“Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull, Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15 NKJV).
I admit that my eyes are not as sharp as they may have once been, nor my ears as sensitive. Yet I am still amazed at the ability of the people of South Asia to see tiny details at surprising distances. When going through the jungles of the national parks, our local guides will see deer and other animals bedded down in thickets that I can barely detect even when they are pointed out to me. Here on our campus birds that are well within the canopy of leaves are identified long before I can catch even a flicker of motion.
I prize my eyesight, imperfect as it is, and do what I can to preserve and improve it. This world is filled with wonderful and beautiful things, and I want to be able to enjoy them. More importantly, there are many threats and dangers that I want to see while there is still time and space to avoid them.
In the Bible there are many stories of people whose eyes were closed. Three times Balaam failed to see an angel blocking his path – an angel that his donkey saw and avoided (Numbers 22:22-27). Elisha’s servant could not see the army of the Lord protecting the prophet until his eyes were opened (2 Kings 6:15-17). And the disciples on the way to Emmaus could not perceive the identity of the resurrected Jesus until he departed from them (Luke 24:13-35).
Most of us have seen and been bemused by puzzles that reveal more than one image, depending upon how they are viewed. All have or will discover that they have misread words or misidentified images that turned out to be far different than first believed. The adage, “Seeing is believing” unfortunately is often misleading at best. We cannot always believe everything that we think we have seen.
Is there a cure for closed eyes, in the sense that Jesus is speaking of in Matthew 13? When we have stubbornly blocked our perception through prejudice or other hindrance true understanding is impossible. We must make every effort to correct our errors and develop the ability to see accurately and truly. Yes there is a cure, but it requires our commitment to true perception.
First there is the obvious: we must open our eyes. No one sees with his or her eyes shut, whether literally or metaphorically. When I strive to see the bird someone is pointing at I try to get a correct direction and distance, then focus and look intently. A casual glance rarely reveals much. We must concentrate, making sure our eyes are genuinely open.
Second, we must develop a great desire for true vision. Someone has said, “People see what they expect to see.” That is true. When a familiar statement is altered by one word or letter many will continue to read it as the original, entirely failing to see the change that has been made. Our mind concludes that certain words are there even when our eyes do not see them. That accounted for much of the Jewish rejection of Jesus. They knew what the Messiah would be and do, and Jesus just did not fit the pattern. They could not see him in that mold.
Finally, we must reject mirages. The world presents many false images, with promises that will never be fulfilled. We not only see what we expect, we often see what we want to find. One must learn to avoid the distraction of visions and dreams which have no reality. Our desires lead us down false paths to destruction (James 4:1-5).
When we look with eyes trained by the Spirit (Romans 8:1-11) and empowered by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), we will truly see. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and his promises are certain. Let us keep our eyes and ears open that we might receive his blessings.