Thread Through the Eye of the Needle / Mark 10:23–31 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday October 17th 2021 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday October 17th 2021: Season of Pentecost / Mark 10:23–31 "Thread Through the Eye of the Needle"
And Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Right before our Gospel reading in the Gospel of Saint Mark for today Mark records how “as [Jesus] was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And [the young man] said to [Jesus], “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Disheartened by the saying, [the young man] went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” That really is the set up for our readings today. This is why Jesus “looked around and said to His disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” … now just last week we here in Canada had our Thanksgiving celebrations and in the United States they will have theirs in November and many of the things that we in North America count as blessings are either the riches we have, or have access to, or have had in our lives, the possessions, the wealth currently in our grasp or the possessions and the wealth that is just outside of our grasp which could under the right circumstances be ours.
People from every economic strata in our society either have wealth, struggled to gain or keep wealth, or are enticed into a deep desire to have wealth; and for every rich person there is one who has less and one who has more, and for every poor person there is one who has less and one who has more. The World promises happiness through wealth and through things but the World fails to deliver on contentment, fails to deliver on giving you a heart that is truly thankful for the blessings you actually have in your life. This is part of why we pray “give us this day our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer. First we pray it because Jesus has given us the prayer to pray, because God your heavenly Father wants you to ask for what you need, and then we also pray “give us this day our daily bread” so that we grow to understand the difference between what we need and what we want and to learn to be truly thankful for what we have been given. An in all of this you see that there is a spiritual dimension to the things we possess, our possessions, and our wealth. If you are obsessed with your possessions and wealth, if these things occupy a dark place in your heart then you need to learn the Wisdom of Solomon who teaches, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income;” Solomon calls this vanity. The flipside of the coin of vanity is humility. Humility can lose all possessions, all wealth and all income, humility can be stripped naked, can in the eyes of the world have nothing and yet still be rich.
Some people naturally have more humility than others while others have a great need to learn by experience the value of humility. This is why Scripture teaches that, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” And in Psalm 34 we hear how “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Keeping this all in mind think on what you heard from the Epistle today in Hebrews, “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” The rich young man who came to Jesus with his question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” left disheartened when Jesus said to him “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me,” because he had great possessions now and his desire to keep them made Jesus’ advice, Jesus’ call to the rich young man a task as hard as threading a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Like I said the rich young man left disheartened but was he brokenhearted? In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus both warns us and comforts us with these words, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Are you starting to see it? The condition of your heart has an impact on your gratitude towards God who gives all things to you and what you think and feel about the treasures you possess. Greed, a lack of generosity, fear of poverty, covetousness these are all sicknesses of the heart of the soul.
Consider what 1 John 3 says, “By this we know love, that [Jesus] laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children,” Saint John says, “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” And he continues to says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before [Christ Jesus]; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.” And what does Jesus say in our Gospel today? If it’s impossible for a man to thread a camel through the eye of a needle remember with God all things are possible, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Let’s shift gears for a minute. How does an inheritance work? A person with family may have an inheritance but even as the “have” it in the moment they will not receive it until the family member dies and then they will receive the inheritance. Before the death they can say they have an inheritance trusting in the promise, after the death they will truly have the inheritance handed over to them. With the rich young man Jesus was calling him to trust in the inheritance promised to him in heaven and to put into perspective the treasure, the wealth of his life in the moment. This is what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples in the reading today and Peter Jesus’ star pupil blurts out, “See, we have left everything and followed you,” sort of like saying … ‘See, see Jesus, we aren’t like the rich young man who went away disheartened, we did give up everything to follow you!” But like usual Peter was only picking up on half of what Jesus was teaching.
Here is the key to unlocking this whole reading, the key is the context, the key is where and when Jesus’ teaching was taking place. At the very beginning of the sermon there was a detail, did you catch it? The rich young man comes to ask Jesus his question “as [Jesus] was setting out on His journey.” What journey is being referred to here? This journey is Jesus’ journey to the cross. A journey that will end with Jesus perfectly thread through the eye of the needle. At the cross of Good Friday Jesus will in all humility be humbled for our sake without one vain bone in His body He will be stripped of everything whatever few processions He had, His garments the shirt off His back so to speak, taken from Him and gambled for by the men tasked to execute Him. Jesus is stripped of any dignity He had, the loved and respected teacher, nailed to the cross publicly and ridiculed by the leaders of the people. Apart from Saint John and Jesus’ mother the Virgin Mary and a handful of followers Jesus died without His other disciples like Saint Peter, they too were stripped away as Jesus was threaded through the eye of the needle of death. Remember what Jesus teaches His disciples today, what He teaches you, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Jesus is the one threaded through persecution, threaded through lose of family friends and household first, He is threaded naked through the cross, through the tomb to His resurrection winning the inheritance for us. He gave all that He had even His very blood, His life to the poor, to you and me out of love so that in Him we can inherit eternal life.
