Summary: Being good, will not make you a spiritual man or a spiritual woman. Good people don’t go to heaven. Good people are not spiritual people.
Who is the rich man?
Who is the rich man in this passage this morning?
YOU are the rich man. You are the rich man in this passage this morning.
To us, when we read this passage, to us, the rich man is always someone who has more money than we do. As a result, we are able to step outside the situation and look at the rich man as a man out of touch with reality because of his wealth. We are able to see what a fool he is, we are able to see his ignorance, But the truth is, we deceive ourselves, you and I, we are far wealthier than 80% of the world’s population - here in America, even if we are considered poor, we are still rich compared to the rest of the world.
So, when Jesus speaks to the rich man, when Jesus describes the spiritual plight of the rich man - He is speaking to you and I; He is describing the spiritual plight of you and I.
What is so stark about this passage is what Jesus says about us and the kingdom of God: “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.”
Just to erase any doubt from your mind, Jesus is being very literal here. Jesus describes the largest animal in Palestine and compares the camel to the smallest passageway, the passage designed for a thread, the eye of a needle.
Jesus is giving us an image of an impossibility, Jesus is literally saying it is impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. For us here in Alaska the image we could compare to is that of a moose. A camel is approximately the same size as a full grown bull moose, except in my experience, a camel smells far worse than a moose.
Years ago, Katie and I were able to ride camels in the Sinai desert….
It was 2:00 in the morning, freezing cold, and we were huddled together under the only streetlight for at least 100 miles. There we were, in the middle of the Sinai desert, waiting in an empty lot behind St. Catherine's Greek Orthodox Monastery, with high stone walls, St. Catherine’s looks like a desert fortress.
St. Catherine's Monastery has seen everything from British Tanks, Turkish Calvary, the Crusaders, to invading Islamic hordes and now we were there too, waiting to ride camels. We were scheduled to ride camels to the top of Mount Sinai. The plan was to leave in the middle of the night so we could arrive and the top of the mountain, just in time to see the sunrise. This sounded very romantic in the tour book, but now, in the pitch black dark with an icy wind blowing, it didn’t seem so romantic anymore.
Finally the men with the camels arrived. Each of us were assigned a camel and a guide. We each climbed aboard our very own camel, and started up the mountain, one by one. Katie was in front of me and the last thing I saw was Katie looking back as she disappeared into the darkest, blackest night I have ever seen. My Bedouin camel guide introduced himself, “I am Zayed, I will guide you up the mountain.” After hearing the only English sentence that my guide Zayed could speak, I was in enveloped by the darkest night I have ever experienced. Me, a camel, the dark night, and a man I just met with a thirteen inch knife strapped to his side.
Slowly my eyes began to adjust. In front of me was the silhouette of this grand desert mountain. Upon the mountain was a faint a zig zag of a line. This line was a few hundred people either walking or riding camels up the switchback that wound up the mountain. At every turn in the switchback there was an ancient stone hut glowing with a small campfire within it.
I was amazing. Here we were, riding camels up an ancient mountain, perhaps the same mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments from the Lord. Perhaps Moses himself walked right where I was riding. I felt like I was being transported back in time to the biblical era, just me, my camel and this ancient biblical mountain….and then as we passed the first stone hut the Bedouins inside cupped their hands and cried out, “Kit Kat, Baby Ruth, Ice cold Coca Cola.”
Bam! Back to reality, I’m just a tourist on a camel.
The reality for us this morning is this: We are the rich man, and Jesus doesn’t paint a pretty picture of us.
Open you bibles and place your finger on verse 17 of Mark chapter 10. Notice, Mark doesn’t tell us that this man is rich until verse 22. Being rich was only part of this man’s problem. This man has a worse problem, it is a problem that permeates our churches in America today - it is the problem of achievement spirituality. In these first few verses, this man reveals who he really is and he also reveals his off kilter brand of spiritual devotion to God. Take a look.