The Blue Mountains Franciscan Church
Sermon preached by Br Andrew in Springwood on Sunday 11th October 2015
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Readings; Amos 5:6-7,10-15; Psalm 90:12-17; Hebrews 4;12-16; Mark 10:17-31
Jesus was leaving when the rich man fell at his feet and asked ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? ‘Jesus replied ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
That “No one is Good except God’ is essential to hear because it sets the circumference of this parable. This parable sits within an understanding of what it means to inherit eternal life within the terms of ‘God’s Goodness’. Keeping the Commandments since his youth had not been sufficient he lacked detachment. To give up what he treasured and to trust the good God in everything.
Jesus loved him yet refused him the Kingdom until he released himself from his possessions. The Parable tells us that the young man grieved because he had many possessions.
Riches and wealth were considered signs of God’s blessings yet Jesus tells his disciples that it will be very hard for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom. Reading this version carefully Jesus says how hard it will be for anyone to enter the Kingdom of heaven, see verse 24b,
Verse 25 says
‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’
Again ‘how hard it will be is important. Our God is a Holy God and to enter the circle of Holiness takes us a lifetime of surrender of taking up our cross daily and following Him. Jesus helps us understand this with his flabbergasting image of the Camel passing through the eye of a needle.
Midrash Rabbah, on the Song of Songs uses the phrase to speak of God’s willingness and ability beyond comparison, to accomplish the salvation of a sinner:
“The Holy One said, open for me a door as big as a needle’s eye and I will open for you a door through which may enter tents and [camels?]” Midrash Rabbah, The Song of Songs, 5.3; cf. Pesiqta R., 15, ed. Friedmann, p.70a; Soncino Zohar, Vayikra 3, p95a 1
The Peshitta –Aramaic Translates Mark 10:25 this way
“It is easier for a rope to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Peshitta Aramaic/English Interlinear New Testament -The Preaching of Marqus10:25)2
The eye of the needle is the measure of Holiness and impossible for any soul to thread themselves through save the hand of God draw them. That is why though camel’s souls are purer than the rich because they cannot help but love God, even the rich, in fact anyone can be drawn through when God is the seamstress.
‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’ The grief of the rich man indicates the Kingdom is costly to those who lose it and Jesus’ response to Peter reminds us that discipleship also has its price.
Gates and Camels
The prophets Amos was active during the reign of Jeroboam II, between 786 and 746 BC; the Book of Amos was the first biblical prophetic book written. Amos lived in the southern kingdom of Judah but preached in the northern kingdom of Israel, then known as Ephraim or Joseph. He tended Sycamore figs in Tekoa in Judah and did not belong to the School of the Prophets.
Amos was sent to preach to a Caravan of camels remember the last shall be first!
God sent Amos to Samaria, the Capital of Israel to preach that the ‘Day of the Lord was near’ and this was the first time this message was recorded in the Scriptures. Israel was very excited about the coming of the Day of the Lord since they believed it augured well for them. But and a very big BUT –O no it didn’t. Israel’s biggest stumbling block preventing their deliverance from foreign powers was their own transgressions –the Day of the Lord was supposed to free them from Oppression.
The Rich man had kept the Law from his youth it seems the House of Joseph hadn’t yet met it!
Amos was sent to point out that their lack of Social Justice, Care for the Poor, their disregard for the All Powerful God and total disregard for Divine Justice were going to get them unless they repented. In other words –The Day of the Lord was coming to get them!
In this reading we get what must be a complete description of what it meant not only to fail to measure up to the Holiness of God but to not even try to, not even to think of approaching the circumference of the Parable.
Amos speaks of ‘gates’ in verses 10, 12, 15, the Hebrew word he uses is
Sha` ar which in verse 5:15 indicates a place of Justice.3 The gates of Samaria or indeed any city of the time were the places where Justice was meted out, i.e. civil cases deliberated on, places where food was given to the poor.
We are told that the rich hated justice, and they despised the truthful. (10) They afflicted the righteous, took bribes, and pushed aside the poor and hungry who came there for help. (12a)
They were exhorted to “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.”(12b)
Sha` ar can also mean cleft or breach12 as the Hebrew in Proverbs 8:3 is understood, and I draw it parallel to the Eye of the Needle for both are places of Justice and righteousness. 4
Jesus is in Heaven with the Father, a human like us who suffered lived and was sacrificed in our world, who knows the ways of our hearts, he is also the eternal Word “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” This “Word” can cleave the space between our souls and our spirits – expose all our darkest secrets, even those we have hidden from ourselves.
The living Word is the one who stands in the Sha` ar to cleave the good from the bad, is the Holy God through whom it is possible to draw all repentant sinners through the eye of the needle, be they any old rope or camels.
We say this in our Creed every Sunday: – ‘he, Jesus, will return again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.’
- The camel and the eye of the needle, Hebrew NT Application – Biblical Hebrew. 2015. The camel and the eye of the needle, Hebrew NT Application – Biblical Hebrew. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.biblicalhebrew.com/nt/camelneedle.htm#7. [Accessed 08 October 2015
- Peshitta Aramaic/English Interlinear New Testament. 2015. Peshitta Aramaic/English Interlinear New Testament. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.peshitta.org/. [Accessed 09 October 2015].
- sha’ar: Hebrew word studies for Bible study: Amos. 2015. sha’ar:Hebrew word studies for Bible study: Amos. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bible.gen.nz/amos/hebrew/shin/shaar.htm. [Accessed 08 October 2015].
- DELITZSCH COMMENTARY – THE BOOK OF PROVERBS . 2015. DELITZSCH COMMENTARY – THE BOOK OF PROVERBS . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.godrules.net/library/delitzsch/26delitzsch_f0.htm. [Accessed 08 October 2015].