The man chose his worldly goods, his property, not God. To the man, our Lord Jesus said in Mark 10:23, “how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” To emphasize his point, Jesus said to the man in Mark 10:25. “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.” Now, we all know that a camel cannot get through the tiny eye of a needle.
This verse is one of the more difficult passages in the bible to understand. One interpretation of the passage is that the word camel is Kamelos (κάμηλος) in Greek. The eye of a needle has the same meaning as it has in English. However, some scholars commented that one of the gates to Jerusalem was called the eye of a needle. And this is true. Unlike other gates, this gate was low and very narrow and a camel could only pass through it if it was not carrying any baggage. The gate was so low and the camel had to kneel down on his knees and to wriggle (shuffle) through the gate, “the eye of a needle.” There was no way it could get through otherwise.
I believe this is a very good illustration to help us understand how to gain our salvation. We can see that the camel is able to pass through the narrow gate known as the eye of a needle, but only without all its possessions. For us to gain salvation, we need to be free from our worldly wealth as in the story of camel and to trust only God.
There is another interpretation about Jesus’ teaching about the camel and the eye of a needle. In this one, some scholars affirmed that the Greek word was Kamilos(κάμιλος), which means ‘cable or rope’ in English. Here the eye of a needle has the same meaning. Here, the cable was made of camels’ hair, so it was hard but still possible for the cable (camels’ hair) to go through the eye of a needle.
Based on the stories of the eye of the needle, we realize that getting salvation is very hard, but it is possible with the power of our Lord Jesus. Mark 10:27 says, “with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” The word of God makes it clear that we are able to inherit eternal life through Jesus, but not only by our own efforts and actions.
Another key word to understand in this story is that of “rich.” Because Jesus said in Mark 10:23, “ how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Here the rich is Chremata (χρήματα) in Greek. It simply means a person who owns much money or wealth or possessions, but uses all of his possessions selfishly for his own purpose, not for God and others. And thus Jesus said that it was hard for the rich person to enter the kingdom of God. It doesn’t talk about how much money, but how it is used.
In the bible, we know that great men of God used their gifts, wealth, and possessions for God and others. While Paul was preaching the gospel, many godly people supported him spiritually and financially. We are told that the believers at the Philippian Church worked for Paul even though they found life hard. They had continued spending what they had of wealth, gifts and belongings for God and others. Thanks to their contributions, Paul’s ministry was successful and through this ministry the word of God has been spoken in many countries.
Without God’s love and guidance, worldly gifts mean nothing. They do not gain our salvation, unless we use them for others and for the glory of God. As I said in this sermon, the purpose of our life is to live and work for God in this world. And we thank God, because we are saved through our faith in Jesus. If we use our gifts for God and share God’s love and grace with others to help more people to come to God, our salvation will be certain.
In summary, to gain salvation is hard, but will be possible through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev Dr Je Cheol Cook