Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For 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." Luke 18:24-25. The disciples responded to Jesus’ above statement by saying “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:26). I don’t think we should believe that they are asking this question out of concern for the souls of the rich. Rather, what they are asking is “if the rich cannot enter the Kingdom of God with their riches, how will any of us get saved? If we lay down our advantages at the door, who will protect us from those who seek advantage over us?!” This lack of concern for the souls of the rich is evident in the crowd’s response to Jesus presence in the house of the rich man, Zacchaeus, in the next chapter. “He has gone to spend time with a proper old sinner!” Luke 19:7. Of course, the difference is that this particular wealthy person was a traitor to the nation who gained his wealth by collecting taxes for the pagan oppressors and by filling his pockets with extorted money from his own countrymen! Nevertheless, the point still stands that the crowd was not concerned with the soul of Zacchaeus. Nobody was asking how poor, lost, Zacchaeus was going to get saved. It is consistent then to imagine that their question “who can be saved?” Was not a concern for the individual who is wealthy but rather a general concern for the nation. “How will we pull off this revolution without the aid of the rich?” Jesus’ answer is in effect: wait and see. "What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27). This is very similar to Jesus’ statement that what is considered “honorable to men, God calls dishonorable.” (Luke 16:15).Many people would have seen that riches were a sign of God’s favor. Wasn’t Abraham, the patriarch of Israel, made rich by God? Weren’t King David and King Solomon blessed with wealth and abundance because of their allegiance to God? Didn’t God cause Israel to inherit a land flowing with milk and honey by driving out the pagan nations that lived there before them? Wouldn't He do it again? Isn’t material wealth then a sign of God’s favor? And if rich people were not allowed to use their advantage to improve their situation and the situation of the nation, how could anyone be saved from their overlords? This is something like what was going through the minds of those in the crowds following Jesus, I surmise.
So, in this next story, when we meet, Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector, who gives away his advantage in response to the grace of Jesus, Jesus then declares that “salvation has come to this house!” (Luke 19:9). As this rich man gives away his advantages, he is personally saved from sin, corruption and death, and Israel herself is delivered from an oppressor. The disciples declared this impossible, and Jesus has just accomplished it. At least, at a small level. The battle for the salvation of Israel from her oppressors was still waiting to be fought. But this was a sign in the present that the future battle was going to be victorious. The rich man gives away his advantage and the nation finds salvation. This is yet another sign of Jesus' inside/out, upside/down, kingdom being brought into reality on earth as it is in heaven. And it is a manifestation of Jesus' promise and warning when he said, "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses it will preserve it." Luke 17:33. A rich man cannot enter the kingdom of God without surrendering his or her status and advantage to Jesus. But they can indeed be saved, and so can the rest of us, because we don't need their riches. All we need, we have in Christ.