Dec 6th, 2020
Hello and welcome to season 3 episode 7 of The Berean Manifesto; 10 minutes or so a week of faith, hope, and love for the modern Christian. I’m Pastor Bill of The Ekklesian House and in this installment we are going to take a look at burdens
“If we would follow Christ, we must shake off the baser objects of earthly desire as nothing better than the dust which gathers upon the cerements of mortality.” - F. W. Farrar
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke it’s recorded that as Jesus was moving on from a time of ministry in Judea that a young man ran up, knelt in front of Him, and calling Him “good teacher” asked Jesus what good he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him what any good rabbi would, to keep the commandments. The young man asks which ones to follow and Jesus starts listing the Ten Commandments. Not in the order they were originally given, but in a very specific social order from heinous to fundamental. But in all three Gospels, before Jesus can finish the list, the young man insists that he’s kept all these commandments since he was young. Jesus tells him that he’s still lacking in one thing. The eager young man asks what he lacks. And is told to go and sell everything he has and give the proceeds to the poor. This will get him treasure in heaven and he can come and follow Jesus. The young man leaves grieved because he had lots of stuff.
In the last episode we talked about two other people who wanted to follow Jesus, but one wanted to bury his father first. In Matthew 8:22 CSB Jesus responds to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus is life, and His followers had that life. This is what has been supposed as the meaning of Christ’s words here. That those without Christ, the dead spiritually, should tend to the affairs of the dead physically. As one called as a disciple he could have no place in the business of the world, even where it pertained to his family.
In that same chapter in Matthew the other disciple that vows to follow Jesus is a scribe. Jesus response to him in Matthew 8:20 CSB, is “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Being a scribe this particular individual would have enjoyed a lifestyle of having every comfort and every need provided for him in return for his service. Jesus lets him know in no uncertain terms that the lifestyle he’s been living having everything provided for him is not how the lifestyle of a disciple is going to be. That even the animals get better treatment than the man that he is trying to follow.
Then Jesus tells the disciples that it’s hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God depending on what Gospel you’re reading from, then continues, (Matthew 19:24 & Luke 18:25) “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples when Jesus says this are astonished by this revelation because they were convinced it meant that nobody could then be saved.
We talk on The Berean Manifesto about understanding cultural context, and this is one of those moments. In walled cities there was traditionally a small “gate,” more of a door-sized passageway made of stone, in Jerusalem this was known as the eye of the needle, that could be used to enter the city after the city gates had closed for the night. For the poor, who carried nothing more than a walking stick and a food pouch, this wasn’t a problem. But for people like the rich young man above, they would load everything they needed to sustain the same quality of living as they had back home onto the back of a camel, or camels. If they reached the city after the gates had closed for the night, then the rich had a difficult choice to make. They could leave their camels and the bulk of their possessions outside the city walls and slum it for the night, they could set up camp outside the city walls and run the risk of falling prey to beasts or villainy, or they could un-burden their camel, carry the stuff through the small passageway themselves, and then navigate the camel down onto its knees and try to manipulate the camel through a passageway of stone-built for something the size of a human. Without the prodding and manipulation of the camel’s human counterpart, that camel is never getting through that entryway.
Jesus tells the disciples that when it sounds like he’s saying that no one can be saved, this is exactly what He’s saying. (Matthew 19:26) That being saved is an impossible feat for mankind alone, but with God all things are possible. Which takes us back to the young man’s question from before about what good he could do to inherit eternal life. To which the long and short of the answer is, nothing. There is nothing that camel can do, on it’s own, to get through that doorway. There is nothing we can do of our own power to be saved. It’s a faith issue (Hebrews 10:9-10), you confess with your mouth that, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you are saved. You’re made righteous by the belief of your heart and saved by the confession of your mouth.
The deeper message of what Jesus appears to be teaching here is that, like the camel with the eye of the needle, it’s impossible to make it into the kingdom of God burdened by the world. Not because money and things are inherently bad, but because humans are worshipers by default. Inevitably the things of the world become distractions from God, or worse, they become idols.
In Exodus 20:4-6 CSB God commands, “ Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.  Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers' iniquity, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me,  but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands.”
In hindsight, this commandment is very telling. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God and that salvation is by faith alone. Lower gods within our reach and idols take faith out of the equation. When we begin to worship television, celebrities, sports teams, civic duties, religion, and religious relics we become the burdened camel who can’t make it through the eye of the needle.
Now you may not be called to be a hardcore disciple like the gentlemen from Matthew 8. However, anything that you let get in the way of serving God in your calling makes you into the burdened camel, is an idol for you. Even things that God meant for good, to point to salvation, mankind has found a way to elevate into idols.
So, what idols have you set up in your life? What are the things in your life that you need to unburden for the sake of your faith? For the sake of your calling…
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”