Jesus and the rich young man, part 2 — Matthew 19:23–26

The Kings Instructions

Advent 2021

I have heard a sermon where it was claimed that there was a gate in the walls of Jerusalem where a trader could pass, but had to unload his camel so that the camel could pass through without its load and on its knees. The illustration was that we can only come to God if we set aside what ways us down and come on our knees. There is a flaw in this illustration, there is no evidence that the Eye of the Needle gate in Jerusalem ever existed.

A small door in a larger gate into a bilding or city with a camel standing alongside.
A photograph claiming to be the ‘Eye of the Needle Gate’ in Jerusalem

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:23-26 ESVUK

There is no needle gate. There never was a needle gate. It was made up. Victorian era preachers who claimed that they had seen the needle gate whilst visiting the Holy Land were lying. There wa, however a needle gate in the gates of Damascus, it is a door in the gate that allows a man to get through when the gates are closed, but a camel? Nope. Even unladen and on its knees it would not be able to get over the step to get through the gate. Do we need to come without any burdens? Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus accepts people as they are, even those with burdens.

Some say that the word should not ne camel, as the Aramaic word for camel is similar to that for cable. In both cases getting it through the eye of a needle would be impossible. The Greek word translated eye means hole and could be the hole in a needle or the hole made by a needle or awl. In all cases the camel or cable will not fit through the hole made in or by a needle. Jesus is clearly using hyperbole, the disciples understand this, “How can anyone be saved?” they ask. Jesus answers that this impossible thing is possible with God.

What you put before God can keep you from coming to God. It may be money, as in the case of the rich young man, or it could be something else, seeking fame or reputation or even the need to worship the car on a Sunday morning can keep you from God. Jesus demands first place in our lives, but we are accepted as we are. But beware. following Jesus is challenging.

Are you up for a challenge?


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