[From the archives.]
Did you know there were prehistoric camels even bigger than the ones roaming around the desert today? And the didn’t roam the deserts; they roamed the arctic. The earth was warmer then so, as this picture suggests, they might have lived among the pines there in northern climes.
As sometimes happens, finding the article on huge forest dwelling camels came about the same time I watched a movie about camels too. At least, I think Lawrence of Arabia was about camels, because they were all over the place.
I can’t really tell you much about the movie except that it’s one of those everyone always told me I should see, and it’s also one of the longest snorefests in cinematic history. Boring, not much of a script for dialog, wooden acting from a few people who can do better, and – did I already say this? – boring.
A Camel of Any Size
One thing that movie proves, though, is that camels are huge. They have to kneel down for someone to climb into the saddle; none of that foot-in-stirrup-swing-yourself-up stuff like on a horse. And I’ve been to zoos where they have young camels and even those are impressively sized, about 4 feet tall at birth.
No wonder Jesus used the camel for reference when he talked about fitting through the eye of a needle.
It came up when a rich young man asked Jesus how to earn eternal life. Jesus told him to sell all he had and give it away to the poor, which was too much for the guy to take. He walked away sad, but still he walked away from God. Then Jesus then told his friends that it was hard for the rich to enter God’s kingdom. They didn’t understand.
You see, to their way of thinking being wealthy was a sign that you are in God’s favor, that he is blessing you because you deserve his blessing. Jesus didn’t back off a bit, though, stating even more strongly:
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. (Mark 10:25.)
What an image. Can you imagine someone walking into the house and getting a needle, then stepping back outside to the camel pens and holding the eye of the needle up to see which camel was most likely to fit through it?
“Nope, not that one. Not that one either. Hmm, I don’t think any of these camels will fit through this thing!”
This story isn’t about being generous with our riches and providing for the poor, though. Remember what the young man asked? He wanted to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by saying it would take more than he could ever do.
It’s too bad he didn’t stick around for the Q & A session that followed that conversation. If he had, he’d have heard the bit about the camel, and this immediate follow-up between Jesus and his friends:
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:26-27.)
The word “impossible” is hard to miss; it’s huge and powerful, just like a camel. But Jesus says there is someone even more powerful, God.
What can people do to be saved? Nothing. How can people then be saved? By God, the one who makes all things possible. Here’s how it happened: when we were spiritually dead in sin – and you know the dead do not raise themselves – God himself gave us life.
God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions … . For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9.)
What is impossible for us to do for ourselves, God did for us.
What wonderful saving grace.