Luke 18: 31-19:10 We have wood floors in our house. When I have not swept the floors in awhile, I can clearly see the dust collection on the second floor as I am rising up the steps and the dust comes right at my eye level for a moment, particularly in the mid morning when the sun rays are pointing straight at the dust. I can only ignore it so long before I have to get out the broom. But there are plenty of times I go up those stairs and don’t see it at all— I might be in a hurry, I might be focused on something else, it might be cloudy or dark.
There are times when something is right in front of us but we still don’t see it. How many times have you looked for those keys or that wallet that you set down somewhere different? They are sitting right there but you don’t see them. Or looked for something in the grocery store and walked right by it several times before you notice it on the shelf?
Then there could be something that is obvious to others and not to you. When you look at these two friends who go to school together in Louisville, KY, most of us see a black boy and a white boy who clearly love being together. Jax is on the left and Reddy is on the right. The boys don’t see differences in their skin color. They see their only difference as their hair styles. So when it was time for a haircut, Jax wanted the same hair cut as his friend Reddy so they could trick their teacher. He figured she would not be able to tell the difference between them if they had matching haircuts—she might think Jax was Reddy and Reddy was Jax. The friends see what really counts—a classmate they love being with. They don’t see what doesn’t matter. What the boys see and don’t see is a glimmer of hope in a world filled with bias and discrimination based on what we see.
What we see and what we don’t see makes a big difference. Our scripture from Luke today touches on three different ways of seeing…the first is seeing as understanding. We use it that way all the time. Oh, I see. I get it. I understand. Or, I’m not seeing it. It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t get it. The disciples couldn’t see the big picture. The images in their minds of what the future would be like with Jesus did not match up with the images Jesus was dumping on them: mocking, insulting, spitting, beating and killing. It sounded either like a horror movie or the 6 o’clock news. They were not seeing it. They were looking for Jesus to triumph over the Romans and usher in a whole new era in Jerusalem. Wasn’t that why they were headed up the road to Jerusalem anyway?
The disciples couldn’t see. Or refused to see. Or were kept from seeing. What they didn’t see left them in the dark when it came to the end.
Then the second reference to seeing is an actual blind man who physically can not see. This is before Braille and audio books. In his society, he is reduced to begging, for there really is no other way to feed himself and his family. Jesus and the disciples are on the way to Jerusalem, passing through Jericho first. The blind man is sitting by the side of the road, crying repeatedly for Jesus to show him mercy. Some of those walking with Jesus tried to shush him, to keep Jesus from being bothered. Jesus was headed to Jerusalem. He could have ignored the man. But Jesus chooses to stop and wants to see the blind man. The blind man wants to see. He is tired of living in the dark, depending on others, being pushed to the side, not knowing what is going on.
Imagine how he must have responded when his eyes were opened and the first one he sees is Jesus, the sight giver. Could their eyes have met, one set filled with care and one set filled with gratitude? Eyes making a connection that would change things from here on out. The once-blind man follows Jesus, praising God. Then the people who saw the healing respond with praise. Grace is poured out and life changes. Until Jesus stops, the man is blind. Until Jesus sees him, the man is blind. Until Jesus brings sight, the man is blind. Until the man can see, the people are blind to the real power of God in this man Jesus.
Then a third reference to sight is via the wee little man, Zacchaeus. Those of us who are on the taller end of the spectrum can not really appreciate the difficulty a shorter person has in seeing over the heads of a crowd at a parade, or of a taller person in church or at the movies. Zacchaeus could not see because he was too short. But he also did not see that he was living an immoral life of theft and deception. He was a chief tax collector, meaning he skimmed funds off the incomes of the tax collectors below him, tax collectors who had already extorted funds from regular everyday citizens. Luke makes sure to tell us that he was rich. If we read much of Luke’s gospel we see that in Luke’s mind, being rich is a handicap to understanding a relationship with God. Riches can blind us and keep us from really seeing.
Zacchaeus is short and rich. He really can not see. Jesus is passing through Jericho now, still on his way to Jerusalem. Zacchaeus is in the tree. He wants to see Jesus. And Jesus stops. Their eyes meet and Jesus invites himself for dinner. To the home of someone like Zacchaeus. It is a shock to the crowd, causing some of that typical grumbling under the breath: “he’s gone to be the guest of a sinner.” No one would have expected Jesus to stop and interact with the crooked little man in the tree, let alone plan to visit him in his home! Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus is an eye-opener. Their eyes meet—one set filled with fear and one set filled with care. Now Zacchaeus sees the way he has been living is not God’s way. He is ready to repay those he stole from AND give donations to those in need. It may or may not have been a hardship for him. Perhaps he can spare it. But the eye contact makes a change that will have an impact from here on out. Jesus sees him for who he is at that moment and he still reaches out to him. The pattern continues. Remember the man filled with demons on the other side of the lake? Remember the woman called a sinner who washed his feet? Remember the blind beggar on the road? Grace poured out. Grace poured out and renewal and rebirth in response. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. Little did he know what would happen when Jesus saw him!
Like hearing, seeing is a way we connect to God. Another part of God-Sense. Not nonsense. God-Sense is being aware of how we use our senses to relate to God. Seeing is crucial to our connection to God. Physical seeing, intellectual “seeing”, emotional “seeing”, moral “seeing”, spiritual “seeing”. Eye to eye. Eye to creation. Eye to family. Eye to stranger. Eye to community. Eye to _________. You fill in the blank as to where you look in order to see God.
How are you making eye contact with God? How are you keeping your eyes open to see God in the world around you? Was it the full moon on a clear, cold night? Was it the smile in the eyes of your grandchild? Was it the co-worker who took time to listen? Was it the boys who are sure they look alike when they wear the same haircut? Keep your eyes open. As you do, you are telling God, ‘I want to see’. You may be surprised at what comes into focus, at what you see, at who you see, at how you see. You may be surprised when God is looking you in the eye!