Mark 10:17-27 “Through the Eye of a Needle”

By Tommy Glendol McClure

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus be-holding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible (Mark 10:17-27; cf. Matthew 19:16-26; Luke 18:18-30).


During the personal ministry of Jesus, questions were often asked of him by his hearers, disciples, and critics. In response to the rich young ruler’s question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus pointed out the necessity of keeping the Law and because of his love for the young man, he told him the one thing he lacked to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus instructed the young ruler to “go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” The text tells us that this man rejected the instructions he sought from the Good Master ”And he was sad at the saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).

Jesus’ Illustration

Not only did the words of Jesus have a marked impact on the young ruler, but the disciples of Jesus who had witnessed this encounter were astonished at his words as well. Jesus then began to teach the impossibility of one entering heaven who trusts in riches. In verse 23 Jesus said, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” The RSV renders this verse “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Similar language is used also in verse 24. Upon the astonishment of the disciples by this saying, Jesus in verse 25 uses a proverbial statement to illustrate this impossibility by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

The Needle’s Eye

Jesus uses the literal “camel” and the “needle’s eye” (Luke 18:25) to illustrate the absolute impossibility of one entering heaven who trusts in riches. The Greek word rendered “eye” in Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25 is trumalia,..used of the eye of a needle” according to Vine. (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words 404). Some have attempted to soften this saying of Jesus and water it down by saying that the needle’s eye was only referring to a small passage way or small gate. Such a notion is unfounded! Listen to comments of various commentators: Vine says in his note on the word “needle,”  “The idea of applying `the needle’s eye’ to small gates seems to be a modem one; there is no ancient trace of it. The Lord’s object in the statement is to express the human impossibility and there is no need to endeavor to soften the difficulty by taking the needle to mean anything more than the ordinary instrument.” Mackie points out (Hastings’ Bible Dictionary) that “an attempt is sometimes made to ex-plain the words as a reference to the small door, a little over two feet square, in the heavy gate of a walled city. This mars the figure without materially altering the meaning, and receives no justification from the language and traditions of Palestine.” (Ibid., 788). J. W. McGarvey and Phillip Y. Pendelton in the Fourfold Gospel comment, “The needle’s eye here is the literal needle, and the expression was a proverbial one to indicate that which is absolutely impossible. Lord George Nugent (1845-6) introduced the explanation that Jesus referred to the two gates of a city, the large one for beast of burden, and the small one for foot passengers. This smaller one is now called The Needle’s Eye, but there is no evidence whatever that it was so called in our Savior’s time. In fact we have every reason to believe that this smaller gate received its name in late years because of the efforts of those who were endeavoring to soften this saying of Jesus” (547).

These attempts to soften this and other sayings of Jesus is not surprising. What Jesus and the apostles taught as being an impossibility, many religious rebels, renegades and even some of my brethren, try to make a possibility in an effort to justify their lawlessness! The impossibility of putting that camel through the needle’s eye can be set in contrast to other impossibilities we find revealed in the Scriptures!

Other Impossibilities

It is impossible for those who have not been baptized into Christ to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:4, “…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Paul said that “we are buried with him in baptism” (Rom. 6:1-6); that those who “have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Recorded in the book of Acts are those who were baptized in the name of Christ in water  on Pentecost 3000 were baptized (Acts 2:1-47), the Samaritans (8:5-12), Simon (8:13), the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-40), Saul (9:1-18; 22:1-6; 26:12-18), Cornelius and his household (10:1-48; 11:1-17), Lydia and her household (16:14, I5), the Philippian jailer (16:25-40); the Corinthians (18:8). Therefore, those who have not been baptized into Christ have not put on Christ and shall not enter the kingdom of God, denominational and Baptist doctrine notwithstanding!

