Impossible Salvation

Sermon for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 10:23-31

Dear recipients of salvation: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Impossible,” says Jesus. For man it is impossible to be saved.

There is nothing we can do to be saved. We cannot earn our salvation. We cannot buy our salvation. We cannot even find our salvation. If it is up to man, we are hopeless and helpless. For us it is impossible to be saved.

Yes, 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, but it is just as impossible for a poor person to enter the kingdom of God. For man it is impossible to be saved. It has nothing to do with wealth. It has nothing to do with health, age, race, gender, or intelligence either. When it comes to salvation, it is impossible for man.

Because we are sinful we continue to do what we should not do, and we continue to not do what we should do. We continually break God’s Law by thought, word, and deed. We deserve temporal and eternal punishment for our sins, not eternal life. For man it is impossible to be saved.

But not for God. All things are possible for God. Salvation is not only possible with God, but it is already accomplished with God. When Jesus said, “It is finished” and gave up His spirit on the cross, salvation was won for us; salvation was accomplished. Jesus earned our salvation. He purchased our salvation with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. Jesus saved us, because all things are possible for God.

And God gives us salvation in ways that make it clear that salvation is impossible for us but not for Him. First Peter 3(:21) says, “Baptism… now saves you.” Talk about impossible for man but possible for God! Water poured over the head of a new-born infant – in such a helpless stage of life – hopeless to fend for themselves against anyone or anything, especially sin, death, and the devil. It so obviously shows how impossible salvation is for man that many reject what Scripture says about Baptism. Baptism cannot save you they say. How can a baby be saved? With man, it is impossible that Baptism saves, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. And God has chosen exactly this humble sprinkling of water to save and wash away sin to demonstrate to us how helpless and hopeless we are on our own against sin, death, and the devil, and how powerful He is to save us.

Jesus says, “This is my body… This is my blood… for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:26-28) Once again, with man it is impossible that bread and wine save. A wafer of bread and a sip of wine given even at a nursing home deathbed to someone in a helpless stage of life – hopeless to fend for themselves against anyone or anything, especially sin, death, and the devil. This too so obviously shows how impossible salvation is for man that many reject what Scripture says about the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper cannot save they say. With man it is impossible that the Lord’s Supper saves, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. And God has chosen exactly this humble bread and wine to give the forgiveness of sins along with life and salvation to demonstrate to us how helpless and hopeless we are on our own against sin, death, and the devil, and how powerful He is to save us.

This then is our reality. Salvation is impossible for us. No matter how hard we strive to do good, to avoid bad, and to get ourselves right with God, we will only fail. Young or old, rich or poor, it makes no difference. Salvation is impossible for us.

The harder we try, the more we turn away from God. The better we think we are, the less we go to where God actually gives us salvation. God gives us the forgiveness of sins in such humble ways, but our pride prevents us from receiving it. We don’t think we need it. We must think salvation is possible for us. We must think we can save ourselves. We must think that we can face sin, death, and the devil on our own. That’s why it is so difficult to enter the kingdom of God.

It’s so difficult to enter the kingdom of God because we don’t want to enter through Baptism. We know a better way. It’s so difficult because we don’t want to stay in the kingdom of God through the Lord’s Supper. We know a better way. It’s so difficult because we think we know better than God. We think salvation is possible for us.

Stop trying to do the impossible! “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” writes the author to the Hebrews quoting David (4:7). Rest from your labours as God has rested from His labours. Don’t work to do the impossible; God has already done what is impossible for you. Jesus has already accomplished your salvation. His suffering and death was for you for the forgiveness of all your sins, and He gives you all the benefits of His completed work through His Word and Sacraments. It is done. It is finished. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

So there remains a Sabbath rest for you, “for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” (Heb. 4:10) Rest in Christ. Daily return to your Baptism and trust the work that Christ as accomplished for you. Receive the Lord’s Supper often to nourish you and keep you in the kingdom of God. Rest from your work as God rested from His work on the seventh day.

Any work that you do to try and save yourself or try and make yourself pleasing to God is an act of disobedience and rebellion. Jesus has already saved you and made you pleasing to God the Father. Trying to get to the Father in any way other than Jesus is an act of unbelief. So rest from your work.

Rest from your work and receive the salvation Jesus accomplished for you on the cross. Rest from your work in your baptismal grace. Rest from your work and receive the benefits of Jesus’ work through receiving His body and blood.

Salvation is impossible for man, but not for God. God has accomplished what is possible only for Him. He has saved us, and gives us His salvation freely, even in humble form. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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