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Mark 10

Chapter Ten:

v. 25: I have heard several explanations of this verse, the most popular of which is that “the eye of a needle” was a city gate in Jerusalem through which a camel could pass if it pushed very hard.  I do not know if there was such a gate, but I believe I can reject that interpretation anyway.  Notice how the disciples react to Jesus’s words.  Mark says, “They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘then who can be saved?’” (v.26)  It does not astound me that a camel can push its way through a city gate if it tries hard enough, nor would it have astounded the disciples.  And since it is possible for the camel to struggle through, why would the disciples have feared that nobody could be saved?  In the analogy, if the camel can push through (albeit with difficulty), we rich people should be able to push through into heaven.  Furthermore, in consoling the disciples, Christ says, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God” (v.27).  If he meant to compare the possibility of a rich person getting into heaven to the possibility of a camel getting into Jerusalem through this narrow gate, then he would not have said, “It is impossible;” apparently, it was possible for mortal humans to get mortal camels through the gate and into Jerusalem.

The only reasonable explanation for this verse is that Christ literally means it is as possible for a rich person to enter heaven as it is for a camel to go through the eye of sewing needle; i.e., it is impossible.  The disciples understood this, hence their astonishment and fear that nobody would be saved.  It also explains Christ’s blunt interpretation of his own words: “it is impossible.”  But the real gem in this episode is that Christ goes on to say, “For God, all things are possible.”  This is simply a paradox, which we cannot understand.  Somehow, two seeming contradictory statements are true: 1) Rich people cannot get into heaven, and 2) Rich people can get into heaven.  It reminds me of Christ’s answer to Julian of Norwich, who did not understand how Christ could say “all will be well” when many people would go to Hell.  His response was “What is impossible to you, is not impossible to me” (chapter 32).

v. 26:  The disciples’ question implies that they fear nobody will be saved (including themselves).  The fact that Peter reminds Christ that they have given up everything to follow him may be a result of their insecurity on this point.  It is strange, however, that they would have felt such fear regarding themselves.  If they considered themselves “rich” what word would they use to describe the average American?

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