• Introduction: I encourage you to keep your bulletin handy, because I will be referring to verses from the readings which are printed there in addition to the outline of this message on the back cover.  The message for today is based upon Mark 10:25 - 25 It is easier [for a] camel to come through a hole [of] a needle [than for] a rich person to come into the kingdom of God.[1]
    • James Voelz, retired professor of Greek at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, authored a commentary on the Gospel according to Mark.  In his commentary[2] on the verse for today, he offered three possible understandings of Mark 10:25:
      • The 1st: Jesus was literal with the possibility of a camel passing through the hole of a needle.
      • Alternatively, Jesus referred to a place called “The Needle” which people at the time of this text would have known the location.  It would have been a location such as a narrow gate to a walled city where it was difficult for a camel through which to pass without completely unloading.
      • And thirdly, Jesus instead presented an impossible proposition to set up for a theological discussion about His reason for coming to us in the flesh.
    • Fundamentalists will tend toward the literal understanding which can lead people to believe a rich person will not enter the kingdom of God just like a camel cannot pass through a hole the size of a millimeter or so[3].  But that misses the point Jesus made in v27 that while it is impossible for people to do any saving from hell, all things are possible alongside God.  Besides, Abraham was a very rich person at his death and we know he is in heaven.
    • With regard to some location known as “The Needle”, I have not found any support for this theory, a theory which did not exist until the fifteenth century[4].  Additionally, accepting this understanding would indicate there is a way for camel to pass through a “needle” potentially on its own.  This understanding runs counter to v27, because Jesus clearly stated salvation is impossible through men.
    • Therefore, we shall see from Jesus’ repeated statements recorded in the Gospel reading for today, along with the Disciples’ wonderment, that the third option presented is most likely the best understanding of Jesus comparison of the difficulty for a rich person to get into heaven, with a camel passing through a hole of a needle.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we wonder what Your Son Jesus meant with His comment about it being easier for a camel to pass through the hole of a needle.  Send the Holy Spirit to work in us faith and understanding, so that it is clear Jesus wanted everyone to know what is impossible for man is possible for God – including ushering a redeemed sinner into heaven.  We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: We need to take a step back and see what led up to Jesus’ discussion with the disciples concerning the kingdom of God.
    • Earlier in Mark 10:17, a rich man asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life.  From what we can tell, the guy wasn’t asking of Jesus a question to antagonize like the Pharisees so often did.
      • Jesus initially instructed the man to keep the commandments. Jesus cited a few of the Ten Commandments including do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, and honor your father and your mother.  The rich man believed he was keeping those commandments. There probably was evidence in his life that he for the most part was keeping them (Mark 10:19-20). However, in the list of commandments I repeated, there were a few missing, weren’t there?  Jesus referred to the commandments of the Second Table of the Ten total.  These are the commandments governing how we should treat one another.  Jesus left out listing the commandments of the First Table, which are the three commandments governing our relationship with God.  I found that interesting, and it seems like Jesus was setting the rich man up for a teachable moment.  Like the rich man, we too can be lulled into thinking we keep many of the commandments.  The reality is, if you break one commandment, you’ve broken them all (Jam 2:10).
      • Jesus then instructed the rich man to sell everything and give to the poor (Mark 10:21).  Again, strange by its absence, is the neglecting of any mention of the commandments of the First Table.
        • You have to appreciate how infinitely wise our Lord Jesus is when reading Mark 10:22.  The rich man owned a lot of property, and so hearing from Jesus, whom he respected, the command to sell everything, turned out to be too much for the man to do.  He was sorrowful at the thought of selling everything.  The sacrifice was so great in the mind of the rich man, that instead of following Jesus, he decided to walk away.
  • Condition: We have pet sins that could keep us from inheriting the kingdom of God.  The rich man had the sin of putting vast property ownership ahead of having no other gods besides the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  That’s commandment #1.  Quick note: 100% of the property that rich man had is now owned by someone else. 
    • We, like the Israelites before us who were led to the Promised Land, will constantly wander from the truth.  The OT reading appointed for Sept 25th included the Israelites missing the food they were used to eating in Egypt (Num 11:4-6).  The whining and complaining frustrated Moses to the point when Moses asked God to either fix the problem or take him out of this world!  It appeared the Israelites would have happily gone back into slavery for all you can eat fish (Ex 16:3)!
      • Lest you judge those short-sighted Israelites of 3400yrs ago or the rich man of Mark 10, we are just as capable of being deceived by riches as Solomon wrote about in Ecc 5 from our OT reading of today.  Solomon wrote - 13 There is a sickening evil which I have seen under the sun: wealth being hoarded by its owner to his detriment[5].
  • Analysis: What is it we will have a hard time parting with in order to go to heaven?  Remember, we came into this world with nothing, and that is how we will leave.
    • Jesus exhorted us in Matt ch#6 to store treasures in heaven, where nothing can destroy or steal away those treasures.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of cars throughout my life, but even the most enjoyable cars I’ve ever owned eventually wore out.  I’m one of those people who gets attached to a car; a car is not just transportation to me.  And yet, I need to pay heed to the Lord’s word when He warned about where our heart is focused is where our treasures will be (Mat 6:19-21).  We really need to focus on the heavenly things more than the earthly, and we will become less distracted with the items of this Age.
      • This is why I believe Jesus presented a scenario of a camel and a needle as an impossible proposition.  I don’t believe Jesus was to be understood merely literally, because of the word “easier” appearing in Mark 10:25.  Is there any chance of the possibility of even a strand of hair from a camel fitting through a standard sewing or knitting needle of the 1st century? I see the proposition of a camel passing through the hole in a needle a completely impossible proposition. 
