Monday, June 13, 2011


The young man hung his head and walked away.  The teacher’s words had hit him hard, and he had the dazed look of a man who had the wind knocked out of him.

Judas held his steady, studying gaze on the wealthy young man.  Silence hung in the air around them.  Everyone was surprised at the teacher’s words, though of course, surprising words had become surprisingly common.  They were what had drawn each of these disciples and friends, Judas included, to the teacher in the first place.  

As the young man’s footsteps faded, Jesus turned to his friends and spoke quietly, with the faintest trace of disappointment.  “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

“Weren’t you a bit hard on him?” Thomas asked.

Jesus nodded.  “It’s hard, kids.  So very, very difficult, for people who trust in wealth to enter into the reign of God.  It’s easier for a camel to squeeze into the eye of a needle than for a rich man to come under God’s kingship.”

Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek.  Whatever the language, however somber the situation, the rabbi rarely resisted a good pun, and almost never resisted a bad one.  James and John exchanged glances and smiles.  Judas squinted thoughtfully.  Thomas was confused.  

“Wait,” Thomas said.  “Do you mean ‘camel’, like the horse with humps, or did you mean ‘rope’?”  He mimed a rope with his hands, and elongated the similar sounding words with great care.

“You really know how to ruin a good joke,” James sighed.  “If you get either one through a needle’s eye, Thomas, let me know.”

Thomas ignored his comment.  “Teacher…  Wealth comes from God, doesn’t it?  If a wealthy person can’t come into the Kingdom…  Well… Then who can be saved?”  

Judas held his gaze on Thomas, his face earnest and furrowed and waiting. Though his friends often rolled their eyes at Thomas’s questions and his general struggle with literalism, they were grateful that he was willing to ask.  It spared the rest of them the embarrassment.

“In human terms, yes, this is impossible.” replied Jesus.  “But not with God.  Everything is possible with God.”

Peter spoke up, timidly, but with some measure of pride.  “But look at us, Lord…  I mean, I know we’re not rich, but we left everything to follow you.”

Judas, again, was glad that someone else had spoken what he himself was thinking.

Jesus smiled.

“Frankly, kids, there is no one who has left house and home, or brothers or sisters, or mother and father, or even children or farms for my sake, and for the sake of this gospel, but that he’ll receive a hundred times as much, here and now.  Look at what we have gained by having nothing: Houses, homes, brothers and sisters, and moms and kids and farms.  All these things are ours,” he smiled, “because we don’t own them.  And, yes, persecutions and hardships, too.  But in the age to come, eternal life.”

Jesus still had his eyes on the despondent dandy, and sighed.  “But many who are first now will be last, and the last ones first.”

Judas turned to watch the rich young man, now a distant shape against the sand and the ancient walls of the nearby city, and felt the slightest glow of pride within his chest.  He had given up all these things to follow Jesus.  House and home.  Even the prospect of having his own family was something he was willing to set aside to see this Kingdom come.  And it was true, what they had gained.  People had opened their homes, mothers had fed them and fathers had blessed them and children had followed them. And then, in the age to come, when his people were free...

This camel’s through, he thought.  I’ve given everything for him.  

His fingers played absently at the moneybag hanging from his belt.  


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