If there was ever a chapter in the Bible about seeing things clearly it is Mark 8. The chapter starts with feeding the 4000 which is followed up by a misunderstanding by Jesus’ disciples about his statement warning them against “the yeast of the Pharisees.” In that section, Jesus warns them about having eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear. That is followed up by Jesus’ double healing of the man born blind which is followed up by Peter’s confession of Jesus as messiah. The entire chapter is about seeing things clearly.
Not only is Mark 8 about seeing things clearly but about the discrepancy between Jesus’ vision and their vision. Jesus’ statement about the yeast of the Pharisees is double entendre…it is a statement that has two levels of meaning. The person with deep spiritual insight (eyes to see) would understand Jesus. The disciples aren’t there yet. The same with declaring Jesus as Messiah. They see that is true but don’t see it as clearly as Jesus, which we find out a few verses later because once Jesus tells them exactly what that means (that he will suffer and die) Peter rebukes him.
Jesus saw everything with intense spiritual clarity and he was training his disciples to be able to do so as well. If you want to see clearly by developing eyes that see what is really real, then you have to follow Jesus for a while. Watch what he does. Listen to what he says. Most importantly, look for something in particular. Look for those moments when Jesus sees an entire situation so much differently than everyone else around him.
Let’s look at two instances where that is the case and notice the difference between Jesus’ eyes and everyone else.
The first example is found in Luke 19:1-10 and it is the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus. Notice the differences between Jesus’ perception and the perception of the crowd.
“He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
The first thing you notice about the onlookers (19:7) is that they grumble about this. Listen to how they understand what just happened – He (Jesus) has gone to be a guest of a “sinner”. They depersonalize Zacchaeus. He is an object to them. They all know his name. They all live in his town. They have all had their taxes collected by either him or his minions for some time. It is Jesus who is new in town and it is Jesus who calls him by name. Jesus personalizes him. Where others see fault and find judgment Jesus sees a son of Abraham named Zacchaeus and finds grace.
May we be the people who stand against the muttering of the crowd. May we recognize the vulnerability of those who are objectified by the world around us and show the kind of grace that someone in such a situation truly needs.
The woman in John 8:
We see something remarkably similar in John 8 with the woman caught in adultery,
“1 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” – John 8:1-11
What do the scribes and Pharisees say about her? She was caught (notice not “they” but “she”)…in the very act (which reminds us they know who the man is and could have easily caught him too if justice and law following was the motivation)…the law says stone her but what do you say?
You know, it is always easier to stone an object than a person.
Jesus doesn’t see an object. He sees a woman. My guess is he knows her name. What is more, the stereotypical image of the woman being thrown at Jesus’ feet doesn’t match the description in John 8. She stands before Jesus and it is Jesus who bends down to the ground…twice. What is truly amazing is that Jesus doesn’t even objectify her accusers. He humanizes them as well – let the one who has no sin throw the first stone. Jesus doesn’t even point his finger at them but says to them exactly what they need to hear in order to make this woman come to life before their very eyes as a real person who is dearly loved.
You know, Jesus loves the grumblers too.
Like with Zacchaeus…Jesus saw a vulnerable person and Jesus knew exactly what to do in a moment like that and if we want eyes like Jesus we will learn to do this too – he extended grace. He extended grace without condoning her actions.
Last, notice how unselfish Jesus was. It could be quite tempting to think of how to leverage these people to make yourself look good. Jesus never made himself look good at the expense of others but a lot of us struggle with that temptation. It boils down to an eyesight problem – that we aren’t seeing people with the right kind of eyes when we do that. Some of us are addicts when it comes to figuring out how to use situations and even people to our advantage. Jesus didn’t see a need to do that because Jesus saw people as too important to do such a thing to them and with them. When you see people as people you don’t do things like that.
Oh, to see as Jesus saw…to develop eyes that discern both discretion and grace…justice and mercy…the value of a human life and the power of forgiveness…that is what we strive for. Let us have the eyes to see as Jesus saw and to learn exactly how it is developed within us by spending more time with the Lord.