Sermon 12-11 “Do You See What I See”
“Do You See What I See” Matthew 11:2-15 12/11/16
Last week we asked the question “Do you hear what I hear?” Now we will ask, “Do you see what I see?”
A few years ago John Russell a professor of history at Columbia University who was visiting Canford School in England. He was in the canteen and saw this slab next to the coke machine and pizza counter. He thought it was a plaster copy, but it turns out it was a 3,000 year old carved panel from Asurbanpal II of Assyria 883. It was sold at a Christie’s auction later for $12 million. When he first saw the stone he thought it was valueless. But when his eyes were opened he saw it for what it is. Life is like that too. We may think that someone’s life has no value or hope. There are those who think their own life is meaningless and valueless. But when Jesus comes- we see things from the viewpoint of the Creator and Redeemer- who made life and makes it valuable again. We see others and ourselves as valuable when we can see with proper eyes.
John was seeing prison walls and his future appears (and was) bleak. Herod was on the throne- and he was wicked. He divorced his first wife the princess of Aretas which caused a war that Herod lost. Herod had his married his brother’s wife. It seemed like the wicked were winning and the Messiah in Jesus was making no difference As he looked at his situation- his gloom and doom- it overwhelmed him. He asked Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come?” He was asking Jesus- “Don’t you see all the evil in the world?” “Don’t you see the sickness, the sadness?” “Don’t you see the wicked getting rich and powerful- while the righteous are put in prison or killed?” He was asking Jesus, “Do you see what I see?”
Jesus’ answer was “Do you see what I see?” Don’t you see the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear- and even the dead are raised.” This last phrase not only pointed to things like Jairus’s daughter but also to Jesus own resurrection which ushered in the power of the kingdom. All the human power and money in the world cannot raise the dead. To see God at work, changing people, changing the world means God has come.
So the main question is how do you look at the world?
There is a plethora of FAKE NEWS in our day. I thought it was some harmless things like some celebrity died- like Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Willis. I have seen that fake news with my own eyes on the church FB page- with ads I didn’t approve. Last week NBC’s today show said there were riots in Charleston in mass. They even showed a picture of people in the street. Only problem was it was the wrong street! They showed people in Baltimore over a year ago rioting and said these people were in Charleston! Last week the Pope condemned Fake news and the next day NBC did this. There is little fact checking and lots of spin. Some seem to prefer chaos to sanity. Last week WISTV came out in front of our church because a car hit a school bus- though the school bus has no children on it. That same day we got out steeple- a rare occasion for any community- but no publicity. I would love to say this is only the media. The media is a symptom of all of us including me. We can focus on the negative.
Paul says this- “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to let your request be made known to God and then his peace that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Worry focuses on what might go wrong. He is saying, “Do not worry, but pray.” Turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face and the things on earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. But then more than that he asks us to focus our hearts and our vision. He asks us to see things in a certain way. He says (Phil. 4:8), “Whatever is true, noble, right pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” This is not just positive wishful thinking. It is a matter of focus. You cannot focus on everything- you choose what you focus on in your life. Paul says to focus on the good. Certainly Paul made a lot of bad good. He did not ignore the bad. The bad has a way of sneaking into things whether you want it to or not.
When Jesus said, “Tell John what you hear and see” it was hearing with the ears of faith and seeing with the eyes of faith. It is not just a matter of seeing the same glass half full vs. half empty. It is seeing the water that quenches our everlasting thirst. It is seeing there is hope and we are not on our own. It is seeing that there is purpose and meaning in life. It is seeing that people are helped by Jesus and that the good is overcoming evil. We are called to walk by faith and not by sight.
I was listening to a talk about Joni Erikson Tada who as a young athletic girl dived and broke her neck becoming a quadriplegic. She recently wrote a book called, “Spectacle of Glory” in which she talks about how people who live with their disabilities, their pain, their heartache but still glorify God are like the bush that Moses saw- the bush on fire that was not consumed. It was on fire but did not burn up and was the medium God used to get Moses to be inspired to go back and free his people by God’s grace. When we face the tragedies and pains of life- they are there- with grace- people take notice. There are plenty of bushes that thrive and are green. But the one on fire lights our curiosity, and can light our faith. Be a spectacle of glory.
Come and SEE. When Nathanael said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth” Philip said, “Come and See.” But others came and saw Jesus- but walked away. The rich young ruler saw Jesus- but walked away sad that he couldn’t give up his riches. Zaccheus- climbed and saw Jesus and became glad and generous giving away lots of his riches to get his heart straight. How do you see your stuff? Do you value Jesus more than your possessions? Choose where you focus. Choose to focus on God and the good and away from the temporary and the evil.