In the aftermath of watching Jesus send away the seemingly perfect convert, [He is rich! He is committed! He is teachable! He is a man of influence!] Jesus startles the disciples even more:
“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words…And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”” (Mark 10:23-24,26 ESV)
The disciples, along with the rest of the Jewish population, along with the wealthy themselves, believed that the rich were first in line for eternal life. Hadn’t God said in the Scriptures that material blessings would follow those who were committed to God? Having a lot of money meant that God had blessed the possessor and obviously that was because God was pleased with them.
“No,” Jesus says, “the truth is that it is very difficult for a wealthy person to enter the kingdom of God,” thus upending virtually everyone’s theology. The disciples respond: “If the wealthy can’t get eternal life, then who can?” A paraphrase of Jesus’ answer might be: “No one, without the help of God, but fortunately God is willing and able to help.”
The brutal truth was that no one was on the path to eternal life. If eternal life was up to men, then eternal life would be impossible. This is exactly how Jesus puts it.
Richard Lenski comments here:
“It is” impossible; the words are like an exclamation. So the last door of hope on that side is shut and sealed forever. Here perishes all Pelagianism, moralism, synergism; man himself can do absolutely nothing toward his salvation by any natural powers of his own.
Here is the shocking truth: Only those who follow Jesus inherit eternal life, and the fact that you follow Jesus? That is a work of God, and only God.