Seeing What Is
Based on Luke 24:36-48, Acts 3:12-19, 1John 3:1-7
There are times when we have difficulty seeing what is right in front of us. I suspect that everyone has had a time or two (or more) where they had misplaced something and had looked everywhere only to find the item in plain sight. The cause of this is often that we convince ourselves that the thing which had been misplaced is in some other location than it actually resides. Case-in-point, many folks who don’t wear glasses all the time will place them on their head, get busy doing something and then realize they need their glasses and forget where they put them! The knowing chuckles tell me that this is a common occurrence. Our minds convince us to see and believe what it wants us to see rather than seeing what is.
We all have “blind spots” – things that our minds convince us to see and believe that are different than what is actually present. The discipline of Psychology has much to teach us about understanding how our minds affect what we see and how we make decisions. Marketers, politicians and people in leadership positions will often use the way our minds work to get us to do what they want. Our minds are adept at using work arounds or short cuts (termed heuristics) to make complex problems simpler. These heuristics allow our minds to focus on something familiar in the complex issue confronting us while ignoring other pieces of information. In many cases this is a good thing and helps us solve problems. At other times, these short cuts can mislead us or allow us to be manipulated into perceiving only a fraction of the complete picture. How we “see” something influences how we recognize and respond to a person or situation that is right in front of us.
Our scriptures all speak about seeing and understanding what it is that we see. From the Disciples seeing the resurrected Jesus and thinking that He is a ghost, to the writer of 1John talking about how God will reveal what we will be, to the Israelites who stared in astonishment at Peter after he healed a man lame from birth. When we look out through worldly eyes, we see as the world sees. When we look out at the world with the eyes of Jesus, we see the world as God knows it really is. Let us go to God now in prayer that we might develop the eyes, mind and heart to recognize Jesus in the people we see…
Our Epistle reading begins with these words, “…See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are….” The writer wants all who hear his letter to realize what is right in front of their faces – something critical they are not seeing; something important they are not acknowledging. The writer goes on to say that we who know Jesus and who abide in Him will be like Him when He is finally revealed to the world. We should let no one in the world deceive us on this point. When we see and accept ourselves as beloved children of God, then we learn to see things like God’s Son, Jesus.
Peter has performed his first miracle in the name of Jesus the Christ, healing a man lame from birth. We pick up the story after the man leapt into the Temple praising God. Peter gets incensed by the crowd standing around gawking at them and tells them that it wasn’t he who cured the man, but rather the power of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What they have seen, Peter tells them, is the power of the One God enacted through God’s resurrected Son, Jesus. Believing in the name of Jesus has made this man strong and returned him to health, says Peter. Believe what you have seen and repent of your sins.
Our Gospel reading is from the very end of the Gospel according to Luke. Cleopas and others have just had their Emmaus road experience with the risen Christ and they are back reporting to the rest of the disciples. While they were talking about Jesus, He shows up in their midst spreading peace. The text tells us that when they saw Him they were “startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost”. Jesus calls them back to themselves by seeing Him as He is – not in the way that their minds attempted to make sense of it. He has them touch Him and He eats a piece of broiled fish to help them all understand that He is real and not an apparition. He tells them that they are witnesses to all that He has done through fulfilling all that was written – including His resurrection.
The Bible tells us many times how it is that we need to change the way we think, see, hear and love. This is what it means to repent – to give up our “normal” way of thinking, seeing, hearing and decisions on who and how to love. Living life as Easter people means that we allow ourselves to be open to the transforming power of God’s love. In this way, just as God transformed traumatic death into new life, so we as God’s beloved children can be transformed into the mind and heart of Jesus. We can be truly and completely saved! Jesus’ post-resurrection stories in Matthew, Luke and John help us to see this possibility to be transformed is right in front of us – why are we not recognizing it?
Maybe we’re like the Disciples or the men on the Emmaus Road. Jesus had just popped in and out of Cleopas’ life on the road to Emmaus. Cleopas and his companion were so blinded by their grief and loss that they didn’t see Jesus until He did something that they knew only he could do (broke bread). Jesus used that action to make clear that His presence was what was bringing God’s kingdom to all humanity. Those gathered at table were only then able to recognize that God’s Messiah was right in front of their faces. Even though these Disciples said they desired the kingdom of God to come they were not able to perceive and accept the form in which it came. They had made up their minds about what God’s kingdom would and should look like. Their unwillingness to reconsider what they understood God should or would do to save God’s chosen, blinded them from being able to recognize Jesus as their Messiah (pre-and post-resurrection). Jesus says to them, I am right here but you still can’t see me as I am, making the point that God’s kingdom is received by those with open hearts, minds and eyes.
Developing the ability for seeing what is, instead of some false construction of our minds, is what our journey toward salvation is all about. Identifying our biases and the false narratives and prophets which mislead and deceive us is a full-time job for us disciples. We find our way to the real and the healing by putting away those persons or tropes that deny the humanity and divinity of every person and part of God’s creation. We learn to recognize Jesus in the face of the stranger, the marginalized, the oppressed, the unbeliever and the person who calls themselves a follower of Jesus even though they neither talk nor behave like Him. We have to remove the log from our own eyes before we can bring these others into focus. For while we still cling to our exclusionary and unwelcoming biases towards other children of God, we will never be able to see what is…that Jesus is inside them just like He is inside us.
Jesus speaks to His disciples about peace in a place and time that knew only war, occupation and subjugation. We live in a very similar world – except that we are citizens of the empire that is continuing to make war, occupy and subjugate. Even so, Jesus is trying every day to walk with us on our journeys, speaking to us and attempting to open our minds so that we can understand what has been written about Him in our scriptures. Jesus knows that we continue to see and act out of our ignorance along with our rulers – just like in Jerusalem in Peter’s time. Jesus wants us to understand that we are beloved children of God and that we are surrounded by beloved children of God. Jesus wants us to see what is – a glorious creation made especially for us that contains an abundance for all – if we would just see our sins and repent and believe the good news.
Being a disciple of Jesus the Christ means that we have to question all of what we think we see and know. A seminary professor of mine liked to say that following Jesus means that we have to learn how to see everything in the light of the Resurrected One. This requires that we spend a lot more time with our Bibles and a lot less time on social media and opinion shows. It means that we need to spend a lot more time with each other really seeing one another as God sees us. Seeing what is, instead of what has been constructed by the powers of the world takes time, patience and the grace of Almighty God. May you go from here and learn from God how to see what is. Amen and amen!