The Power to See
How many of you trust your eyesight? Can we really trust our eyesight? Can two people look at the same object and see something different? Can they both be right? Let’s find out. Show PowerPoint images.
What word do you see – good or evil?
Do you see the word you or me?
Count the black dots in the picture.
Is this picture in motion?
How many legs does this elephant have?
Do you still trust your eyesight? We are trained to see things in a particular way. We are trained to see the world, to see people – to see everything – a particular way. We are a combination of influences that give us a lens through which we see everything, and those influences control how we see the world and how we see others. And here is the really scary part – most of the time we aren’t even aware we are being conditioned to see the world and people a particular way.
When we approach the gospels, we find that Jesus was constantly working to help his followers “see” in a different way. Jesus was constantly working to enable his followers to move beyond the way they had been conditioned to see the world and people so they could understand the world and people in a new way.
The teachings of Jesus sounded radical then, and still do, because of the way people are conditioned to see the world. To teach, for example, that a person should love their enemies (Matthew 5:44) was – and still is – very radical because people are conditioned to treat their enemies in a very different manner. Telling people to store up their treasures in heaven rather than on earth (Matthew 6:19-20) was – and still is – very radical because people are conditioned to think of their treasure in a very different way.
The disciples are often portrayed as being rather slow to understand the teachings of Jesus; if they understood him at all. In Mark’s gospel, for example, we find the disciples puzzling over the parable of the sower (Mark 4:9-13). The disciples were often left puzzling at the things Jesus said and did because their way of seeing everything kept them from understanding what Jesus was trying to teach them.
We are in danger of the same inability to see what Jesus is trying to teach us. We are people living in a particular time and place and the influences of our time and place get in the way of our being able to see, and perceive, and understand.
So much of Scripture centers on God working to help people to see. Abraham was presented a vision of faith that he could not always see. Moses was presented with a vision of a people that he could not always see. When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him (Matthew 4:18-22) he presented them with a way to “see” others; they were called to be fishers of men.
Matthew records this story of two blind men who call out to Jesus as he and his disciples were leaving the city of Jericho. A large crowd followed him and two men who were blind shout out over the noise and clamor of the crowd. Lord, Son of David, they shout, have mercy on us! The crowd rebukes them and told them to be quiet but the men shout even louder.
Here is the classic contrast the gospels show us. A large crowd of people gathers around Jesus, with everyone desperate to see him and to be near him. On the surface it all looks great. Who wouldn’t want to see a large crowd gathering around Jesus? Wouldn’t we want a really large crowd following Jesus?
But there’s a problem – for all their physical proximity to Jesus the crowd is far from him spiritually. Why is the crowd far from Jesus spiritually? Because they couldn’t see these two men the way Jesus saw them. The crowd sought to silence the two blind men, but Jesus picked them out of the crowd.
The crowd was unable to see what Jesus saw – the crowd saw two men who should be quieted but Jesus saw two men in need. Verse 34 says Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
If you want to be like Jesus, you have to learn to see like Jesus, and the crowd was unable to do so. The crowd couldn’t see these two men and their need, so they failed to have compassion. Compassion. The gospels often use this word in relation to Jesus. Matthew 9:36 says when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 8:2 records Jesus saying I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.
Compassion. I wonder how it is that some churches, clamoring just like this crowd to be close to Jesus, fail to see those who need compassion. I wonder how it is that some churches, professing to be like Jesus are actually like this crowd, shouting down those who need to be touched by the compassion of Jesus. I wonder how it is that some churches, like this crowd, are actually keeping people from Jesus rather than bringing them closer to Jesus.
Can we trust our eyesight? Has our vision been so conditioned by the world around us that we are unable to see need surrounding us? Have we become so accustomed to the many voices that we hear shouting in our world that we are unable to hear the voices of those in need who are calling to us? May God give us The Power to See.