Monday, October 19, 2015

Jesus Carrying Camels through the Eye of a Needle

23 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!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is [2] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, [3] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:23-31 (ESV)

“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
All things are possible with God, including, and most especially, your salvation. All things are possible for God, even getting a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
This all follows up on the rich man that we heard about last week. The rich man who thought he had lived a righteous life and was still not certain whether he had done enough to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell everything, give it away and follow him, and the man leaves sad, his heart more in love with the things of this world than with God. And the disciples themselves are cut to the quick, sliced through their souls. “Then who can be saved?... See, we have left everything and followed you.” Peter says as spokesman for the disciples. He is not quite sure where they stand, but feeling as if perhaps Jesus was directing his speech to them. And he was.  
It was a perplexing question the disciples had. “Who can be saved?” Something about them realized that if the rich man couldn’t do it, neither could the poor. Today, I sometimes wonder if we really realize this anymore. Our society is often divided with class conflict based on income, everyone railing against the 1 percenters. Everyone complaining about the fat cats on Wall Street. People consider it a sin to be rich. Obviously, if you are rich you love money, and the love of money is the root of all evil. Rarely is it considered that you don’t need money to love money, and the poor may be just as guilty of loving money as the rich, perhaps even more so. The rhetoric against the one percenters rarely does a good job hiding resentment, and jealousy for the rich. The disciples knew this about themselves, they were not inclined to think of wealth as a bad thing, they themselves desired to be as rich as this man. As far as we know they never attained that in service for Christ, but God gave them their daily bread in any case. We know for instance from Acts and the letters of Paul that he at least enjoyed the hospitality and support of the rich in his travels and missions, the rich who knew that, “from he who is given much, much is required.” But he also benefited from the poor who were proud to donate what they could with a cheerful heart to the cause of Christ in this world, not willing to let the rich get all the credit, not willing to let greed guard their humble purses, trusting that God would continue to give them their daily bread, even as he did for them in their unbelief.
The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus, and they still trembled at his words, felt them cut to the soul. And they knew it was still not enough. More and more they realized that the demand of God’s law was too great for them to fulfil. But Jesus assures them that whatever a person gives up in his name will be restored to him a hundred fold even in this world, even in the midst of persecutions. As he says elsewhere, “He who loses his life for my sake will save it.” Jesus knew he had to lose his to save yours. Perhaps it was just the humble home of a carpenter in Nazareth, but it was his home with the brothers and sisters, mother and father he loved and cared for enough that he would die for them on the cross, even after they tried to dissuade him from his ministry, and later even conspired with the Pharisees to have him murdered. It was then when they came to him to take him away that he said, those who listen to me, they are my mother, my brother and my sisters. There he lost his life, but then he was also blessed with the likes of Mary and Martha, Lazarus and Peter, James and John. And in the end, dying on the cross and rising to new salvation, it was then losing his life for the father, losing his life for you and me, that even his own family came to believe, his brothers and mother resting in his salvation.
Yes, a hundredfold, because this life that we try to save, this life is lost. Even now it is the dust that it will become when ashes return to ashes. Naked we come, and naked we go. But carrying us through the eye of the needle, Christ brings us into his kingdom and clothes us in his righteousness, robes more glorious than the lilies of the field that shame the courts of Solomon. Now we have Christ, the forgiveness of sins, that we might have the joy of our salvation, that God would keep us occupied with joy in our hearts, knowing that we have eternal life in heaven and all that is lost, all that is forfeit will be restored, and the feast of heaven will be richer than a one percenter’s wildest dreams.  
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

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