        • To digress for a moment, we are thoroughly corrupted with sin. Recall back to the time of Noah.  We read from Gen 6:5 - Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually[6]. God could see that in *everyone*, and so was sorry He created man.  Everything was corrupt and the earth was filled with violence.  God noted specifically that humanity had corrupted everything of the earth (Gen 6:11-12).  We are descendants of these people God had Moses record for us in the book of Genesis.
        • That means we are prone to seek gratification now and not persevere in the faith just like all but eight (8) people on earth about 2,000yrs after the creation of Adam.  Just Noah, his wife, and their sons with their wives made it out of the great flood.
          • Despite God showing grace upon Noah and his family, the corruption continued on in their bloodline to this day.  The Israelites God redeemed from the slavery of Egypt were descendants of Noah’s son, Shem.  That means Abraham, the father of the Israelites, was a descendant of Shem.  The corruption continued 430yrs years after God promised Abraham his numerous descendants would be redeemed from Egyptian slavery. The two million or so Israelites at the time of Moses had seen all of the huge miracles God had performed in destroying Egypt.  Fast-forward to the time God called Moses up onto Mt Sinai.  Moses took “too long” in the eyes of the Israelites to come down off the mountain, and so in less than 40 days, the Israelites decided to make their own gods (Ex 32:1-4).  That is a clear sign of corruption, to have forgotten the love the Lord God had shown in the redemption of the Israelites from slavery.  At the time of the reception of the Ten Commandments, they were 120 miles away from Egypt.  Moses took too long in returning and so the Israelites decided to make their own gods in the form of two gold calves.
        • Please don’t think we are any better than the Israelites who rebelled against God by creating calves for gods.   These were gods they could see and hold, but were otherwise worthless.  We inherited the same corruption they displayed in the western desert of Saudi Arabia.  We will not seek God unless He does something to bring us to faith.  This is why it is so hard for me to understand where some religions are coming from when they say they chose to follow God.  No, it is the word of God in the gospel which has the power of salvation to everyone who believes.  It was God who revealed Himself through His word which in turn produces faith (Rom 1:16-17).
          • Even people who have heard the gospel nonetheless reject the gospel through disobedience (Heb 4:6).  We heard that a moment ago from the Epistle reading in Hebrews ch#4.  In our daily devotional studies, my wife Karla & I just read the Parable of the Sower.  That’s the parable of Matthew ch#13 Jesus told about seeds being broadcast into different types of soil.  In three of the four places where seed fell, the seeds didn’t make it to full growth for different reasons.  Only the seeds which fell into good soil wound up yielding crops 100, 60, or 30-fold. Those seeds which produced a crop were representative of souls who heard the word of God and understood it by faith. They didn’t reject the word in exchange for some gold calf or other kind of god.
  • Conclusion: Whenever Jesus repeated a statement a couple or more times, that was a sign that what was being said was important.  Jesus mentioned twice how hard it was to come into the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23-24).  It’s hard because of the distractions Satan and his henchmen direct against God’s people. We’re already corrupt inside and out and so it doesn’t take much to tempt us into the sin of doubt or impatience so that we rebel against God’s word.
    • Jesus 2x said it was hard to enter into the kingdom of God.  He then gave an analogy in v25 that left no doubt for the Disciples (and us) to understand.  Let me repeat v25 from an original translation of the Greek - 25 It is easier [for a] camel to come through a hole [of] a needle [than for] a rich person to come into the kingdom of God.”
      • Some religions now teach there are several ways to get into heaven.  That thinking bucks against what Jesus cautioned in our text for today.  Not only is it difficult to get into heaven – it is impossible for people living in sin apart from Christ.  It is as impossible as for a camel to go through a needle hole.  There is only one way into heaven, and that is through Christ. Jesus is the gate into heaven, and admittedly that gate is narrow.  Few will find it as opposed to the broad gate that leads to the destruction of many (Mat 7:13-14).
    • For those not in rebellion against God and His word, we can thank God for His love. We can thank Him that He is desires all to be saved.  And, He capable of saving all who believe!
      • We spoke of Noah a few moments ago.  God was patient with the sinners of the time of Noah as the Apostle Peter wrote - 20 who once were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water[7]
      • Peter likened the water rescue of Noah with the saving of our soul through baptism. Baptism is water with the word, and through it we don’t just get the benefit of removal of dirt by the water. We receive the washing away of our sins, and the continued presence of the Holy Spirit working within us to keep us in the true faith (1Pe 3:18-21).  Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).  If God is not pleased with you, what do you think your chances will be to enter into heaven, even through the narrow gate?
      • Let me end this message with these thoughts from 2Pe 2:4-10 - For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, held for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example of what is coming for the ungodly; and if He rescued righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the perverted conduct of unscrupulous people … then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from a trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt passion, and despise authority[8].  Let’s end our rebellion against God which we are prone to do.  Let faith and trust in His promises reign in our heart and soul. O Holy Spirit make this so!  Amen.

 

Other References (which did not get used):


[1] Original translation from a composite of three sources, two of which found at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mar/10/1/t_conc_967025 and the third from Codex Alexandrinus

[2] Voelz, James, “Concordia Commentary on Mark 8:27-16:20”, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, 2019, p.747

[3] https://www.jjneedles.com/needles-guide

[4] Lenski, Richard, “The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel”, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, MN, 1964, p.442

[5] Ecc 5:13 per NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ecc+5&version=NASB

[6] Gen 6:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+6&version=NASB

[7] 1Pe 3:20 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1Pe+3&version=NASB

[8] 2Pe 2:4-7,9-10 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2pe+2&version=NASB