Many read this text and simply can’t believe what it says on the face of it. It seems to imply that rich folks cannot be saved. It seems to say in no uncertain terms that if you are a rich man, then your chances to get to heaven are so little that a Camel has a better chance of getting through an eye of a needle.
So due to the difficulties, we Christians have taken a very clear text and made it unclear. One of the things we have done is made up a gate that was allegedly called the “eye of the needle.” This gate was small. A camel could get through it, but the camel had to get on its knees and then crawl through the little opening. So it ain’t impossible. It is possible, just very difficult. I have seen preachers get on the ground and wiggle around as if to illustrate this alleged activity. Note that this interpretation says that it ain’t impossible, just very difficult.
Well. the problem with this is that the hearers of the text didn’t think Jesus was saying it was hard, but impossible. The disciples looked astonished and wondered “who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25). Why would they be astonished if it was not impossible just very hard. Who then could be saved? Well the preachers who preached this tell us, all they have to do is get on their knees and crawl. But no that ain’t it. Jesus himself said with “humanity it is impossible but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26). But our preachers tell us that it is possible, it ain’t impossible.
No An eye of the needle is the same eye of the needle you have seen right now. Jesus meant for it to be impossible. Jesus wanted us to realize that the kingdom of God is not the kingdoms of this world. Jesus wanted us to realize that riches in this world do not guarantee right standing with God. Jesus wanted us to realize that it is impossible for a rich man to be saved in God’s coming Kingdom.
But then Jesus tells us that even God can do the impossible. You see these made up rules limit God’s power and emphasize humanity’s power. If the side of the city gate story were true then there would be something that that human could do to enter the kingdom. But no, Jesus reminds us that the only way into the kingdom is for God to take us there. No you can’t remove all your burden. No you can’t get on your knees. and No you can’t crawl to get in the eye of the needle. You need God to do something that we can’t even conceive.
With humanity this is impossible, but with God, All Things Are Possible, Amen.