Called to Follow

Jesus is always calling us to focus heavenward by living in a kingdom mindset. (Matthew 19:23-30) After Jesus has shared how freeing it is to let the things in this life go, he turns to His disciples to tell them how difficult it is for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23~And Jesus said to his disciples, Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. (ESV) Make sure you understand that Jesus isn’t saying it is impossible for a rich person to enter into heaven, only that it is very difficult because of the security and temptations that accompany wealth. 

Our Lord is sharing that there is a very real spiritual danger in prosperity. Material prosperity can cause us to forget that God is the true source of all of our earthly blessings. We see this happening in the U.S. today, just as it happened in ancient Israel. Listen as Jesus describes the difficulty in Matthew 19:24~Again I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (ῥαφίς rhaphis) than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. (ESV) 

A camel was the largest animal in Palestine and the eye of a needle the smallest opening. The word translated needle (ῥαφίς rhaphis) probably refers to a sewing needle, not a small gate. Though you and I have probably heard it preached both ways. In either case, Jesus is using hyperbole, which is exaggerating for effect. It is difficult for rich people to be saved because they are often consumed with their bank accounts, investments, and possessions. Jesus is not saying rich people can’t be saved, rather He is pointing out riches are a formidable obstacle in our lives. 

After some pretty extensive looking, I struggle to find genuine or credible evidence of the night gate that would have been dubbed the eye of the needle. Yes, the city gates were in fact very large and heavy. Once locked they would not have opened them for just anyone because of the danger it would pose for the city. So there would have been some smaller doors that may have been utilized. If it is, in fact, the night gate that was referred to as the eye of the needle, then it would have been a true feat to train your stubborn camel to lay down, so you could take off all of the luggage being toted and then have the camel to crawl on their belly as though they were graveling. 

This does offer us a wonderful visualization of what it means to come to Jesus. Where we must unburden ourselves of everything, letting go of the baggage of life and then with nothing of own we crawl through the door of Jesus Christ to find salvation. (John 10) Both the sewing needle and the small door for a large animal to get through take God’s amazing grace. Thus, they share the picture of salvation for us by grace as we let go.

Understand that there are many righteous men in the Bible who were very wealthy, such as Father Abe, Lil Joe, Job, Gideon, even Joseph of Arimathea. But Jesus is addressing the false assurance wealth can bring. For example, Paul tells Timmy to warn people in 1 Timothy 6:17 ~Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (NIV) 

When the disciples hear Christ Jesus’s warning about wealth, they’re astounded Matthew 19:25~When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” (ESV) The disciples apparently are influenced by the prevailing Jewish view that wealth is an indicator of divine favor, it’s not. James said in his letter 2:5~Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? The prosperity gospel did not begin last as some may believe, but with the Pharisees, who had no TV to watch or use as a preaching tool. Matthew 19:26~But Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (ESV) Again if it is a sewing needle you are not getting through, without God. And know that you will have to let everything in this life go one day.

Why not make that day, today? You can let go of the hurts and pains that weigh you down. You can let go of the events that have marked you, the words that were spoken to you by others, or the absence of what you knew for certain was yours, though you did not ever get it. Know that with God all this and so much more is possible in Jesus. If we will just allow Him to work in our lives, giving to Him any and everything that weighs us down. 1 Peter 5:7~Cast all your anxiety, worries, cares on him because he cares for you. (ESV)

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