Think about it. When you go to school and sit under the teaching of a professor, you allow that professor to shape the way you describe the world. If you are in biology, your professor teaches you how to accurately describe biological organisms. For instance, you begin to describe little bubbles under a microscope as “cells.” If you are in psychology, you learn to describe certain types of behaviors as “phobias,” or “transference,” etc. And in turn, the way you begin to describe things impacts the way you see things.
Jesus makes this connection between saying and seeing in Matthew 13. In this chapter, he begins to teach his disciples in parables for the first time. When they ask him why he teaches in parables, he tells them he does so in order that “hearing they do not hear, and seeing they do not see.” He teaches in parables so that people will not understand the world that Jesus is describing, and thus, will not see it for what is it. Jesus does go on to explain the parables, but only to his disciples.
Now, there are a lot of mysteries here, including the mystery of why Jesus would not want people to understand his teaching or see the world for what it is. But what I want to focus on, briefly, is the idea that God is ultimately the one in charge of determining who can understand and see what God is doing. Proverbs 20:12 says that the hearing ear and the seeing eye are from the Lord. In Ephesians 1:16-17, Paul says that he is praying for the Ephesians, that the “eyes of their heart” might be opened. So our ability to hear the Gospel and see the world for what it really is depends on the work of God in our hearts.
Still, we are called to have faith in order to see. Hebrews 11 gives an account of some of the pillars of Old Testament faith. In doing so, it emphasizes the fact that “these all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (v. 13). The eyes of their heart were enlightened in their act of faith. Faith is integrally tied to sight.
By “sight,” I do not mean ordinary, every day sight. Rather, I mean seeing what is truly valuable for what it is. This means seeing Jesus for who he is (God!); this means seeing our neighbors for what they are (objects worthy of our love); this means seeing ourselves for what we are (sinners saved by grace). There are more implications – we learn to describe our enemies as neighbors, foreigners as neighbors, faith as righteousness, the ‘foolishness’ of the gospel as the power of God (1 Corinthians 1), our weakness as strength, etc. etc. etc. Jesus’s way of talking, i.e. the language of discipleship, gives us new eyes to see the world. “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
By learning the grammar of faith, we learn to see the world as Jesus does. How is your vision?