“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26
This is a popular verse that’s regularly quoted. It tells us about the power of God and what he can do in our lives. But we often miss the depth of the meaning of Matthew 19:26 because we ignore the context.
This is a powerful verse that we should learn and stake our faith around. If you spend a few minutes diving into this passage you will see the goodness and power of God. Let’s start by looking at the context.
The Context Of Matthew 19:26
This story is also found in Mark and Luke and all contain similar wording to the account in Matthew (Luke 18:27, Mark 10:27). But for this blog post we are going to look primarily at Matthew’s account.
Matthew 19:26 takes place in the middle of a conversation that Jesus is having with a rich young man. This wealthy man wants to know how we can attain eternal life.
As the conversation unfolds we see the rich young man insist he’s kept the commandments and wants to know what he is lacking (Matthew 19:19-20). He seems to know he’s missing something and is asking Jesus to figure out what.
I love how Tim Keller in Jesus The King describes the rich young ruler: “Of course he was missing something. Because anyone who counts on what they are doing to get eternal life will find that, in spite of everything they’ve accomplished, there’s an emptiness, an insecurity, a doubt. Something is bound to be missing. How can anyone ever know whether they are good enough?”
In Matthew 19:21 Jesus pushes a little further, “go sell all you have.” And the man walks away from Jesus sad.
The rich young ruler thought he had it all. He had worked hard and had a lot of money. He’s kept all God’s laws faithfully. In essence what he’s doing is trying to earn his way into heaven. Jesus is saying to the rich young ruler, you have put your faith and trust in your wealth and accomplishments. But the effort is actually pushing you from God. You can’t earn your way into heaven.
The problem with the rich young ruler is not his wealth. It’s where he placed his identity. He thought he didn’t need the grace of God because he could provide for himself. What Jesus was doing was revealing to him where he had placed his identity. And he left sad.
You can read more about this interaction here: Lessons From The Rich Young Ruler (3 powerful truths)
After the rich young ruler has left Jesus says to his disciples, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24
The disciples hear this and ask Jesus, “who can be saved?” And it’s that question that leads us to the verse we are looking at. So, let’s dive into the Matthew 19:26 meaning and see what we can learn.
The Meaning of Matthew 19:26
Without understanding the above context we will likely misinterpret the meaning of Matthew 19:26. So, now that we know what lead up to this verse, let’s see what it really means.
Jesus Looked At Them And Said
Remember what just happened. The rich young man has walked away sad. Jesus is talking to his disciples about the difficultly of those who place their identity in their wealth.
The disciples are stunned. In Jewish culture a wealthy person was seen to be favored by God. When Jesus explains how hard it is for the rich to enter into heaven their jaws would have been on the floor.
Jesus looks at them and explains further what he means.
With Man This Is Impossible
Jesus is essentially agreeing with the disciples. Who can be saved? No one… at least not on their own.
There is simply nothing that any person can do to save themselves. No amount of good deeds can outweigh the sin in our lives. That’s what Titus 3:5 is getting at; we aren’t saved based off our righteousness because nobody is righteous.
The bottom line is it is impossible for this wealthy young man, or anybody else for that matter, to save themselves. The rich, the poor, the powerful, the weak, all are hopeless on their own. They simply cannot secure eternal life.
But thankfully the verse isn’t over…
But With God All Things Are Possible
While it might be impossible for man, all things are possible with God.
In other words God will do for us what we are incapable of doing for ourselves. Our salvation is not tied to our righteousness, but rather God’s mercy.
At this moment the disciples don’t fully understand what this means. Soon Jesus will hang on the cross for the sins of all of humanity. Thus paving a way for all to attain eternal life based off the sacrifice of Christ.
With God all things are possible because he is willing to do for us what we are incapable of doing for ourselves.
What Matthew 19:26 Means For Us Today
So, can the rich be saved? On their own, no. With man it is impossible. BUT with God all things are possible. The reality is the rich and the poor are both incapable of saving themselves. The only hope for both is to turn to God and place their trust in him.
The warning in the Matthew 19:26 meaning isn’t that the rich cannot be saved. Rather that there’s a temptation to place our hope in our wealth. Money cannot save us, only God can.
This is true for every single person; there is nothing that any of us can do to earn salvation. Our only hope is to turn to God. He has done for us what we are incapable of doing for ourselves. With God all things are possible.
This should be something that we regularly remind ourselves of, that we are in desperate need of a Savior. The temptation many of us face is that we can do it ourselves. We can earn our way. But the meaning of Matthew 19:26 shows us otherwise. Turn to God, in him you will find life.
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