Posts Tagged With: eyes

Luke 21: Watch Out!

This chapter and its parallel in Matthew 24 are just flat complicated passages.  I remember as a high school senior sitting in Bible class with a very insightful and even-keeled teacher trying to sort out the exact ins and outs of this passage.  We were not very successful.  What pertains to the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple to Rome in AD 70?  What is talking about the return of Jesus sometime in the future?  Did they think both would happen simultaneously?  Was Jesus using the same techniques the Old Testament prophets like Daniel did in which they conflated several events together that though spaced out over hundreds of years would end up being fulfilled in very similar ways?  And none of these questions get into the millennial madness the “Left Behind” folks can do with a passage like this.

I had more questions that answers back then.  I have reread this passage many times since then, and I still have more questions than answers.

But here is what I know.  The most important part of the chapter is not the identification and timing of the events mentioned in this chapter.  What is most imperative to hear and understand is the way Jesus ends this teaching:

So watch out for yourselves that your hearts may not grow heavy with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life, so that that day comes upon you suddenly, like a trap.  It will come, you see, on everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Keep awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will happen, and to stand before the son of man. (21:34-36)

Jesus is coming again.  The Kingdom will come in fulness.  There is judgment ahead.  There are bleak days ahead too, this passage seems to imply (though, lest we blindly adopt some tribulation concept, when has that not been true?)  Our job in the midst of all of this is to watch our hearts and make our hearts ready, much more than it is to watch the news headlines for clues of the second coming (besides Jack Van Impe has that one covered!)  More tragic than blind eyes that cannot read the “sign of the times” is a calloused, worldly heart that is not ready for the real life that is to come.

Jesus mentions three stumbling blocks to watchfulness in this passage:

Dissipation: According to the World English Dictionary, one “dissipates” by living a life of excessive indulgence in physical pleasures, especially things that are expensive, wasteful, and distracting.  Maybe that vacation we couldn’t really afford because we just had to “get away from it all?”  But is this also the mind candy of the multi-billion dollar entertainment and celebrity industry so that our hearts long to be like them, look like them, and live like them?  Dissipation makes the heart less sensitive.

Drunkenness: Literally, this means to be of altered mind because of alcohol.  But why do people drink?  Lots of reasons.  Beyond the pressure-driven binge drinking of adolescence, maybe the most common reason to drink is to anesthetize the pain of an unpleasant life.  The truth is we can achieve that same numbness with any numbers of “drugs.”  Some of us use food.  Others shopping.  Still others the distraction of television.  Drunkenness impairs our vision.

The Cares of This Life: What a shame to spend a life building and rebuilding barns when they are lost in the end?  We certainly need to be responsible with the roles we have to play in life, but these too can become all-consuming.  For some of us this is our career.  I wonder if my yard is really as important as I some times make it.  Or the car.  Why do we run around so frantically trying to be sure everyone likes us, when there is divine approval that is even more important?  The cares of this life busy our hands and waste our energy.

Instead, Jesus talks about a heart anchored in the age to come, eyes fixed on the goal ahead of us, and hands that pray.  Watch out!

What did you learn from this reading today?  

Categories: Luke | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Acts 26: The Wounded Healer

I have to admit I don’t think of Jesus saying much more to Paul on the road to Damascus than verse 15.  I have missed the great richness in verses 16-18 of this third version of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts.  I was especially drawn this time to the first part of verse 18:

I will rescue you . . . so that you can open their eyes to enable them to turn from darkness to light. (26:18a)

Remember the context of this original story.  Jesus was saying this to a blinded Paul, a Paul who was experiencing nothing but darkness.

I imagine if I were Paul I would have been saying, “Open my eyes!  Help me to turn from darkness to light!”

Maybe that was the point of God’s choice to blind Paul.

Drawing on the work of Carl Jung, the now-passed Roman Catholic priest and scholar Henri Nouwen once wrote a great little book called “The Wounded Healer.”  His main premise is that just as we see over and over again in the Scriptures, God usually chooses to use “wounded,” broken people to become the “healers” of others.  Nouwen even argues that one cannot adequately do the work of a healer until we face, accept and even embrace our own woundedness.  Then, just like Jesus who allowed himself to be emptied of glory and wounded on a criminal’s cross, we are really prepared for God’s work.

God’s way of working is beautiful and poignant!

What did you see today?

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Acts 9: Hunter turned Hunted

Caravaggio's "Conversion on the Way to Damascus"

This is a very familiar chapter for many of us, I am sure.  Today, we see Saul turn to Paul, the hated hunter of Christians turn to a hunted Christian himself.  How does that happen?  By nothing less than a vision of the very presence of the resurrected Jesus himself.

What struck me in this chapter were the many words that all pertain to eyes and seeing.  The word “see” is used six times (9:7, 8, 9, 12, 17, 18).  The past tense “seen” or “saw” is used three more times (9:12, 27, 35).  Paul doesn’t just hear a voice, he has a “vision” (9:10, 12).  Paul’s eyes are mentioned twice (9:8, 18). Interestingly, even in the Peter and Dorcas story that follows Paul’s conversion, her eyes are mentioned (9:40), as are the words “weeping” and “showed” (9:39), both words connected with vision and eyes.  Ananias is told to “look” at Paul praying (9:17).  Three other vision related words show up here: “appeared” (9:17), “demonstrating” (9:22), and “watching” (9:24).

Of course, this is simply because this chapter is in part about Paul being blinded.  But it also seems the author is trying to make a larger point.  Saul the Pharisee was a very learned man.  He had an almost unparalleled passion and commitment.  He was willing to kill or be killed for his beliefs.  Surely, amongst his Jewish religious leader friends he was respected.  Why else were they laying their coats at his feet when they stoned Stephen (7:58)?  Why else was he a ringleader (9:1-2)?

And yet he was blind.  The physical blinding of Saul only paralleled the spiritual blindness he had in his heart.

By the end of the chapter, vision is restored to Saul’s physical eyes, but the scales fall off of his heart too and a new man is born — Paul.  And this new man gives the enlightened cry of a person who can see correctly:

“This [Jesus] really is the son of God!” (9:20).

What did you “see” anew today?

Categories: Acts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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