcefulness. Our imagination is too limited. But we can ask him expand our understanding to grasp his awesome and creative solutions.
In Mt 26 Jesus prays that if possible, he might be spared the trauma of Calvary. Yet in that moment it is painfully clear that there were simply no alternatives available that could achieve every good and loving purpose that his Father intended.
- Some things are impossible even for the omnipotent God. This impossibility is not due to any limitation in God’s power but is rooted in God’s character.
- Firstly, even God cannot make a ‘square circle’ simply because that is an incoherent request. Sometimes I pray for things that in truth make no sense, typically where I am praying for things that are mutually exclusive.
- Secondly, the essence of God’s character is love, and love cannot be obliged, or pressured or compelled. Sometimes I find myself asking God to ‘make’ me do or say or choose something. But while the Spirit will patiently encourage, inspire and prompt me towards the desired thing, he will not coerce. Love must be free chosen.
Faced with such situations, we do best to follow the example of Jesus, and bow before our Father in prayerful submission. If we will willingly yield (rather than just passively acquiesce) to his purpose then he will bring the maximum good that is possible from every situation.
- And if this is true for me, then it is equally true of those for whom I pray. Jesus echoed the Father’s heart when he looked across Jerusalem and grieved: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it! Look, your house is forsaken!”
That city tragically made a choice to reject him, and God – who loved them so deeply – would not overrule their choice, precisely because of that love.
I can implore God to disclose himself and persistently woo those for whom I care; I cannot ask him to coerce them.
Unfortunately, I often tend to muddle up the different kinds of ‘impossible’, and therefore fail to respond rightly and miss the chance to grow in maturity. In the challenges, the dilemmas, and the hardships that I’m confronting, I need to distinguish between impossibilities:
Is this something I am called to overcome with the authority that God gives?
Is this something which should drive me to seek God, to better understand the scope of his wisdom?
Or is this something to which I am called to consciously submit, to endure, and to embrace because in doing so God can work all things – even the impossible things – for good.