People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It 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.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Isn’t it interesting how so many have tried to explain this analogy of the camel and the eye of a needle? I mean, I’ve heard a lot of explanations about the Camel going through the eye of the needle. But one that seems to be a continuous, literal take by so many is that the there was actually a gate in Israel at that time called the eye of the needle (or something like that), and that it was too low for a camel to get through, hence the difficulty of getting a camel through the eye of a needle. Now there may have actually been such a gate, but there’s also so much more to this analogy that’s not mentioned in this explanation.
First of all, it’s important to know that in the days when Jesus walked the earth in the flesh, the camel was the largest animal in the Holy Land. Now, if you’ve ever sewn or stitched something together, say maybe a patch onto a shirt or something, then you’ve dealt with the difficulty of stringing the needle. Now granted, there are some big needles that really aren’t that difficult to string. But unless you want big holes in the fabric, you’ll go with a much smaller one. Now, there are tools nowadays that help in stringing a needle, but either way, if the string is too thick, then it doesn’t matter what tool you’re using, it won’t go through the tiny hole. So if a thicker string won’t make it through the hole of a needle, then no matter what tool you used, there’s no way humanly possible that you’d be able to get the largest animal in all the land through it. And that’s the point (no pun intended): Humanly-speaking, it’s impossible. Now, Jesus isn’t saying that God would try to fit a camel through the eye of a needle, that’d be ridiculous. What He’s doing though is using the vivid contrast between the largest animal and the smallest opening to explain that without God, it’s humanly impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only by faith in Christ can one get in, for “with God, all things are possible.”
This also goes back with Jesus and the children. Remember what I said in the beginning of the book, that Mark often uses several examples to make a point (again, no pun intended):
- Being like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (“and don’t hinder them”)
- Camel (later rabbinic takes used an elephant) going through the eye of a needle, prioritizing Christ.
- The 1st will be last, the last will be first.
Notice the details of Jesus’ discussion with the rich fellow who’d been living his life as according to the Law (this brings us back to the traditions talk, of allowing traditions of man to get in the way of worship). Notice that Jesus mentioned the commandments that pertained to man’s relations with man. It wasn’t until Jesus told him to sell all he has, give to the poor, and to follow Him that Jesus mentioned the first and most important 2 commandments: serve and worship God only, have no idols or engraven images. Unfortunately, that was the part the man wasn’t willing to follow.
It’s difficult for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of God because his focus is on his wealth, not on God. Whoever doesn’t leave…for me and my gospel will not enter the Kingdom of God. Why? Because such hinders discipleship and full submittance.
Let’s look at some of the desires of the world that could hinder our discipleship and full-submittance to God:
- Sex (pre or extra-marital)
If you’re not willing to put Jesus (your relationship with Him and living for the Gospel) first, then something else must be first. But Jesus must be first if you’re to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Nobody who’s left…will fail to receive 100 times…including persecutions though:
- Parents: Your kids are not your own, but belong to God. Therefore, let your relationship with God be first in your life.
- Spouses/couples: Your significant other must not take the place of God in your life. If they’re not content with being 2nd in your life, then they’re trying to put themselves into God’s slot. But to enter the Kingdom of God, God must be first, spouses and family 2nd.
- Kids: The law says to honor your parents. But the first 2 commandments tell you to put God first. If your parents command you to do something that entails putting them above God (or say you become a Christian and your parents belong to another or no faith), if you’re not willing to put God first (your relationship with Him through Jesus Christ), then you’re not fit to enter the Kingdom of God.
- Fields: We all know that we must work if we’re to eat and live. But don’t let your dedication to your job take the place of your dedication to God, and also your family.
The healthy ladder is:
- Relationship with God
- Spouse and (immediate?) family
- Job (also ministry)
If you put God first in all things, you’ll receive:
- More siblings (brothers and sisters in Christ)
- More parents, mothers, teachers, parents in the faith (Paul claimed to be the spiritual father of the churches)
- Kids: you’ll mentor and help bring up in Christ those younger than you. Your own children/kids will also grow in Christ.
- Field/ministry, money: The Lord will bless you with more so you may give and bless more.
ALTHOUGH, You’ll also receive much persecution from others in this life:
- From people you put 2nd and 3rd
- From work who wants you to stay longer hours and to put them first on your priority ladder
- From people who don’t know and reject Jesus and His Gospel (friends, family, co-workers, strangers on the street, etc.)
- From the worldly laws and leaders
- From Satan and his demons (because now you’re a threat to them)
But those who stand firm will receive eternal life.
The First will be last, the last will be first:
Often times, this phrase is recognized in the contrast of leadership. But here, it’s in the context of eternal salvation. Notice, the main question was, “Who can be saved?”
Jesus explores the difficulties of salvation:
- It can’t be attained without Jesus
- You can’t receive it if Christ is not your main focus
- Having eternal life in Heaven will also bring us difficulties in this lifetime
In the context of salvation and who will or can receive it, the Jews got first dibs, for they’re God’s people. We know this also from Jesus’ conversation with the Greek woman in chapter 7. But as she mentioned about the dogs who get to eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table, so also the Gentiles, who are last to receive the opportunity for Eternal Life with God in Heaven, will have a chance to be saved. So many of those who are at the beginning of the line will reject Christ, thus rejecting salvation. When they jump out of the line, those towards the end of the line move up to the front. So now, those who were last, are now first.
Remember, Paul said that God opened up salvation to the Gentiles to cause jealousy among the Jews. Paul also said that if the Jews hadn’t rejected their seats, so to say, then the Gentiles would not have had a place to sit. It’s only because some/many Jews rejected their seats that the Gentiles are allowed to enter and sit down.
So now, since salvation will be offered up until the end, some of the Jews who’d previously rejected it, will finally accept it. So now, those who were first (the Jews), are now last.
- What childlike behaviors do you think Jesus was commanding? How does childlikeness relate to the Kingdom of God? How could you be more childlike in your spiritual life?
- Why do you suppose that it’s so hard for the rich to follow Jesus? How can someone (rich or poor) receive entrance into the Kingdom of God?
- How often do you find yourself trying to earn your salvation? If Jesus said to you, “One thing you lack…”, to what would He most likely be pointing? How would you respond if He said that this one thing had to go?
- What does it mean to “follow Jesus”? How are you doing with that? Take time to pray and ask Jesus what you need to let go of, lose, or change in order to follow Him closer.