by The Rev. Jonathan Naumann
As we recently contemplated during Christmastime, the Gospel of St. John says, “[Christ] was in the world, . . . the world did not recognize Him” (John 1:10). Unfortunately, even when Jesus walked the earth in human form, many people failed to “see God”. Also today, it is a sad reality that many people do not understand God’s plan of salvation properly.
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul was inspired to write: “I pray . . . that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18).
God’s Word tells us that the ability to see with the heart comes from God who pours into our hearts the gift of faith. And an instrument God’s Holy Spirit uses to accomplish that is the Bible. “Faith comes by hearing the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
To encourage our faith, Holy Scripture gives us examples of human beings who had “hearts that see”. Remember Simeon and Anna, a righteous and devout pair who were among the first in Jerusalem to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah even while He was still a baby. We are told that they waited patiently year after year for the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem. Simeon and Anna had been seeing their Savior, through faith, for years. On that very special day, however, when He was brought as an infant to the temple, they saw Him with their eyes.
True seeing takes place in the heart – through faith. Faith in our hearts can see further than our physical surroundings. Faith can see all the way through this life to the eternal promises of God. That precious gift of “inner sight” – our faith – which we receive from God, produces a hope that works for today! It works for us in the real world of pain and problems, struggle and mess, in which we must live and function.
That heaven-sent hope says, with the voice of God, “Remember, you are holy and blameless in my sight.” (Ephesians 1:4) Knowing that God sees us with a heart of love gives us all the reassurance we need to make it through today. When He gives us the faith to believe it, we see with our heart that He loves and forgives us. For when God looks at you and me with His heart, He always looks at us in mercy, for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ. If God were to look at us the other way, through His Law rather than His Gospel, it would be better for us NOT to be found!
Epiphany reminds us again to look with our hearts: to “look where your treasure is – for there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). The Magi saw a star in the sky, but their hearts saw a new born king, so they ventured on a long journey to a foreign country (Matthew 2:1-2). Shepherds saw angels in a starry sky, but their hearts saw the fulfillment of a long awaited promise. Two new parents saw midnight feedings, sleepless nights, and diapers, but their hearts saw Immanuel – “God with us”.
Today we can think of beliefs and objects of faith that cannot be seen but are nonetheless true: We can’t see Baptism’s water and Word washing away sin and breaking the hold of the devil; we can’t see the old Adam die and the new Adam arise; we can’t see the body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. We can’t see God with us always; we can’t see Jesus carrying our sins and defeating the Devil. We can’t see the Holy Spirit giving the gift of faith and interceding with sighs too deep for words. We can’t see heaven’s angels protecting and defending. Yet all these things are true. God is doing His work, according to His Word.
Though our physical eyes don’t see, we Christians believe these promises from God. We know they are true because He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Yes, thanks be to God! He has given us a spiritual vision, – a “heart that sees.”