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‘It’s much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of heaven,’ said Jesus, ‘than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.’ (Matthew 19 v 24)

It’s an intriguing image – clearly impossible, even if you take into account that Jesus was probably referring to a narrow gateway into Jerusalem rather than a sewing implement.

But then, Jesus was fond of using images that would shock his listeners and make them think again.

  • He told Nicodemus it was necessary to be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God (John 3 v3).

  • He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink – culturally inappropriate rather than impossible, perhaps, but then he told her that he would give her ‘living water’. (John 4 v 10)

  • He told a crowd of jeering followers that a dead child was only sleeping (Matthew 9 v24) and encouraged his disciples to ‘let the dead bury their own dead’ (Matthew 8 v22)

  • He told his disciples that he would be killed but then rise to life three days later. (Mark 9 v31)

Like the Queen in Alice and Wonderland, it seems that those who follow Jesus must believe ‘six impossible things before breakfast.’

Unfortunately, the rich young man whose question led to Jesus’ comment about camels and needles didn’t hang around to hear more. When he heard of the sacrifice Jesus was asking for, he gave up.

He put his faith in what he could hold on to. Giving away everything he had seemed an impossible risk, even for the promise of treasure in heaven. The disciples seemed incredulous too, but at least they knew enough to keep listening – and Jesus reminded them of one very important thing:

“With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

Jesus was talking about faith. In all of those examples, faith was what made the difference.

Faith that it’s all right to believe in something that seems impossible and to accept that all things are possible – not certain, but possible – with God. In Matthew 17, Jesus talks about faith the size of a mustard seed being able to move mountains.

Like all seeds, the mustard seed represents great potential in a seemingly insignificant form.

If Jesus was living in England, he might have talked about an acorn: ‘from little acorns, mighty oak trees grow.’ As every gardener knows, it can take a long time to see that potential fulfilled.

But even the smallest kernel of faith has the potential to grow – in the right conditions.

We all face circumstances in our life when it is tempting to throw our hands up in despair and declare defeat.

Perhaps we should instead resolve to put our hands together in prayer and declare our faith.

We might not get what we want – it doesn’t work that way. But we can trust that we will get what we need, and - even though that might mean we need to do something that seems impossible – we can trust that.


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