“Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be” wrote American author Robert A. Heinlein.
‘But a great artist,” observed Heinlein “–a master–and that is what Auguste Rodin was–can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is . . . and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be . . . and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity…see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body.”
Jesus, the Master Teacher, was able to see people and see what others didn’t see. He saw them not as they were, or what they used to be, but what they could become.
In today’s Bible reading, Matthew records, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matt 9:36)
Several times the gospel writers began an interaction Jesus had with someone with the words, “He saw.” I think it’s no accident. And I believe the writers are speaking of more than just physical eyesight.
Jesus had the ability to see below the surface. To look beyond the obvious. To view others with insight and understanding. To discern their spiritual state. To perceive the longing within their hearts. And recongize their true needs.
Jesus saw people, everyday folks. Common people. Like you and me. They were weary and scattered. Other versions describe their state as “harassed and helpless.” “Distressed and dispirited.” “Bewildered and helpless.”
Barclay makes this observation. “The common people were desperately longing for God; and the Scribes and the Pharisees, the priests and the Sadducees, the pillars of orthodox religion of his day, had nothing to offer them. The orthodox teachers had neither guidance, nor comfort, nor strength to give.”
But Jesus could. And He did. Because He saw.
The Savior was “moved with compassion.” It is said to be the strongest word for pity in the Greek language. It literally means “bowels.” It is a compassion that moves a man from the very depths of his being. Jesus was deeply touched by the sad plight of the people. He saw their pain. Their sorrow. Their suffering. Their spiritual hunger. Their loneliness. And their bewilderment.
Jesus saw the emptiness inside the Samaritan woman. He saw the eagerness of Zacchaeus the Publican to turn his life around. He saw the penitence of the sinful woman who shed tears at his feet. He saw the faith of the Gentile woman who dared touch his garment. He saw the basic goodness and future potential in flawed folks like Peter and the other apostles who were ordinary men. Fishermen. Tax collectors. And political zealots.
When we look at people what do we see?
Do we see people who get in our way? Give us a hard time? Ask difficult questions? Fail to live up to our expectations? And too often let us down?
Do we see people filled with flaws? Irritating foibles? Sinful habits? Immodest dress? Weird hairstyles? Ungodly lifestyles? And tattooed skin?
Or do we see people who need Jesus? Seekers who are looking for direction? Helpless people seeking hope? Lost folks trying to find their way? And people that God loves and desires to be saved?
Can we see more like Jesus? Beyond lifestyle? Skin color? Socio-economic status? Political persuasion? Or religious background?
When we learn to see what and how He saw, we will begin to feel as He felt. Compassionate. Caring. Sympathetic. Empathic. And loving.
Leadership guru J. Oswald Sander once wrote, “Eyes that look are common; eyes that see are rare.”
God help me to do more than just look at people. But to see. Really see. And to see as Jesus saw.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman