Last week’s Gospel reading reminded us of a man whose great wealth (and the sin of idolatry) separated him from God. Through the sacrificial, life-giving death of our Savior, our Heavenly Father forgives our sins and assures us that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:39)
Jesus continued His teaching as He “looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’… ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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: 23-25)
The disciples were amazed because they thought that earthly wealth was a sign of God’s favor. So, how could it be that those who were favorably blessed by God would, at the same time, have difficulty being received into His Heavenly Kingdom?
It is true that many who are blessed with abundant earthly possessions can be distracted by those same possessions. Sometimes our possessions possess us! When we find ourselves “overly worried” about acquiring, accumulating, managing, investing and growing the number of our “things/toys,” we tend to focus on our “stuff” and forget the gracious hand of our Heavenly Father, the One who “richly and daily provides us with all we need to support this body and life.” (Luther’s explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed)
When Jesus used the image of a “camel passing through the eye of a needle,” He was not talking about a large dromedary passing through the head of a small sewing needle! That WOULD be impossible, and He was not saying that it was impossible for people with earthly blessings – like you and me – to enter heaven! (Think also of the biblical examples of godly people, who were believers – faithful followers of God – such as Old Testament Abraham and Job, and the New Testament Lydia.) He WAS speaking about the small opening in the wall of a fortified city; that is, “the eye of the needle,” by which people and animals could “squeeze through” and enter a city when its huge, defensive gates were closed – difficult, yes, but NOT impossible. So it is with us, and others like us, who have earthly blessings (gifts from God) which could become a distraction from our worship, faith-life and discipleship.
Actually, it is impossible for any human being to “Come Into the Kingdom” by ourselves, by our own doing or goodness. The walls of God’s heavenly kingdom are simply too high, wide, thick and impenetrable for us to try to enter on our own. And yet, God “desires not the death of the wicked, but that all would turn and be saved.” (Ezekiel 33:11) Jesus, Himself, lovingly promised that He was going to “His Father’s house to prepare a place for us… so that He could come back and take us to be with Him forever.” (John 14:6) In His substitutionary death on the cross – in our place- Jesus has opened the Kingdom of God to all Believers; completely and freely forgiving our sins; and graciously giving us the gift of eternal life.
We thank our Father who lovingly gives us “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over… poured into our lap.” (Luke 6: 38) We pray to receive and use our earthly blessings wisely and faithfully. And when our last day comes, may we like Paul say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8) Come Into His Kingdom with JOY in Jesus!
See you in church!
Blessings in Christ,