Do You Have Eyes?
“Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:18,21
In this story, the disciples complain because they failed to bring enough bread with them. Jesus says, “Do you still not perceive or understand?” Although they have eyes and ears, they can neither see nor hear the reality he models for them. This deeper seeing looks beyond what is visible in any situation to the God-given power and creative possibility inherent in any given moment. He reminds them of the feeding of the 5,000 and the amount of food left over after feeding so many with so little. He says, “Do you not yet understand?” In essence, he says we should not trouble ourselves with issues that are so easily and reliably taken care of by God. With time and experience around Jesus, we should know better than to worry over such things as what we are to eat and what we are to wear.
Jesus uses blindness as a way to describe ignorance. In spite of accompanying Jesus on his daily travels, in spite of hearing his teachings and witnessing the miracles he works, the disciples still do not understand. They cannot wrap their heads around the reality Jesus lives for them, which is the uniting of matter and spirit. Because we are physically blind to the spirit, we naturally assume spirit and matter are separate. They are not. The disciples think Jesus’ work is like a magic show, that there must be some sort of obscure trickery involved. It is too much to believe that he is manifesting the power and presence of God before their eyes. They believe God’s personal presence is only for those specially chosen by God. They cannot believe that degree of love would ever be lavished upon common folk as unworthy as they. They cannot accept the incomprehensible and too-good-to-be-true truth emanating from Jesus. They are blind to the manifestation of unconditional love in their midst; and so are we.
Obviously, our eyes are not the problem. Most of us can see just fine, physically. Our blindness is in our inability to comprehend the depth of what we experience. We grab too quickly for and hold too tightly to limited understandings of a truth that is ungraspable. In the process, we settle for partial truths and misunderstand our lives according to them. In our obsession to feel in control of truth, we hold onto those partial truths long after they have proven themselves inadequate. They are simply stepping-stones on an endless journey that we mistake for the destination. Even as adults, we too often retain narcissistic, immature understandings, believing everything is for and about us. While it is true that everything is about us, it is not about us as individuals, but about us as a collective, as the entirety of creation, as the Body of Christ.
We find ignorance on display throughout the Bible. Thankfully, God responds differently to ignorance than we typically respond. For example, even while Jesus endured the agony of the cross, he had compassion for his executioners: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). God responds to our ignorance with compassion, not condemnation, inviting us into a deeper understanding that we are a work in progress. Parents know this type of love from the dumb things their young children often do. We find our kids endearing, innocent, and precious, and we respond with love and patience. At some point, however, we can no longer use a childish lack of understanding as an excuse. We can learn to open our spiritual eyes and experience the spiritual world embedded within the physical. Everything that lives and moves and has being has a physical presence that is animated and permeated by Spirit. Furthermore, the Spirit that is in the rock, in the sunrise, and in my neighbor, is the same Spirit that is in me. We are quite literally One in that Spirit. We are not the same, but we are inseparably interconnected. We will know our relatedness to all that is when we have eyes that truly see.
This, then, is the vision to which Christ calls us. We love ourselves by loving others. Why? Because we cannot be well when those around us are suffering. Jesus’ words remind us: “Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear? Do you not yet understand?” Like the disciples, we are a work in progress.
This is the 34th in the series of Life Notes entitled “What Did Jesus Say?”
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