23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It 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.’ 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another,* ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
28 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news,* 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’
Continuing the story – the young man went away sad, for he had many possessions. When the choice was made clear, he chose his possessions over Jesus. And then Jesus turned to the disciples and made a comment, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were puzzled – how could this be? It was common thinking in their culture that wealth implied that one was blessed by God. It was also the wealthy who could spend time in pursuits of religious study. How could wealth be a hindrance to entering God’s kingdom? But Jesus repeats his warning, adding a proverb, “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.” Now, a lot of people have made a lot of this saying – claiming that it really refers to a gate called the eye of the needle, or making other rationale for the saying not quite being about the impossible – but that was precisely the point. Jesus was using hyperbole in a parable that illustrated impossibility.
The disciples look at one another and ask, “Then who can be saved?” If the richest, most respected men in the community faced the impossible, how could they, who were poor men, possibly be saved? Jesus tells them that what is impossible for people is possible with God. “For God all things are possible.” That is something we should all remember! No matter how impossible it may seem that the person we pray for will turn his/her life around and find relationship with God – for God all things are possible; so, keep praying!
Peter begins thinking aloud – saying to Jesus, “We have left everything and followed you.” Peter and the other disciples had walked away from their nets and boats, homes and families, all that the rich young man refused to do, to follow Jesus. And Jesus says they will be rewarded – with family and friends, houses and fields, and with persecution in this life, and in the age to come, with eternal life. The value of what they had found far exceeded what they had given up.
And then Jesus repeats what he had said before, “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” The Kingdom of God is an upside down world. Those who had been honored for their wealth, position, and power will be last in the kingdom, but the powerless and lowly will be first in his kingdom.