Critical Hours
Mark 12:34
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said to him, You are not far from the kingdom of God…

The kingdom of heaven is a certain condition of the human soul. Christ stands contrasted with the condition of selfishness, vulgarity, animalism. See how it comes directly out of the controversy here: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." The superior love of God is what we mean by spirituality — the fulness of thought, imagination, and feeling in the direction of the Infinite. We know how men divide themselves up, and live under the dominant influence of certain parts or faculties of their nature. One man lives under the dominion of his passions; another class of men build themselves into a power in which property and collateral influences shall be central. These dominant states in which men dwell will give us an idea of what it is to be in that condition in which Christ says men are not far from the kingdom of heaven. When a man has attained the higher spiritual state, then he is in the kingdom of God. Then his mind becomes luminous. The man comes into union with God, and discerns truths which in his lower state he never could discern. When, therefore, a man is said to be not far from the kingdom of God, he is where he can easily enter into these higher perceptions and conditions. There are a great many persons who are bordering on the kingdom of heaven even in this life. There are luminous hours given to most men, and especially to men of large brain and intelligence. Persons in vulgar conditions of life have certain hours given to them which they do not understand, but which render them susceptible of being drawn into the kingdom of heaven.

1. There are hours of vision in which men are under the direct stimulus of the preached truth.

2. Sometimes the same result is produced because they have seen the truth embodied somewhere. A man goes to a funeral, and comes home and says, "That was a great man; I wish I were like him. I wish I were living on a higher plane."

3. There are times of awakening that are the result of great sorrows and affliction in some natures. When men see how uncertain is everything that pertains to life, they say, "I ought to have an anchor within the veil."

4. When men are in great distress in their social relations there is oftentimes a luminous hour. I do not say that if men neglect the first impulse to change their course they will never have another; the mercy of God calls a great many times; but very likely they will not have another that is so influential. If, however, in such hours of disclosure, hours of influence, hours in which everything urges him toward a nobler and a better life, a man would ratify his impulse to go forward, even though at first he stagger on the journey, he would not be far from the kingdom of God; but if he waits, you may be sure that these hours will pass away and be submerged. That is where the real force comes in. All the civilized world sent out men to take an observation of the transit of Venus; and when the conjunction came it was indispensably necessary to the success of the undertaking that the very first contact should be observed. An astronomer who had devoted six months to preparation, and has gone out to take this observation, eats a heavy dinner and takes copious draughts of liquid to wash it down, and lies down, saying, "Call me at the proper time," and goes to sleep; and by and by he is waked up and is told, "The planet approaches," and, half conscious, he turns over and says, "Yes, yes, yes, I will attend to it; but I must finish my nap first;" and before he is aware of it the thing is all over, and he has thrown away the pains he has taken to prepare himself. It was important that he should be on hand to take the observation on the second; and the whole failed, so far as he was concerned, for want of precise accuracy. A little girl sickened and died. She might have recovered; for the nature of the disease was such that if it had been watched, and if stimulants had been applied at the critical moment, they would have been like oil in a half or wholly exhausted lamp. But this was not known, and the child slept, and the caretaker thought the sleep was all right, and it slept itself out of life. The child might have been alive, walking and talking with us today, if it had not been for that. There are such critical moments as those, and they are occurring in human experience everywhere — in health, in sickness, in business, in pleasure, in love, in political affairs, in all the congeries of circumstances in which men live and move.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

WEB: When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." No one dared ask him any question after that.

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