Earlier this week a group of us from church were reflecting on the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10:17-27. He was the kind of person everyone would love to have in their church – youthful, well-off and influential – and we would have done our best to make him welcome. Jesus is surprisingly less accommodating. Rather he challenges the young man about the depth of his commitment. With characteristic insight Jesus puts his finger on the one issue that would limit his discipleship – his attachment to money. That’s why Jesus says to him, “Go sell everything your have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (v21).” Not surprisingly at this the man’s face fell and he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
It seems as if Jesus sets the bar very high when it comes to discipleship. There is a cost to following him. Our willingness to be fully committed will be tested. The disciples recognise this when, amazed at the forthrightness of Jesus they ask themselves “Who then can be saved (v26)?” It seems impossible for anyone to fulfil these demands.
Indeed we all hesitate sometimes at the cost of discipleship, and occasionally we too wonder if it is possible for us to follow fully. Does Jesus ask too much of us? How can we continually choose to put him first in our lives? Are the standards too high?
Jesus meets their questioning with a life-giving insight that gives hope to all would-be disciples. He says, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God (v27).” But what exactly does he mean?
He means that humanly speaking, and left to our own devices, none of us could meet the standards of discipleship. We would all find it too difficult. But we are not left to our own devices. Whatever Jesus asks us to do, he will enable us to do. He will put within us both the desire and the ability to keep following in his footsteps, however challenging that may be. Such commitment may seem impossible for us, but God will make it possible for us to obey fully the call of discipleship as it comes to our own lives.
This is in line with one of the main promises of the new covenant where God says, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts (Hebrews 8:10).” He will grace us with the desire and the ability to do whatever he asks of us. He will make it possible for us to obey him fully, even if that involves sacrifice. He makes us willing to do whatever is required.
Whenever we find ourselves at a crossroads, having to decide again to follow Jesus and wondering if we can do it, we may turn our hearts towards God and pray simply: “Lord, this is too hard for me, but not for you. Make me willing to do your will with a glad and thankful heart.”