As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them 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.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 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 hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
It’s easier for a real, live, long necked, large humped, vomit spitting, 1300 lb. dromedary to go through the eye of a standard No. 5 sewing needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. So how are we gonna get THAT sort of camel through THAT sort of needle?
To get our camel from this side of the needle to the other, people have paid to have it pushed through. They’ve tried being good enough to earn it through… suffered enough to guilt it through or done the currently popular thing of bullying the camel through. They’ve thrown away their integrity and contorted their moral-selves into an ugly, inhuman shape to try and beat it, thrash it and ram it through at ANY cost. Then of course there’s MY way which involves an enormously large blender which sadly I’ve been told won’t work because they don’t make a blender that big? But when it comes to camels fitting through needle’s eyes, NONE of it works! There is simply NO WAY for bullies, moral contortionists, you, me or anyone else in the whole wide world to get that 1300 pound camel through that tiny sewing needle’s eye! It… JUST… CAN’T… BE… DONE!
That was the problem of that privileged, popular, professional in the story today. He loved winning! He was a self made man… at least that’s the story he told and the papers all happily published. He followed all the laws… (well, at least he’d never been caught not following them.) He had a gorgeous wife, a son to carry on his famous name, a two humped sports utility camel and a one humped sports-camel with heated leather seats parked in the garage. Now, he just wanted to know what HE needed to do to get this one last camel through the eye of the needle.
Jesus loved this guy because he didn’t understand. I’m still working on loving this petulant, pouty, privileged, preppy… but Jesus is a better man that me. This guy was a winner! In business, in negotiations, with women, with fame. Heck! When this guy’s tushy touched the toilet, even THAT seemed to turn to gold! There was nothing, NOTHING he couldn’t get. Well, nothing except this camel through the eye of a needle. Jesus knew that because of the way he had always lived, it would be almost impossible for him to give up his winning ways. He’d never trusted or relied on anyone. So Jesus knew he’d likely never be able to trust or rely on Jesus either.
Jesus told him, “To get your camel through the eye of that needle you’ll need to give up the idea you can do it yourself. Give up buying, scheming, bullying, lying and twisting everything to try and ram it through. It just won’t go! YOU simply can’t get THAT camel through the eye of THAT needle. It’s impossible.” Well, that wasn’t an answer this guy could buy. He’d bought everything else! He couldn’t believe that he couldn’t buy this too! So he turned his back on Jesus and walked away to do more of what he’d always done and keep trying to get that camel through on his own. He simply couldn’t understand.
In this parable, Jesus is asking us to believe what that petulant, pouting, preppy just couldn’t: That for mortals, it’s impossible… but not for God. For God ALL things are possible… it’s even possible for God to pull a camel through the eye of a needle. Even possible to pull the likes of you and me through the needle’s eye of death and into life. For God it’s not only POSSIBLE… but God’s already done it! God’s reached through the eye of that needle that we call the Cross of Christ, grabbed hold of you and me, and whether we like it or not, God’s even reached through and pulled that petulant, pouty, privileged, preppy through as well. God pulls ALL of creation through, from death into life. And if God can do THAT… then… what other impossible thing might just be possible for God?
How many horrible and completely impossible things challenge our world today? How many terrible and completely despairing things does our country face… do you face today? How many of these things twist us into painful, writhing shapes of worry, despair, anger and rage these days? What hopelessness plagues you? What memory haunts you? What betrayal, what regret, what personal failing, what sin torments you? What does YOUR giant, enormous, 1300 pound, bile spitting, completely overwhelming, dromedary of dread look like? What does that thing look like that you have simply been unable to shove, bargain, buy or blend through the eye of the needle, so that you might know peace?
For us mortals… getting any of those hope stomping, joy trampling, justice wrecking camels through the eye of the needle that leads to peace seems, these days, to be soul crushingly impossible… but it is particularly in these times that we must come together often and remind one another always… and LOUDLY proclaim to a world in need of hope AN INFINITELY greater truth… that while for US it might seem impossible… heck, for us it might actually BE impossible… NONE OF IT! NONE…OF…IT is impossible for God! And for God it’s not just possible… IT…IS…FINISHED!
In a way I believe only through faith… When Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross he wasn’t just talking about his life. He was also telling us that the God of infinite love, compassion and grace (who also happens to be the God of infinite possibilities) was also finished. Finished pulling EVERY SINGLE ONE of the universe’s most impossible, most vile, most heart breaking camels through the impossible eye of that needle and into the Kingdom of God!
Do not be overwhelmed by the stampede of impossible camels trampling our world today. The camels of poverty, sexism, immigrant child camps, climate change, gun violence, racism, oppressive hierarchies and all the rest. We are loved even when we can not wrap our minds around this truth: That our most terrible camels… our world’s most horrible camels… they are no match for our God... the God for whom ALL things… all things… ALL THINGS... really ARE… possible. Amen.