SERMON OF THE WEEK
October 21, 2012
Next Sunday is the 6th Sunday after Sleebo. Gospel reading for Sunday is from Luke 18:18-27.
Theme:"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God? For this, Jesus said: "It is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."
In the gospel reading, there is a story of a rich young ruler who went to Jesus and afterwords came out in worse condition than when he went in. The ruler was a man of the Pharisees. and he knew that Jesus possessed divine power and finds that he is in town. The ruler went over to meet Jesus in private. The ruler asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?". Jesus answered him to follow God's commandments: "do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother." The ruler said he has done all those since he was a young boy. When Jesus heard this, he said, "You are still lacking one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow me."
When the ruler heard this, he became very sad because he was a man of great wealth. He thought Jesus would be happy to hear him say he obeyed all God's commandments and that will assure his eligibility for eternal life. Jesus looked at him and said, "It is hard 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."
People have tried to water down Jesus' statement, "It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."
Some have suggested it is a mistake to interpret the "eye of a needle" with a sewing needle. Camels do not go through the eye of a sewing needle. It makes no sesnse. In the days of Christ, cities were surrounded with strong walls for protection against invading enemies. Gates were set in the walls to allow people and materials to come in and go out. The small door to let men in and out was called "the eye of the needle." It was very difficult for a camel to pass through this gate. (Critics cite a problem with this explanation in that there is no archaeological evidence to cite such a gate.)
Another interpretation is that "camel" in Aramaic language also meant "rope", since rope was woven out of the camel's hair, that Jesus must have meant "rope". Jesus spoke Aramaic and they interpret Jesus as saying a rope of such thickness would be difficult to go through the eye of a needle. (It's like back in Kerala, "coir" in one sense could also mean "coconut" since coir is woven from coconut fiber). The debate continues........
In spite of the wealth, success, and influence, there was a hunger in this rich man's life which his wealth could not fill. It's like we work all our life to buy that dream house or a vacation house or an expensive car, or land on a high paying job. But we all can find someone else with bigger accomplishments than ours. The Bible teaches that there is nothing wrong with money. In fact wealth is a gift from God. But when money starts possessing us, we are in trouble. Money is a great servant but a lousy master. The Bible says that our love for money becomes the root of all problems. It will never satisfy us. It's like drinking sea water. It will only make us thirstier for more water.
We all want to achieve financial independence, but we end up in financial bondage. The rich ruler said to Jesus that he doesn't commit adultery, dishonor his parents, murder, lie to others, or haven't stolen from others. Then Jesus said, "There is just one more thing. Go and sell all your possessions and give to the poor." Jesus wasn't talking to sell all his good possessions and give to the poor unless his money has become his god.
Jesus looked at the young ruler and actually admired him. When he walked away, Jesus made the famous statement: how hard it is for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? It is easier for a camel (some interpret to mean the 'rope') to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
This is one of the saddest stories in the Bible because the rich man went away in worse condition than when he went in. The rich ruler's name was Nicodemus. He afterwards became a follower of Jesus. His devotion to Jesus led him to assist Joseph of Arimathia in preparing the corpose of Jesus for burial by asking for permission from Herod.
The lesson from this story is that money can't buy us peace and happiness. Getting that treasure in heaven for the rich man would be the same as for a beggar, thief, doctor, lawyer, professor, or the clergy to get it. Money can't buy it. It won't be simply given to us either. We have to earn it. Our crave for worldly things can be the root of all problems. Money won't satisfy our crave for possessions. It will only make us crave for more and more.
So what we are to do? We are warned to be careful not to become obsessed with worldly things. The treasure is waiting for us in heaven.
Prepared by: Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas Valiyaparambil