"Through the eye of the needle" Sermon / Mark 10:23-31 / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday October 21st 2018: Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday October 21st 2019: Season of Pentecost / Mark 10:23–31 "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. “Jesus, looking at [the rich young man], 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 rich young man who was seeking what to do to enter eternal life] went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” This is why Jesus says “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” On the one hand the rich don’t want to let go of their money and possessions on the other hand the rich feel as if they can buy anything.
I was watching a film recently in which a woman and her children were denied a room in a hotel because she didn’t look like someone who would normally stay there and after a phone call she returned to the desk and informed the staff there that she had bought the hotel and that they now worked for her. There are some things however that money cannot buy. The rich young man went away disheartened because he didn’t want to give up all that he had, however had he said, “Jesus you are poor how about I give it all to you and then you can give me eternal life?” What then would Jesus say? Jesus will not give you eternal life in exchange for your money. Jesus would have said no. Eternal life is a gift not something to be purchased. There are no one day sales, or discount bins full of Salvation, you can’t haggle Jesus down to a better price. What does St. Paul say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” A gift must be given you cannot buy it with your labour or with the money you make from your labour or even with good deeds done for free for others, there is no gift in kind transaction that can be made where you give something to Jesus and He turns around and because of your gift now gives you eternal life.
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.” St. Peter and the rest of the 12 disciples were as astonished at this statement as the rich young man was rich. The Gospel says that they were exceedingly astonished. Why? Because at that time, in that place the rich were viewed as very pious and devout, the Pharisees were businessmen, and the Sadducees who ran the Temple were very rich too and owned beautiful clothing and expensive imported Greek and Roman furniture and house wares. They were above reproach, inscrutable; it was assumed that they were righteous and holy, that they were part of the Kingdome of God.
Mixed into these groups were the Scribes, the lawyers of their day, in this case lawyers more concerned with the luxuries of life than with the needs of their neighbour, in fact Jesus warns of them a little later in the Gospel of Mark when He says, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in [the finest of clothing] and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” These are the rich men that Jesus is warning about, the Scribes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. Some of them even had access to the treasury of the Temple and used it to live in luxury. Then there were the Herodias who were in with the government, they too fit into this category. Even today there are televangelists who live the high life buying for themselves luxury jet plans and expensive sports cars, men and women who live in mansions and wear designer clothing all on the offerings of the people that give offerings to their churches. They are outwardly Christian, or are at least perceived and viewed by some to be outwardly Christian but who knows their heart but God alone. In the Roman Church there are, and have been, bishops and cardinals and popes who have live lavish lives and yet were corrupt and unrepentant. We Christians must all be vigilant against these things, even in our own church too. St. Peter and the disciples looked at all these rich people presumed to be godly and faithful and when told they may be in danger of not entering into eternal life they ask, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and [answers], “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Today we don’t look at the rich as being very pious and devout, in fact the rich and powerful are more often looked at with suspicion, the expectation is that they are corrupted and far from the kingdom of God, even if they build churches or support humanitarian aid in impoverished poor areas of the world. Yet it is God who sees their heart.
Jesus sees the heart of the giver; it is Jesus who sees the true nature of every offering. A little later in the Gospel of Mark we hear how Jesus “sat down opposite the treasury [at the Temple in Jerusalem] and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And [Jesus] called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League has taken this account from Mark’s Gospel and incorporated it into their work. They collect in their mite boxes pennies and coins and then they pool it together and help the mission of the church to bring the good news of Jesus and His salvation for all people. Their collections help in Canada and around the world, and they know that a little can go a long way. Here Jesus is warning about giving that is for show verses giving that is for those in genuine need.
If you are only giving out of obligation or for show it will be hard to give when a real need arises, if you think that your offerings are purchasing something and then you feel like you are not getting the thing you think you’re “buying” it will make you miserable, and God does not want miserable givers. As St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” “The point is this,” St. Paul says is that, “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
All that you have is a gift from God our heavenly Father, and we confess that He “has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.” God is the giver of the gift and if you have been given much and you fail to see that you are the manager of what you’ve been given, if you begin to believe that it is yours and that you have errand it without God’s blessing or provision and then you attempt to use God’s own gifts to pay Him off to try to get eternal life you will fail.
With such an attitude towards God and His gifts you will never pass through “the eye of the needle.” Like Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” God is the one who give the gift of being able to pass through the “eye of the needle” He is the one who brings you on The Way, the Narrow Path that leads to Salvation, it is He who is with you in the valley of the shadow of death, it is the gift of Jesus’ blood that accomplishes this. It is His gift of salvation that makes it possible.
For an example of a person who was saved and brought through the “eye of the needle” look to Saul, the Pharisee, who was an enemy of God and hunted down the Christians, yet Christ Jesus, intervened and Saul was saved and renamed Paul who we call St. Paul: the same St. Paul who would later write, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Or look to Joseph or Arimathea and Nicodemus rich men who, when Christ was in need, when Jesus was dead and required a place to be buried, when Jesus needed funeral arrangements, and there was none to pay for them, came forward and cared for Jesus’ needs without reluctance or compulsion, from the heart. They sowed into the earth, into the tomb a seed of Goodness, the body of Christ Jesus which when risen from the dead would reap a bountifully harvest. The Scribes and the Pharisees, the Sadducees and Herodias, the other rich men who wanted Jesus dead on that first Good Friday would have thrown His dead body to the dogs to be eaten in the streets because they could see what it was worth, not so for these two men. And on Easter morning God did the impossible, He raised Christ Jesus from the dead and in so doing gives Eternal life through Him. Jesus passed through “the eye of the needle” of death, without a penny to His name and on the other side of it this same Jesus who is the King of kings and Lord of Lords has for you a treasure, - Eternal Life in Him - that the world cannot purchase or understand the value of.
The physical gifts that God gives each of us then our meant for our needs and the taking care of the needs of others, and when you give to the church or to a group like the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Canada, the reason needs to be this: people need to hear the Gospel, they need to hear that it is a free gift for them, that they can find rest from their labours in Christ Jesus and that His grace is sufficient for all their needs, that it is God who has worked the impossible and has provided Eternal Life through His Son and that we cannot attain it with our work or with our money: and lastly that there is forgiveness in Jesus alone for all those times that we have tried to do just that, for the times we thought we could work or buy our way in. 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 10:21-22
 Ephesians 2:8–9
 “Long robes”
 Mark 12:38–40
 Mark 12:41–44
 2 Corinthians 9:7
 2 Corinthians 9:6