A Camel and a Needle’s Eye

A rich young ruler hurried towards Jesus and knelt at his feet. He may have been thirty years old, or even forty—the word is used of Saul when he must have been thirty, and by Josephus of one about forty. He had however, the earnestness and zeal of youth, and withal a sincerity that attracted Jesus: “he loved him”. “Good Master,” the ruler said, “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Various ideas have been deduced from the answer of Jesus. It was no disclaimer of sinlessness, all agree; but some say that Jesus was asking if the man knew what he affirmed; that since only God is good, Jesus too must be divine.

It is better to treat the question of Jesus as an enquiry whether the words were used by the young ruler merely as a courteous form of address, or with a sincere desire to obtain Christ’s answer; besides this, the enquiry also turned the man’s thoughts to God and to His standard of goodness. Jesus therefore instructed him to keep God’s commandments if he would enter into life. This answer was so general in form that it cannot be regarded as complete; nor would it appear that Jesus expected it to be so regarded. The commandments were many, independently of all the various interpretations of the Rabbis, which would also be included in the rulers’ thoughts.

The next question, Which? was to be expected. In the answer Jesus only directed him to the Second Table of the Law, together with the summary of it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. This would be a remarkable limitation if Jesus were giving a complete answer; but he was evidently leading the man to a recognition of his position. The man was not hypocritical when he claimed that he had kept all those; his answer, however, prepared the way for the last word of Jesus: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21). The answer evidently touched a secret weakness — the fascination of riches had a strong hold upon him. To sell all he had was therefore a call to break free from the toils that held him, to break away from the worship of mammon. Although often treated as the whole of Christ’s answer, that renunciation was only half of the demand; it was, however, preliminary to the second half: “Come and follow me”. This demand was a call to centre his affection on “treasure in heaven”; it was also a call to enter the line of the crossbearers, the mark of Christ’s followers. Although the young ruler could not meet the demand, his possessions being too great to be renounced, yet Jesus loved him. And as he went away sorrowful we may not be wrong in thinking that Jesus too was sorrowful as he watched him go. It was therefore with a sad note that he pointed out the dangers of riches, as turning to his disciples he said, “Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (verses 23, 24).

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Author: John Carter

Keywords: Camel, Needle's Eye, Eye of a needle, Camel needle, Rich young ruler, Riches, Rich ruler, Wealth, What must I do, What must I do to have eternal life

Bible reference(s): Luke 18:18-25

Source: Parables of the Messiah (Birmingham).

Page indexed by: inWORD Bible Software.