The Gospel of Luke 18:18-27
At that time, a ruler came to Jesus and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said, “All these I have observed from my youth.” And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. Jesus looking at him said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For 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.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
I am always amazed at the symbolism that is used in Scripture. Most of the symbols that Jesus used is speaking would have been common knowledge for those who were listening but for us sometimes the meaning is lost. This is true with the Scripture passage chosen by the Church for the 30th Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel pericope is chosen from St. Luke’s Gospel and the 18th chapter.
In this passage a man approaches Jesus and asks Him what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to obey the commandments, and the young man replies that he has been obeying them all his life. After pressing Jesus more His reply is that the young man should sell all that he has and follow him. Jesus goes on to say that it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.
What is this eye of the needle that Jesus is speaking about here. For those listening this would have been obvious but as I mentioned before this is sort of lost on us. The eye of the needle could mean many things but most commentators agree that it is most likely the gate of a city. The gate was built of a certain size that would not allow a fully loaded camel to get through. This is the point of the passage, we need to unburden ourselves.
Just before the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy we sing the Cherubic Hymn. In this Hymn we say, “Let us lay aside all the earthly cares of life,” and this is how we unburden ourselves. It is the earthly things that burden us. For the young man in the story it was his riches that kept him from following Jesus and for us it might be something else. Salvation is impossible for those who are attached to the earthly things of life.
What is not being said here is that we need to divest ourselves and give it all to the poor, no, we need to care for the poor as we are commanded too, but what is being asked of us to keep it all in perspective. Stuff is not bad, it’s what that stuff does to us that is. Are we controlled by our stuff or do we control our stuff. Can we live without it or will the world end for us if it is gone? This is what is being asked of us as followers of Jesus Christ.
What baggage do you have that needs to be set aside so you can truly follow Jesus?