Jesus and the Kingdom

By Thabo Makgoba

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 18:15-30

15 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16 But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother.’” 21 He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, 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.”

26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”

28 Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”


Today’s gospel reading begins on a note similar to yesterday’s: Jesus modelling a faith in which the kingdom of God is only for those who are prepared to receive it in a humble and receptive frame of mind — a kingdom both for children and the childlike.

Then, responding to the rich ruler, Jesus penetratingly turns the question back on the questioner: Does he know what he really means when he uses the word “good” indiscriminately? Responding to the ruler citing the fact that he follows the commandments, Jesus probes more deeply and challenges him to abandon that which prevents him from throwing in his lot with Jesus and becoming a disciple.

The man’s unwillingness to rise to that challenge points to a dilemma familiar to those of us living in relative material wealth in 21st century consumer societies: how can we say we truly love our neighbor and through love of neighbor demonstrate our love for Jesus when we are trapped by our comfort and our possessions?

The metaphor of the camel and the eye of a needle does not simply refer to worldly riches, but to any situation in which we outwardly conform with God’s law but are hindered from truly following it by our other allegiances.

Although we cannot overcome our sinful hearts, we can trust in God to intervene to save us if we respond to his call. We can be confident in Jesus’ promise that those who are prepared to make the sacrifices demanded of us by following the path of discipleship will receive far greater blessings both now in the fellowship of God’s people and in the world to come.

The Most Rev. Dr. Thabo Makgoba is Archbishop of the Diocese of Capetown, South Africa; metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Southern Africa; and chancellor of the University of the Western Cape.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Ibadan North (Church of Nigeria)
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