Now perhaps you have heard other sermons on this text before, and there us a way people talk about this text sometimes: There are many gates in Jerusalem and there was a very tiny gate so historically people talk about the idea that it would be very hard to get a camel through such a gate. Now the other thing to remember is that camels are pack animals, you put things on the camel; this is like an F150 pickup truck … so imagine a pickup truck loaded full of stuff. Have you ever seen a truck where the driver didn’t remember or understand just how big the load was packed onto it; where the driver was trying to go under an overpass like the Albert Street overpass on the ring road here in Regina and not realizing they wouldn’t fit the truck gets stuck? Impossible to get through when the load is packed on too big, too high, too much: You would have to take all the stuff of the truck to make it through, you would have to remove all those things all those possessions off of the Camel to fit through a tiny gate in the walls of the city of Jerusalem. And if you don’t want to take all of that off, if you won’t take it off, it will be impossible to get through. What if you were the driver of the truck, what if you were the truck, what if you were the camel and what if all the stuff packed on were your sins and tainted earthly treasures?
Now here’s the really wonderful thing: Jesus is thread through the eye of the needle and Jesus doesn’t have any of His own sins packed on Him, imagine Him like the camel, He doesn’t have any of His own sins packed on Him because He committed no sins, but He does have all of your sins packed on Him when He is thread through the eye of the needle. Something that would be impossible for us, because of our sin, except because of Jesus’ sinlessness God has made it possible for Him. Jesus takes all the worst things, your sins, your problems and takes them away … all the knots in the thread that would prevent the thread from passing through the eye of the needle gone for you, forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus as you are threaded through.
The sinless heart of Jesus was content to suffer all even death, even a humiliating death on a cross to prepare the way for you so that you can repent of vanity and the love of money, greed and all covetousness. Jesus won forgiveness for every time you stole what wasn’t yours, for every time you wanted to take what wasn’t yours, for every times you kept what could have been given to your neighbour in need. His innocent blood washes you clean, gives you peace and a promised rest for your restless heart. The law of God and our failure to fulfil it when humbly considered, when we listen to God’s Word, breaks our heart, yet God does not leave us broken hearted remember, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Do not walk away disheartened follow Jesus even if it leads to persecution and the loss of family, friends, economic security or even your life, remember what Jesus says, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” And Jesus says this very thing before the rich young man came with his question, before our Gospel reading today as He publicly taught His disciples and the crowds of people wishing to follow Him, saying, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” What Jesus taught publicly He also taught privately to the rich young man, what Jesus teaches all people He also teaches you.
The rich young man wanted to save the life he had right now, he was not willing to give up his current comforts in the face of future potential hardships. This life is short, eternal life is forever. You may suffer hardships today, if so face them in Christ Jesus, count all that you have as a gift from the Lord and as He has been generous with you be generous with others, if you have a little take heart you can still be generous with it, if you have a lot take heart you can still be generous with it. Follow Jesus do not follow the World. Jesus fulfills His promises the World cannot make good on what it promises at best it will be like sand that slips through your fingers. Seek after a heart that is humble and pray to God with the Psalmist, “Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Trust Jesus to thread you through the eye of the needle of this life and you will find peace for your soul and eternal riches in heaven, an inheritance that cannot be destroyed. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire;” for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Mark 10:17–22
 Ecclesiastes 5:10
 1 Peter 5:5
 Psalm 34:18
 Hebrews 4:12–13
 Matthew 6:19–21
 1 John 3:16–20
 Mark 8:36
 Mark 8:34–35
 Psalm 51:9–10
Photo Credits: Main photo Camel with Heavy Load from piqsels; Credit Card from pexels; Gold Ingots from pexels; Rusty Chains from pexels; Last Will and Testement from unsplash; Jesus Crown of Thorns from unsplash; Thread Through Needle from unsplash; Stuck Truck from wikipedia/commons / Infrogmation of New Orleans; detail - Jesus Humbled Himself from unsplash; detail - Humble Cross from pexels.