Many of our experiences in life confirm that our perception of reality is, at best, skewed.How often is it the case that we have firmly believed something about someone or a circumstance that we later come to the see that we did not have the right perspective?Since that is true in the physical realm, much more should we humbly acknowledge our propensity to get things wrong in the spiritual realm. In fact, if we trust the truth of God’s word and become honest about the human condition, we must admit that people are in many ways totally blind. We are, without divine assistance, naturally oblivious to ultimate spiritual reality. By that I mean that we do not naturally see the glorious nature of the person of God and His marvelous works. To make matters even worse, we are oblivious to the very presence of this blindness in moments in which it is most profound. Therefore, we read ourselves, others, and situations with perception that is frail and distorted. The result is that our living in a corrupted and corrupting fallen world, combined with our tendency to misread and wrongly reacting, makes for more trouble than we can adequately be aware. But add to this that our greatest blindness is toward God. Our assessment of Him leads us toward greater blindness in regard to all other reality. We try to make God a god of our own liking, who caters to the desires of our hearts—the very desires that cause us to want a lesser god than the glorious, holy, matchless one He truly is.
Enter Jesus. Much of His ministry was misinterpreted by the masses of people who, with faulty spiritual sight, found Him desirable only to the degree that He provided for their firmly entrenched lusts or physical needs. And for those who had no need of Jesus in these ways, He was a threat to be eliminated. How could people so misread the value of Jesus in the ways in which He is truly wonderful? What is it about us that we get this wrong without much effort at all? Blindness of the heart inevitably leads us to belittle our infinite God and trust our own views of reality, in keeping with the natural, fallen desires of our hearts.
We see an example of this in the Luke 24:13-35. Jesus appeared to two people going about their daily business, walking the road to Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were in a discussion about news of current events, especially those related to Jesus. Just a few days prior in Jerusalem He had been tried and crucified. Perhaps they had even heard of the claim that the tomb was empty in which the dead body of Jesus had been laid. Jesus’ appearance to them was without recognition by them. How could it be that they did not recognize Jesus? The text says that they were “prevented from recognizing Him” (v. 16). Their eyes were not able to recognize Him. Was that because they had never seen Him before? Was it simply that because there was no modern technology available that would have enabled them to have seen Him in picture form that they just did not know what he looked like? I don’t think so, because later in the text they do finally recognize Him, which leads us to believe that they must have known His physical appearance by prior experience with Him. So, why did they not recognize Him at this time? And how is it that they were able to recognize Him later, if indeed it appears that they should have recognized Him earlier? What caused the blindness and what opened their eyes? And how is this relevant to us?
To get answers for these questions, we need to look back into the text. As Jesus walked along the road with this couple He asked them several questions, and after hearing answers coming from unbelieving and foolish hearts, He gently rebuked them and explained what should have been obvious to them, had their eyes been open to spiritual truth and the fullness of His person.
And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter intohis glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (vv. 25-27)
Their blindness caused them to misread the events of the days preceding their yet unrecognized encounter with their Lord. They wanted a different kind of Messiah than Jesus proved to be to them. They were hoping that “he was the one to redeem Israel” (v. 21a). And because He was dead and now His body missing, their hopes were dashed. They were looking at the recent events through the same spiritually blind eyes that caused them to not recognize Jesus. But Jesus, though He rebuked them for their unbelief, mercifully opened the scriptures to them. Their hearts began to burn as Jesus explained the scriptures to them. They begged Him to spend more time with them, to share a meal with them. Their eyes were opened when He broke the bread, blessed it, and gave it to them. Suddenly they recognized Him! They had seen Him do this before. Perhaps they were among those 5000 that He fed recorded in John 6. They would have remembered how He blessed the bread and broke it and then later told them that He is the Bread of Life. They missed the sign that pointed to the greater glory of God in the person of Christ. Instead, blinded by cravings for physical bread led them to believe wrong things about Jesus. His value to them was tied up in His ability to produce stomach-filling food.
In the present instance, it seems that their faith in Jesus was tied up in His ability to redeem Israel as they imagined it. Death could not factor in to that scheme. Their hope was dashed. The present circumstance did not align with their expectations—expectations informed by their own finite limitations and sinful heart cravings. But once the Lord revealed Himself to them, their faith came to live. And He did so with very tangible means. The actual manner in which He broke the bread, the way He blessed it, the tone and modulation of His voice triggered faith in them. They now could see and believe. No longer did they cling to their notions, but to the explanations given by their now recognized Messiah.
How does this apply to us? I am wrecked when I see what this teaches me. I realize again that our all-knowing, all-seeing God is merciful and that we are naturally inept and blind. God is the one who opens blind eyes—even mine. Darkness is overcome with light, vision is given in place of blindness, as God sovereignly and graciously gives light into the heart of a man (2 Corinthians 4:6). Without God’s intervention, no sight would be possible. Once the Lord has given us eyes to see, several passages help us with how to go about opening our eyes to spiritual reality. In
· Psalm 119:18, David, aware of his propensity toward dull spiritual vision, asks the Lord to open his eyes to see the wonderful things of God’s law.
· Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that the church at Ephesus would be given eyes of the heart enlightened to glorious realities related to their salvation.
· Paul, as well as the writer of Hebrews, tells us where to keep our eyes in order to continue to see rightly (e.g., Colossians 3:1-2; Hebrews 12:2).
· We are to look at Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), behold Him (2 Corinthians 3:18), depend on the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-13), and walk in fellowship and exercise our gifts within Christ’s body (Romans 12:1-8), in order to see rightly. The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are vivid images of God’s grace toward us that sharpened our spiritual sight.
God’s mercy and grace are our hope for seeing and believing rightly, and thus responding to Jesus in worship and adoration. We have no hope of seeing without right knowledge of Jesus, gained by humble seeking after Him by faith, looking at tangible expressions of His favor toward us as means of remembering His goodness and greatness. We must admit our helplessness when it comes to blindness. We can no more make ourselves see than we can make ourselves fly. We need grace in the person of Christ and the power of the Spirit. Being with other believers, breaking bread with them, praying and learning together, are keys to prevent and overcome blindness, for the Lord dwells in the midst of His people. We must be looking in order to see. We must be seeking and searching in order to find (Jeremiah 29:13). Let’s pray that our gracious Lord grants us sight that allows us to enjoy His good gifts as ways of knowing and enjoying Him more fully. Let’s pray that He opens our eyes to see all that He is for us in Christ. Let’s pray and seek Him for Himself, yielding to His wisdom, enjoying His grace. Let’s pray that He gives us eyes that see Him every-increasingly as beautiful (Psalm 27:4), full of glory and worthy of praise.