Camels' Humps and Needles' Eyes
April 29, 2023
As a small child I used to lie in bed sometimes and look at an embroidery that my mother had made, framed and hung above my bed. Down in the right-hand corner was a little boy on his knees in his pajamas with his chubby little hands folded in prayer. Elsewhere on the embroidery were blue birds and bunnies. In the middle was a carefully embroidered prayer. This was the part that fascinated me. It said: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
To a little kid’s mind there’s lots of things to wonder about in a prayer like that: ‘What’s a soul? Is it anything like a belly button? How does the Lord keep it? If He keeps it does that mean He won’t ever give it back? What’s it like to die? How does God take a soul? Can you watch Him take it? What does He keep it in?
This morning we’re going to take a look at a young man who wondered and worried about at least some of these things. He worried to the point that he decided to do something about it. Follow along and see if there are any points with which you can identify with this young man as we explore the idea that…All the worrying and work in the world will not save our souls, but God can!
“As he was starting out on a trip, a man came running to him…” Here Jesus is on the road again. As Jesus is leaving town someone comes running after him. The young man knelt down and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to get to heaven?” Ah! So that was what was on his mind. Have you ever laid awake at night concerned about this question? I wonder what Jesus is going to tell him?
First of all in Mark 10, verse 18, Jesus asked the man, “Why do you call me good?” “Only God is Good! You know the Commandments”.
The word “good” here means perfect: without flaw, that which pertains only to God. Jesus wants this young man to think about what he’s saying. The Ten Commandments are God’s Great “Measuring Stick” for how life was meant to be lived. Of course the young man knew the commandments. The Ten Commandments were an important part of his Jewish, childhood training. He probably knew them by memory since he was about three.
But look at the ones Jesus lists: The ones having to do with the way we treat each other. That’s the tough part of the Ten Commandments. These are the Commandments that measure what’s really going on down inside of us. How we treat people is one of the arguments against going to church. “O yeah! Well there’s alota people who go to church on Sunday and live like the devil the rest of the week!”
“You know the Commandments,” says Jesus, and then you can almost hear him say, “But do you keep them? Do you always love your neighbor as yourself?”
Verse 20: “Teacher, the man replied, I’ve never once broken a single one of those laws.”
Isn’t that just like us? We are constantly excusing our behavior. “Who messed up the living room while I was gone?” “Not me!” “Have you been picking on your sister?” “She started it!” “Of course I flunked the test. You would too if you had the stupid teacher we’ve got.” “What kind of society do we live in anyway where the cops are always out picking on decent citizens trying to get to the lake on time instead of catching criminals like we pay taxes for?
Verse 21: Notice how Jesus responded to him:” Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him. “The guy was really sincere. He really had tried to keep the Commandments. He really wanted to go to Heaven.
Jesus said he had one thing lacking: “You lack only one thing…” That’s getting pretty close. “Come on guy, you’re coming down the home stretch. Only one thing lacking. Go for it!”
Oh, by the way, what was the one thing lacking? “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor— and you shall have treasure in heaven, And come follow me.” This is not a statement about money.
This is a call to let go of whatever it is that keeps us from Jesus. “The man’s face fell, and he went sadly away. For he was very rich.” This is one of the saddest statements in the New Testament. Here was someone who was right on the edge of eternal life, and then he turned and walked away. He chose short-term pleasure for long-term pain. He hung on to what he could not keep instead of taking hold of what he could not lose.
Conclusion: Jesus’ response (Verse 23): “Jesus watched him go…” Jesus’ evaluation (Verse 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.” Jesus’ conclusion (Verses 26-27) The disciples were incredulous! “Then who in the world can be saved, if not a rich man?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently, then said, “Without God it is utterly impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
ALL THE WORRYING AND WORK IN THE WORLD WILL NOT SAVE OUR SOULS, BUT GOD CAN.
Until next time,
Pastor Joe (1940-2021)