the Hardness of the Way

Children, how hard is it!
— St. Mark 10:24

Take then the Lord’s words: “Children, how hard is it to enter into the kingdom of God!” It is quite like his way of putting things. Calling them first to reflect on the difficulty for every man of entering into the kingdom of God, he reasserts in yet stronger phrase the difficulty of the rich man: “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” It always will be hard to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is hard even to believe that one must be born from above—must pass into a new and unknown consciousness. The ceremonial Christian and the law-faithful Jew both shrink from the self-annihilation, the life of grace and truth, the all-embracing love that fills the law full and sets it aside. They cannot accept a condition of being as in itself eternal life. And hard to believe in, this life, this kingdom of God, this simplicity of absolute existence, is hard to enter. How hard? As hard as the Master could find words to express: “If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not…his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” And the rich man must find it harder than another to hate his own life. None can know how difficult it is to enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who have tried—tried hard, and have not ceased to try. Let any tell me of peace, of joy unspeakable as the instant result of the new birth; I deny no such statement. All I care to say is, that, if by salvation they mean less than absolute oneness with God, I count it no salvation, neither would be content with it if it included every joy in the heaven of their best imagining.

Commentary

by Dale Darling

Rather than "cannot accept a condition of being as in itself eternal life," people one at a time will not accept that condition. Even though the ceremonial person will repeat by rote the Lord's prayer: Thy will be done, the words slide by in the mist of essential selfishness: the presumptuous sin. We often prefer darkness to light because our deeds, the love of self beyond our meager imagining of the kingdom of God, are evil.

In Donal Grant, MacDonald writes what at first glance seems to be a sort of throwaway sentence; it continues to haunt me; I yearn to know it. The sentence is something like this, "His friend, Sir Gibbie, had learned to live in the eternal present."

The essence of the proclamation: live in the eternal present, is the message MacDonald preaches, teaches, illuminates in poetry and novels, encourages and exhorts his readers to know and embrace. We must accept, by faith in grace by God's mercy, the condition of being: being of I Am, as in itself eternal life.

Perhaps the most difficult encumbrance to cast off is self admiration, self worth, self worship: self. All became primary for Adam and Eve after they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They did surely die. The manifestation of death was the knowledge of self bereft of God.

Who shall set me free? Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ my Lord!