Updated: Mar 25
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace. ~ Helen H. Himmel
I'll never forget when iPhones first came out with a panoramic view. My daughter found that by running behind the camera fast enough, she could fool it into taking her picture twice, so that she could appear on opposite sides of the photo. We had great fun with this discovery as we all sought to join in the fun of being in two places at once! Oh the entertainment and the wonders wrought through the lens of a camera!
Then came the extra zoom features on our video cam...we would head off into the hills to discover what could not be seen except from as from a great distance with the naked eye. With great joy we watched moose and deer as if they were only ten feet away. And when those zoom features again landed on an iPhone, that same daughter waltzed away with first prize that year from National Geographic in an outback photography contest; she zoomed in with her iPhone as sunlight streamed through a blade of wheat. The detail her lens revealed was absolutely stunning.
When younger, our girls and their friends would swap out spectacles, modelling them while they sought to discover who had the thickest lenses. Mine won every time. Sometimes they would try to see who could keep my glasses on the longest without their eyes going buggy. With my prescription, they didn't last long!
The ability to see clearly is so important that in Revelation 3, Jesus instructed his church to purchase eye salve. The implication was that if their eyes were anointed with a healing ointment, they would again serve their purpose and become useful. Here is the verse in context:
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation. I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other! So because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to vomit you out of My mouth! You say, ‘I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need nothing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, white garments so that you may be clothed and your shameful nakedness not exposed, and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
I am always amazed at what a great communicator Jesus is! The city of Laodicea was known throughout the Roman Empire for these things:
It was located close to two cities. Hieropolis was noted for it's hot mineral springs whereas Colossae enjoyed pure, cold water. The water from Hieropolis was thought to be transported five miles by aqueduct to Laodicea, which would turn tepid by the time of its arrival. Both the hot and cold waters of the neighbouring cities were of great benefit for different reasons, but the lukewarm waters of Laodicea made one nauseous. Thus the "vomit you out of my mouth" imagery. It was neither tasty nor useful for drinking.
A centre of finance and banking, when the city was hit by an earthquake in AD 60, residents refused help from Rome, instead they rebuilt it themselves.
It produced a black wool of value in the cloth trade.
It hosted a medical school with a famous ophthalmologist who practiced there.
It was in the boundary lines of ancient Phrygia, where Phrygian powder, an ingredient in eye lotions, originated.
Jesus was clearly communicating that He wasn't impressed with their wealth or ability to be self-made people building self-made kingdoms. He wasn't interested in fashion statements and expensive clothing, but was moved by good deeds. More than anything, He longed for them to some to see life as He did, thus the invitation to them to come to Him and make an exchange, their black rags and nakedness for the beautiful, white garments He would provide. He made an agreement to accept their wretchedness as a valid currency to His wealth!
One might ask why would He ask them to buy from Him instead of receiving these things as a gift? There is an Old Testament scripture where the Lord says, "If you will seek me, you will find me when you search with all your heart." Hebrews 12:1 says to, "Let us lay aside everything that hinders and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our Faith." Although Jesus gives freely, there's something precious to the Lord when He sees us putting effort into our relationship by letting go of our intimacy killers. It's an exchange - my rags for His riches, my bath water for His pure, clean spring water, my small loaves and fishes eaten in solitude for His overflowing bounty of bread shared in communion.
The first law of the Torah carries over into the New Testament and is contained in what is known as the Shemah:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37
Here are the Hebrew words used in loving God:
Heart - lebab: inner man, mind, will, heart
Soul - nephesh: a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion
Might - meod: muchness, force, abundance
In other words, love Him as much as we can with our whole being and appetite - not being lukewarm in it! It's an encouragement to remove whatever is getting in the way of the divine romance He wants to have with us! It is no less than what He has done for us - removing the sin that separated us from Him by pouring out the ultimate sacrifice - His own life-blood!
In the next scene in Revelation 3, Jesus is found outside the door of the church, knocking. I love the way the NIV translates it:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
It's a little unnerving to think of Jesus on the outside of His own church. In this portrayal we again see His desire for a shared intimacy; to hear, taste, smell, touch, and feel life together.. Why is this so important? Can't we just be rest in the knowledge that Jesus forgives our sins and will take us to Heaven? Why make the effort of going deeper?
Just a few weeks ago, a politically neutral client of mine walked the streets of one of our cities, handing out Tim's cards, chatting with police, laughing, praying and handing out reading material about the Lord to all who would receive. She had no agenda other than a chance to love on strangers and share with them the change Jesus had made in her life. The next weekend she opened up social media on her computer, she was horrified to witness the very ones she had prayed or chatted with being assaulted. She was devastated!
We tried to go together before the Lord in prayer, but there was a struggle as she grappled trying to unsee the images of the people she had come to care about being beaten, trampled and abused. These images had turned into personal trauma and was robbing her of joy and of intimacy with Jesus. The temptation was to hunker down and isolate at home, closing her heart to the people who needed the message that God loved them regardless of their political persuasions or past wrong-doings. We cried out to God for help and my friend was challenged to bring each person to Jesus. I encouraged her to look in Jesus' eyes directly so that she could see His response. The Lord opened her eyes to observe as He absorbed each person into His own being. Seeing the love and concern there, she knew that He would care for them in ways she could not; He had already paid the ultimate price for each soul.
Later on we would process the death of another very dear friend. Once again, she would give this friend to Jesus and this time, the Lord would part the veil between Heaven and Earth so that she could observe her friend from a distance, waving at some dancing fish she saw in the water under a transparent walkway of gold.
In both instances, by opening the door of her heart to Jesus, my friend was able to unpack trauma that threatened to overwhelm and make her a victim in these situations. In exchange, Jesus gave her eye salve - the ability to see these hurts through His perspective. As she changed her focus from looking head on at the issues to looking into His beautiful face, my grieving friend was able to move from despair into trust, from heartache to peace, even in a time of deep mourning.
In these days of great stress and brokenness, I believe it is only by gazing upon Jesus that we will be enabled to come through the fires and floods unscathed. It is not only the love of wealth or the wrong things that can cause our eyes to spoil and thereby become useless in the Kingdom of God. With the magnitude of vitriole, venom and news - fake or real - being pumped into us these days (and that encompasses all sides of the political spectrum), the wars and rumours of war, the famines, plagues and pestilences, it is easy to become angry, to grow nationalistic in our faith, to have our hopes disappointed and hearts shattered, to strike out with hatred against those who think differently or who have become abusers. This leaves us bitter to the taste much like the water Jesus could not swallow but had to eschew from His mouth. We become almost useless to the Kingdom of God in such a state, unable to represent Him or His heart for our broken world.
What is to be done? Though it may be as simple as opening the doors of our hearts to Jesus. when trauma hits, sometimes we need help; our eyes may fixate on the problems and lose their ability to focus on anything else. We may stumble on the way, temporarily blinded by the images that play over and over like a broken record across our weary visage. Once we reach the door and it is opened however, Jesus anoints our eyes and our hearts with healing salve, bringing us a new set of lenses with which to look through. His Presence comforts and helps us successfully process through pathways of pain we would otherwise be incapable of navigating. His very Person makes the unbearable bearable, takes the pain out of memories, and empowers us in situations viewed as overwhelming or insurmountable. These times with Him become part of our testimony and not only restore our joy, passion and romance with God, but our usefulness to others in the Kingdom.