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Matthew 19:23-30

NOTE: While Pastor Charlie is on a trip out of the country through June 5, he has chosen some of his favorite blog posts from his weblog from 2020 to 2021 to share.

From: September 19, 2020

Matthew 19:23-30

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to 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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

27 Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

My Tigers – back in 2003 won an incredible 43 games, and lost an even more incredible 119!

I had a dream last night – I dreamt that I was sitting on the bench of the Tigers. I was so excited – I went to coach and said, “Coach, what can I do so that my beloved Tigers will win the World Series?”

The Coach said, “Wear your Tiger pajamas every night, don your cap, watch the game, cheer on the Tigers.” I told him I have done all that since my youth. He could tell I loved the team. He put his hands on my shoulders and said, “There is one thing you must do. Grab your glove, get on the mound, you are the starting pitcher for the next four games. And, you are also batting clean-up.” I walked away, my head hung low, because I am really bad at baseball. There is no way. It would be impossible.

Jesus go says, " 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.” People have tried to explain what Jesus meant here.

Some say the word camel in Greek is very similar to the word for "rope" and so Jesus is saying how difficult it is to thread a rope through the eye of a needle. Others refer to a small gateway in the walls of Jerusalem known as the Needle Gate. It was so small that it was impossible for a fully loaded camel to go through.

But why not let this imagery stand as it is? Why try to water it down, or twist it? If I remember right, it was the serpent in the garden who did the same thing, when he said, “Did God really say…?” Jesus is trying to get across the idea of something that is impossible. The camel was the largest animal found in Palestine; the eye of a needle the smallest opening. A rich person has about as much chance of entering the Kingdom of God as a camel has of passing through the eye a needle.

The disciples’ response emphasizes this, for we hear that they were "shocked" and "completely amazed and asked one another, "Who, then, can be saved?" You can see that everyone is absolutely flabbergasted at Jesus command to go, sell, give, come and follow. They are shocked, even appalled. And who can blame them?

We are indeed rich compared to the vast majority in the world. There is always the danger that our work, our sport, our hobbies, even our families will stand between us and our loyalty to God.

Two things I would like to lift up from this lesson today. The first is a question - “What defines YOU?” Is it your possessions, your family, your work? And is God revealed in that which defines you? What defines who you are?

When we come to the waters of baptism, we are defined. When the cross is placed on our brow, the words are spoken, “Child of God!” Made, named, claimed and forgiven by God, that is what is to define us. Daily we must remember that it is GOD who defines us!

As the disciples were listening to Jesus, their countenance sagged. They, and we, know that we let all kinds of things get between us and our walking with Jesus. All of us are constantly in danger of filling our hearts with everything else except Jesus. Join with me confessing that we can’t keep the First Commandment as Luther explains, We should fear, love and trust in God above all things. There wouldn’t be one person here who has done just that. "We are as guilty as sin." For us to get to heaven would be like trying to squeeze a camel through the eye of a needle – impossible.

So the question is, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Oh you can try, but remember, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In other words, you CAN’T! It is only by God’s grace that we are saved. Jesus died on the cross so that we might inherit his Father’s riches. Not what I do, but what Jesus has done for you and me!

Jesus looked at his disciples straight in the eye and answered their question of "who can be saved then?" saying, "This is impossible for a human being, but not for God; everything is possible for God." God loves us, God sent his Son to die for us, to forgive all of our sins against the First Commandment and for all of the times we have put other things first before Jesus. God forgives us for all of our selfishness and our misplaced priorities. God welcomes us into his kingdom saying, "All those who live and believe in me will have eternal life."

Go Tigers!

Let us pray: Almighty God, nothing is impossible with you. We need to get the order right, and follow where you lead. It’s not about me. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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