In Luke 18:24-25, after his interaction with the rich (young) ruler, Jesus declares,
24 … How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
It is difficult, but not impossible, because, as Jesus points out, in v.27,
What is impossible with man is possible with God.
In Luke 19, we get an example.
He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
For the rich ruler in the last chapter, eternal life was something of an ambition. It was a goal he hoped to achieve. “What would it take for me to get it?” He asked, assuming there was some particular effort or accomplishment from his side that would merit such a prize. When Jesus challenged him to give up his possessions, he became sad. He never saw that coming.
We might suppose the ruler’s riches were, in his mind, a sign of his virtue. He was either from a well-bred, respectable family or had earned his way to riches through honest work and astute business acumen. Satisfied with the status he enjoyed, he saw eternal life as the same sort of thing. “Good people like me are rewarded by God, ” was the basis of his religious and ethical philosophy. This is really the opposite of grace and is an outlook which leaves no room for repentance.
Zacchaeus is different. He seems to value Jesus more than anything else. Being short and unable to see the Savior, he is content to climb a tree to get a glimpse of him. Jesus freely offering to come to his house is a completely unmerited blessing. Without any prompting, he intuitively grasps that his dishonest gains are an issue. This is “fruit in keeping with repentance” as John the Baptist might have called it. The greedy, wealthy swindler has become generous. A rich man has entered the kingdom.