Fat Camels and Narrow Needles: Only Possible for God
A rich man approaches Jesus and asks how to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell what he owns, give the money to the poor, and follow. Jesus will accept nothing less than our very selves. Like the rich man, we too are left defenseless and grieving by Jesus’ radical call to leave behind and give away what we count on for our own security. He wants us, and therefore also wants the things that keep us from him; he gazes upon us in love, even as he calls us to leave behind our false sources of security. How hard it is for us camels to pass through the eye of the needle! We too grieve at the impossibility. It is in fact impossible for us, yet more than possible for God to make it so. For we have a “great high priest who has passed through the heavens, the Son of God,” who is both able to sympathize with our great weakness but also to provide mercy and help. While eternal life on the other side of the needle is a free gift that only God can give, it is a gift that claims the entirety of our lives and therefore reshapes our stewardship of whatever earthly goods we do have. For first and foremost we are called to follow the Christ who gazes upon us in love. Since we are his, following him we will enter through the eye of the needle, leaving behind what cannot fit through with us. In doing so we are promised that we will gain everything: a hundredfold more in this life in a new community under the Cross, “and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30).
17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It 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.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”