There is a debate going on among scholars whether it really said “camel” or rather “rope” – both words (κάμηλος/kámêlos for camel and κάμιλος/kamilos for rope) are very close to each other and might have been mistranslated. There are some early bible translations in other languages (such as Aramaic) which adhere to the translation as “rope passing through the eye of a needle” (which makes more sense) and it has been brought forward as early as the 6th century in Orthodox christian theology.
On Mount Athos, Elders from ancient times (tradition says that the Holy Mountain dates from St. Constantine the Great, while the most ancient evidence dates at least from times of Theodosius the Great) till nowadays say that it is about κάμιλος/kamilos meaning a rope.
There is a strong tradition about this and it can be described somewhat like this: at the first sight, a rich person can enter in the kingdom of God, why couldn’t he? He is a man after all like others and the kingdom of Heaven is for men (and women). In the same manner, at the first sight, a rope can enter through the eye of a needle, why couldn’t it? It is „yet another type” of string/fiber and in fact the needle is made for this purpose.
Jesus did not made jokes.
He wanted to say that in practice the difference between theory and practice is much bigger than it appears to be.
Earthly things with their dim light deceive us from the bright light of true knowledge of God.
Based on Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, St. Dyonisius the Aeropagite
In this photo, a monk is setting in motion the main chandelier in the Vatopaidi’s Katholikon, Mount Athos.