Why did Jesus suggest that we should picture stuffing a camel through the eye of a needle? When He tells us a parable, it's usually "cue the sheep!"
In a post in a great Evangelical Christian blog called From The Morning, the blogger was talking about his reaction to Joel Osteen, the ubiquitous TV preacher and author. The comment thread drifted, as they are wont to do, and someone made reference to Jesus' parable to the rich man found in Luke 18:18-27 (and elsewhere).
In it, He looked at the rich man, obedient to the Law, who was truly asking what he could do to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven and, loving him, replied "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
God knows we're sheeplike: we huddle together, we're kind of stupid when we all think together, we can be picked off by a host of Enemies. The Old Testament promised a Messiah who will "feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young." (Isaiah 40:11)
So why didn't He give us the mental picture of passing a sheep through a needle's eye? If you picked up a sheep and told it you were going to insert it into an impossibly small aperture, the sheep would probably blink earnestly and say "duh, uh, okeydokey." It might even attempt to help, not being overloaded with brains.
But no, we are given the picture of a camel. A hard-footed, mean, biting, kicking, smelly, spitting, stubborn, uncooperative and unreliable animal. Camels never dash into burning buildings to bark the families awake. Camels never curl up around lost children and keep them warm in the winter's blast. They have nothing to recommend them but strength, stamina and a kind of grisly courage.
My heart IS that camel. Rebellious, selfish, greedy, uncooperative. I don't so much lead it gently as I haul it around, snorting and protesting and pulling against the lead every chance available. Just when I thought I was getting to be a pretty cute Christian, too.
Great story, Lord.