Summary: Jesus didn’t ask everyone he met to follow him. He asked the original twelve disciples–and He invited the Rich Young Ruler to follow him. The young man refused. Like many people, he was fooling himself about what it takes to have eternal life.
Can You Pass a Camel Through the Eye of a Needle?
By Dr. David O. Dykes
During this Christmas season, there are plenty of Scrooges out there. I heard about one lady who was fumbling in her purse to get her credit card to pay for a purchase. The cashier noticed she had a television remote control in her purse. She asked the shopper, “Do you always carry a remote control?” The shopper replied, “No, but my husband refused to come shopping with me, so I figured taking the remote control was the meanest thing I could do to him!”
In our passage of scripture today, two different kinds of people approached Jesus. First, Jesus welcomed a group of little children; then He invited a rich, successful leader to follow Him. Let’s begin reading in Luke 18:15: People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
I won’t go into detail about that passage because on April 28 this year I taught from this passage when we were launching Share the Joy with the Children. The message was entitled, “Jesus loves the little children.” If you want the message you can order tape or CD of program #927 or you can access the full manuscript on our website www.gabc.org.
I wanted to read about the children who came to Jesus because they stand in such contrast to the next character in the passage. Children have such a simple, refreshing approach to God. Jesus said we must receive the kingdom of God in the same simple, trusting fashion.
A father in our church told me as they were driving home from church one Sunday, his five-year-old son was drawing a picture in the back seat. He said, “Dad, how do you spell God?” The father was very proud that his son was interested in God, so he spelled out G-O-D. Then his son said, “Thanks, now how do you spell ‘zilla?’”
We should all maintain the gentle, fun-loving spirit of a child. But as we grow up, life gets more complicated. There are things to do and bills to pay. In contrast to the children, in verse 18 Jesus encountered a man who is lot like many of us:
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “you still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.” Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail t receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
This encounter is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Matthew tells us he was a young man, Luke tells us he is a ruler, and all three writers relate he was rich. He’s usually called the Rich Young Ruler. I prefer to call him the “Rich Young Fooler” because, like many people, he was fooling himself about what it takes to have eternal life. Let’s consider five important lessons:
1. WORLDLY SUCCESS CANNOT SATISFY YOUR DEEPEST NEED
Rather than calling this guy the Rich Young Ruler all the time, let’s call him Benjamin or Ben for short. In verse 23 we gather that Ben wasn’t merely financially independent–he had great wealth. He was the Bill Gates of his generation. He would have been on the Forbes Magazine list of the wealthiest men in Judea. He was also a “ruler.” Among his Jewish peers, he had been elevated to a position of authority and influence. Leaders were generally elderly Jewish men, but Ben was the exception. Look up the word “success” in the dictionary, and you’d find Ben’s picture.