God’s Word for You
Mark 10:24-27 the eye of a needle
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, March 29, 2021
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 The disciples were even more astonished. They said to each other, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.”
This is a passage that has been misunderstood over the centuries. The best way to understand it is to read it all the way to verse 27 and let Jesus and the disciples show how they understood what he meant. Jesus uses two key words: hard and impossible. He says that it is hard to enter the kingdom of God. Very hard. It’s so hard, it would be like a very large animal, the camel, to go through a very small opening, like the eye of a sewing needle. That’s impossible.
This sank in with the disciples. Their amazement turned into something deeper. They were struck by his words. They worked it out in their heads, and finally they began saying to one another, “Then who can be saved?” There was a standard that no man could live up to. It’s still there today. What appears difficult at first, like a child’s puzzle, hits us hard: This applies to me. I can’t do it. I can’t possibly succeed because of my sinful condition, because I keep on sinning. “Then who can be saved?”
Here is where God shows his love. What’s impossible for man is not impossible for God. This is the God who made the sun go back ten steps for King Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:8), who made the sun stop for a whole day after the hailstorm at Gibeon (Joshua 10:12-13), and who made the sun in the first place (Genesis 1:16). The image of the camel isn’t supposed to make us think of a big animal unpacking its load and crawling through a low doorway on its knees as if in repentance. Nor is the image of the camel supposed to make us think of a ship’s anchor cable (rather than a camel) passing through a tiny opening. Jesus wants me to picture an animal as tall as I am that weighs half a ton walking through the tiny hole at the end of a sewing needle. Jesus wants me to understand how only God can accomplish our salvation.
Later in this chapter Jesus will provide the theme for this whole Second Gospel: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This is how God does the impossible for us. He supplies us with faith in Jesus Christ, who covered our errors and who supplies everything we don’t have that God demands.
The salvation of the sinner is founded on the merciful love of God. In this love, God wants the salvation of fallen humanity. “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Lord of Armies. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23). In his love, God is moved to bring about our deliverance and to offer the means through which the lost can receive this deliverance. These are the means of grace, the gospel in word and sacrament. The gospel is the medicine for our sickly and dying souls, and the means of grace bring this gospel medicine to us through faith in Christ. The medicine is offered to everyone, but those who reject it, or are blocked (for example, by their parents) from receiving it, do not receive its benefits. The medicine contains the key ingredient: Christ’s blood shed on the cross for our sins. This is only possible through God’s gracious love. With God, everything is possible. Nothing is impossible, not even that God would forgive a sinner like me.
Pastor Timothy Smith