Has anything ever astonished you? It means to fill with wonder or surprise. Our English word comes from the Latin, ‘extonare’. Extonare literally means ‘out + to thunder’. It is equivalent to “strike with lightning”. When I was in seventh grade my favorite teacher taught Geography. I liked many of my teachers, but I liked him the best of all. He was interesting. He related to his students. And he maintained firm control of his class. Something you must do with Junior High students!
There were at least two things that astonished me during that class. The first one came later when I became an adult and reflected on his disciplinary method. When he would leave the room, he would tell the class that there would be no talking. Of course there would be consequences if you were caught, but most would obey out respect and fear. The astonishing thing to me was that no one would talk (other than a rare whisper from the back). The room would be totally quiet. It never happened that way in any of my other classes.
The other astonishment moment came one particular day. He would often joke with us and interact with the class. On that day in November he came back from the office and announced to the class that the president had been shot. At first some thought that he was joking, but he quickly made it very clear that he was not. When I think of being astonished, that it is what comes to my mind – it was like we were struck by lightning, but lived. There was shock and disbelief on the faces of everyone in that room.
One day Jesus encountered a rich young man. The man wanted to know how to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to obey the commandments. He told Jesus that he had kept them from his youth. Then Jesus told him to sell all that had and to give to the poor; and to come and take up his cross and follow Him. He went away sad for he had great possessions. Jesus then looked at His disciples and said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25) Because they believed that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing, His disciples were “greatly astonished” saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”(v 27)
Just as my teacher astonished the class with the news of the shooting of the president, Jesus astonished His followers. And as I clearly remember the events of that day in November in1963, I’m sure Jesus’ disciples remembered this incident and His comforting words to their question, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible;” – even the ability to save a wretch like me. And to me that is truly astonishing!