Summary: With mankind it is impossible for us to gain our salvation through our own effort. God has made it possible because with God all things are possible!
The first of two camels in this sermon series
Think of a time when someone has asked you instructions to get somewhere.
What about this scenario? Someone asks you, what do I have to do to get into Jade Stadium to watch the test games in the 2011 Rugby World Cup? I think the answer would be a little like this!
• You will need a ticket for each game.
• Are you rich?
• You will need to be polite to the person on the gate.
• You will need to be able to walk some way to the stadium.
• You will need to be well behaved once in the game or you will be removed.
All through the history of mankind, humans have thought about what it takes to get somewhere. It may be ‘what would it take me to become something like a Builder, is it worth all the hard work to gain the qualifications? What road is the best one to take to get to Westport? When I finish school what career path do I take? We humans often wonder.
For millenniums humans have stood outside on bright starry nights looking up and have wondered – what else, where to from here, what if, the cry has been heard, “God please answer these questions!”
The scriptures tell us that this is an inbuilt thing that mankind carry within them. Ecclesiastes says it this way, “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:10 -11)
In Matthew’s gospel we have a story about a young bloke approaching Jesus and asking that age old question, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Matthew 16-30; Matthew, DVD, NIV.
A little like getting into the big game, how do I get my ticket to eternity, and what good thing is it that I have to do? What is this eternal life lark going to cost me? What kind of deposit must I pay?
Jesus reply is fairly direct; I think he knows that this young bloke already knows the answer. “Why do you ask me about what is good?” “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter eternal life, obey the commandments.”
From the bloke reply he’s probably thinking he’s onto a winner, “Which ones?”
He knows he’s been a good lad. He knows that he’s done all the right stuff, as far as the majority of the commandments go.
Jesus tells him: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your Mum and Dad and love your neighbor as yourself!”
Now the bloke’s probably thinking that he’s struck the jackpot, but he knows, something tells him that he’s not quite got it together. Listen to what he says.
“All these I have kept, “ - “What do I still lack?” He knows, he knows in his heart of hearts that there is something adrift with his way of life, with his relationship with God, “What do I still lack?’
Crunch time, what is it that Jesus tells him? “If you want to be perfect go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come follow me.”
When this young bloke heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. He was rich; you can just imagine this bloke head down, walking away disappointed. His ticket to eternity was going to cost him more than he was willing to pay!
I often wonder if later in life when events played out a bit further, after the resurrection, after the growth of the church, after this bloke realised that he couldn’t take it all with him, if he did as Jesus instructed? We can only hope so.
Jesus then said this to his disciples; “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.”
Before I go on, if there are any rich men here this morning who are desperately concerned at this stage, here at the Salvation Army in Sydenham we take cheques.
1) Now this saying about the camel through the needle saying brings up a few questions. There is a bit of thought about what this might actually mean. Some believe that there was a gate called the eye of the needle and a camel would have to go through this on its knees. (There is no real evidence of this).