It is impossible for those involved in religious error to inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus denounced doing things religiously without his authority. He said in Matthew 7:21-23 , “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Jesus also identified the worship of doctrines and commandments of men as vain worship and proclaimed, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:9, 13). Religious error of any kind is iniquity in God’s sight and will prevent those involved in it from entering the kingdom of God. All things must be done by the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17).

It is impossible for those living in an adulterous marriage to enter the Kingdom of God. Many have tried to soften the definite teaching of Jesus on the subject of divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:9 where he said “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Even those who heard Jesus were shocked at this strict law of Jesus. Jesus in this en-counter with the Pharisees reaffirmed Genesis 2:24  one man for one woman for life with one exception for divorce  the innocent party is permitted to put away the guilty mate, only for the cause of fornication! Therefore when one divorces his mate for a cause other that fornication and marries another, he goes to the bed of adultery with the unlawful mate and Paul taught that the adulterer shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4)!

It is impossible for the sexually immoral to enter the kingdom of God. The word “fornication” includes all sexual immorality. This word includes homosexuality, lesbianism, incest, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, whoredom, and adultery. This also includes the ungodly practice of “shacking up” that so many are involved in where a man and woman live together and are joined sexually without being married. Paul condemned those involved in sexual immorality as well as those involved in the list of sins in Romans 1:21-32; cf. Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 6:15-20; and Colossians 3:5, 6.

It is impossible for the liar to enter kingdom of God. John the revelator said “…and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). The lake which burneth with fire and brimstone is far from the kingdom of heaven, it is eternal ruin!

It is impossible for those consumed with worldly pleasures to enter the kingdom of God. Paul said in Philippians 3: I8, 19, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Sadly to say, many brethren are in this condition and this truth can be applied to those brethren who more interested in stuffing the stomach rather than feeding the soul (cf. John 6:26-37).

It is impossible for the covetous person to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus in response to a request to be the divider of an inheritance said to the man who made the request “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Jesus then spake the parable of the rich fool who was not rich toward God, neither cared nor had any concern for his fellow man. He was only interested in keeping all he had and canning all he could get (Luke 12:13-30). Jesus called the man a fool! This man lost his life, favor with God, his soul and all the worldly treasures he laid up for himself. That very night his soul was required and Jesus said in verse 21, “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Are those who are miserly, grudging givers or not givers at all, rich toward God? Would one of this nature be pleasing to God? All people like the rich fool, including covetous brethren, will loose their souls because of the desire of worldly pleasure and desire to satisfy the lusts of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17). Think about it!

It is impossible for the unrighteous or disobedient to enter the kingdom of God. It should be obvious to all who are honestly trying to live a godly life, that the there is no end (ad infinitum) to things that could be mentioned that will keep one from entering the kingdom of God. What about the gossiper (Pss. 16:28; 26:20; Eph. 4:31)? What about the hypocrite (Matt. 23:1-30; Luke 12:2; Jas. 3:17)? What about those negligent in their service to God (Matt. 25:1-3)? What about the rebellious (1 Sam. 15:23)? What about those who engaged in addictive practices such as smoking, drinking alcohol socially, illegal drugs, gambling, and pornography? And what about those with the wrong attitude toward the truth and preachers of it? In Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-19, Paul lists numerous sins that are “works of the flesh.” In answer to his own rhetorical question, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not enter the kingdom of God?”, he answered with the warning, “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9, 10).


Some teach and many are deceived into believing that such people will inherit the kingdom of God. Paul’s teaching says that this notion is not so! The truth is, heaven is reserved only for the obedient child of God whose faith has endured “the trial of fire” (1 Pet. 1:3-9). Let these Apostolic words sink deep into our hearts, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world” (Tit. 2:11, 12). To attempt to put the ungodly, the disobedient, the alien sinner, or an erring brother into the eternal kingdom of God (heaven), is like trying to put that camel “through the eye of the needle.” An Impossibility! “Be not deceived” my friends and brethren!

Guardian of Truth XLI: 10 p. 20-22
April May 1, 1997