The Rich Young Man

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Num. 16:20-35; Rom. 4:1-12; Matt. 19:23-30

A strange juxtaposition to that comes today in Matthew, with a focus on the parable of the rich young man.  “It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, 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.”

Jesus’ use of this colorful camel-through-a-needle hyperbole is in effect saying – to use an analogy from today – it is easier for a rich man to enter heaven than for the Senate to pass effective gun legislation.  It would appear to be an impossibility bordering on miracle.

This story, as Tom Long puts it, is about two worlds colliding: this world, with all its prevailing customs and values, and a radical new way of life called “the kingdom of heaven”.  With the rich young man’s question we see the two worlds collide even in his ambiguous question, which seems to skate in both.

On a very basic level this appears to be a story about works.  Verse 25: When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?”  But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Jesus was a Presbyterian!?!  Sweet deal!  Here we are reminded that God is the mover and shaker.  Everything begins with God’s movement in our lives.  It turns out all of us are in the same boat as the rich young man, tied to our worldly affairs so much we are unwilling to let go.  This is the essence of original sin.

But with God all things are possible.  It is possible for us to let go and claim the newness which is already offered by Jesus Christ.  Not an escape from this world, but God offers a release from the power of greed, money, status, and worth.  We have found new and everlasting worth with Christ.

This is the miracle of the gospel.  The abundance of God’s love is so great, that we can talk about it in terms of a camel going through the eye of a needle.  It is an abundance of impossibility.  Not counting our faults, the love of God washes over us like a gentle rain, encapsulating us.

There are those who believe that text is not a metaphor, but a literal “eye of a needle.”  But did you that in some later centuries, the early churches had doors that were referred to as “eyes of needles”?  Tired of the rich people riding their horses into the sanctuary, they would shrink the doors so only people could get through, raising the bottom, lowering the top, so it was what amounted to a crawl space.

And what a way to start church!  You are reminded that you can pass through the eye of a needle, when you are amongst God’s faithful.  With God all things are possible!  It’s even possible to travel through the eye of a needle – traveling through every Sunday morning.

My goodness, maybe the Senate will pass some gun legislation.  The impossible has become possible – with God.

-Matt

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