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. (Mark 10: 25)
A variety of explanations of Jesus’ statement have been proposed.
Was there a little gate in Jerusalem’s city walls, through which it would have been extremely difficult for a camel – especially a camel loaded with goods – to pass? The archaeological evidence for such a gate is unproven, but the point of the illustration might then be that the only way to enter the Kingdom of God would be to unburden oneself of all the goods and baggage we carry that prevent us being in a right condition to enter. Certainly, the rich man who approached Jesus to find out how he might inherit eternal life was shocked when Jesus challenged him to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor before coming to follow Jesus; he left in grief because he could not face this unburdening himself of his stuff, this leaving behind the comforts of his life. I wonder what are the comforts, the ties, the assumptions or the habits that personally we find hard to lay down in order to centre ourselves on Jesus?
Or, the Aramaic word for rope or knot translated into Greek is so close for the word for camel that perhaps Jesus was likening the problem for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God to the impossibility of threading a needle with rope. The disciples, living in a culture that associated worldly success as evidence of God’s blessing of a person’s faithfulness, were amazed at this and asked if not these ‘blessed’ people, who then could be saved? (v.26). Jesus responded that this was impossible for mortals, but not for God. If we try to understand Jesus’ illustration this way, we are reminded that whoever we are, whatever we have or do not have, we cannot engineer or buy our way into the Kingdom of God by our own actions. It is only through the grace of God that we are adopted into God’s present and future Kingdom – and being part of that Kingdom now is both a difficult, painful responsibility and a blessing of the optimism of God’s grace. I wonder how God is calling us to be loving brothers, sisters, mothers, children for each other as we engage with this responsibility and grow in our dependency on God?
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