Who Can Be Saved?
father was found far out at sea after several days missing. He was barely conscious but was still dog paddling with his arms tied around his six year old daughter. Later he said that he had decided that he could not let her drown: That he could not live with himself if the two did not survive together. She was the most precious thing in his life.
In our text we hear Jesus challenging the Rich Young Ruler to give up the one thing that was separating him from relationship with God. However, this man who had everything was not wilting to give up the thing that he perceived to be most precious to him. He went away sad, and stayed sad, even though he decided to hold on to his possessions that he thought he could not live without . And then in our story Jesus makes one of his most startling statements: "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. " (v. 25, NRSV).
What a dramatic illustration of the impossible. There is no way that a big hairy camel to go through the tiny eye of a tiny needle. Even if it were a big needle, say for sewing canvas, and a baby camel, it would still be an impossibility. Jesus' hyperbole exaggerates the fact of impossibility.
One of the highlights of every Holy Land Trip is riding on a real spitting camel, smell and all. I say spitting because they will do exactly that if provoked. I was on my best behavior as I took my turn. Some of the most stayed folks had the best time as the trained camel kneeled so that his next victim could be assisted up around his neck. Naturally we all were thinking about Jesus' "impossibility statement" and knew the vivid picture of his analogy from then on.
Of course somebody is always trying to skirt around the true meaning of every biblical story and statement. At the high walls around the old city of Jerusalem the guides always point out the "needles eyes" cut into the tops of the walls. They are actually slits about six inches wide through which those inside could shoot arrows at the: approaching enemy in battle. Of course, that's wider than an actual needle's eye, but sti11 it would never accommodate a camel, un1ess it were cut into steaks.
You see, the point of Jesus' story is that self-salvation is impossible.
"Who then can be saved?" the Apostles asked. The answer is that nobody can be saved on their on. "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for with God all things are possible. " (v. 27).
I saw a fellow I know at the Ga. Tech. football game yesterday who is counting on creating some cheating way of salvation other that God's way. He probably thinks he can buy his way in, just write a check. Or, failing that he may have a secondary plan of being outwardly perfect; or, outward1y good enough to fool his fellows. But like the Rich Young Ruler of 2000 years ago, he will one day wake up a realize that the on1y way is God's way. And, thus far, he has refused to walk therein. He once told me that the Gospel way of salvation through grace and faith in Christ, "is just too hard."
Yet, it is the easiest, and most logical way into relationship for it mirrors all human friendships. The father who pre-planned the rescue attempt of his daughter, who was willing to give his very life for her, could easily understand this whole notion of giving our all for the Christ we love and who has given us the Abundant Life in His Spirit.
I have never understood why the disciples were so amazed at Jesus' analogy. In fact, they had given up everything they had previously owned to follow him. Peter, who was always trying to impress Jesus, even said it, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." (v.28). Since they had paid the price you would think that they would have not thought it unreasonable for Jesus to ask the Rich Young Ruler to also be willing to give it up. What did they not understand?
I really don't think many of us ever catch on to the promise that Jesus made to us in this story. It is there but we either don't see it, or just can't believe it's so. Let's listen to those last two verses again: "Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundred fold now in this age -- houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions-- and in the age to come eternal life. " (v. 29&30, NRSV).
Is it not true that the Church has become your new family. Although there are bio family that you still have relationships with jointly in Christ, the folks in the "Family of God", have formed your extended family. And who has not been blessed financially? Sure, some more than others; but I have never known a Methodist to starve, and most have been recipients of far more materially than they can handle. God has opened the windows of heaven and poured out blessings galore.
And do we not realize that it is all because of the willingness we have had to sacrifice all or Jesus? We have given him our hearts and lives, and he has blessed us. We have put aside our plans and have given him our futures and he has so richly rewarded us. And we would willing give it all up again if the call came again to do so. If you have refused to follow Jesus it is not too late for you to do so today for you still have breath. Come to Him!
a sermon synopsis by C.
Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor