Being God’s Beloved: Reflections on God’s Love.
There are numerous passages in the Gospels where we are told that Jesus “saw” or “looked at” someone. At one level, this is hardly surprising or significant – Jesus had eyes and was able to see and thus likely to see people. There is nothing significant in seeing people. But in several places the seeing and looking conveys a greater sense of seeing into or looking into another person, as if Jesus sees their heart and truly knows them. And this is part of a larger category of connections that Jesus makes with people – he connects with people at a deeper level than a mere social connection.
I am reminded of a phrase that comes up frequently in James Cameron’s movie Avatar, a Sci-Fi film from 2009, about a race of tall, blue-skinned people, called the Na’vi, living on a planet far from earth, who have a deep, spiritual connection with nature. They use the phrase, “I see you,” as a greeting. But it is not used in a merely flippant sense of, “I can see that you are standing there”. Rather, it implies that I see the authentic you or I see you authentically. It speaks to a deeper and real spiritual connection. A human, Jake Sully, winds up living with the Na’vi and is repeatedly told that he is “blind” – he cannot truly see the spirit of the world. Only after spending a great deal of time with the Na’vi, does Jake learn to “see”.
In many of the Gospel passages, Jesus’ seeing or looking at people conveys a similar depth of sight, or rather, insight – Jesus sees people for who they are, with their strengths and weaknesses, as glorious ruins. One example, which we will look at in greater depth in a couple of days, is from Mark 10:21, where Jesus encounters a rich young ruler who desires to follow Jesus, but is constrained by his love of his wealth. Mark tells us, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Presumably, Jesus had been looking at him the whole time – they had been talking together and it is highly unlikely that Jesus had been looking elsewhere or closing his eyes during their conversation. So, when Mark tells us that “Jesus looked at him”, he must be speaking of a greater-than-normal ‘look’. Within the context of this story, it is reasonable to interpret that this ‘looking’ was more incisive, more insightful, more penetrating, deeper. To convey this deeper looking, it may be helpful to replace ‘at’ with ‘into’, thus “Jesus looked into him”. It is in the context of Jesus looking into this young man, with both his earnest faith and his holding onto his wealth, that we learn that Jesus loved him. Jesus saw him as he was – and loved him.
In Luke 19:1-10, Jesus is walking through Jericho in the middle of a great crowd. But on reaching a sycamore-fig tree, he stops and looks up. Quite what made Jesus stop at that place or look up, we cannot know for sure. Perhaps he sensed something or someone. Jesus “looked up” at Zacchaeus, the much-unloved tax collector. Jesus looks up and sees Zacchaeus. It seems as if Jesus immediately knows him, for he calls him by name and invites himself to his house. Jesus uses strong words – “immediately” and “must” – leaving no room for debate. Jesus is under no illusions about who Zacchaeus is or what he has done. Jesus knows he is a tax collector, knows he has abused his position, knows he has exploited the people, knows that he is a ‘sinner’. But he also knows that here is a man who is receptive and open to hearing the Good News. Jesus saw him as he was and loved him.
In John 4:4-26, Jesus and the disciples are travelling through Samaria. The disciples go off to buy food, leaving Jesus alone at a well. A Samaritan woman comes to draw water in the middle of the day. Jesus asks her for a drink. We are not told that Jesus ‘looked’ at her or ‘saw’ her, but clearly, he does – he notices her and engages with her. This was remarkable for several reasons. First, she was a woman, and Jewish men, particularly Jewish rabbis, did not speak with women in public. Second, she was a Samaritan, and Jewish people thought of Samaritans in less than friendly ways. Third, she was not accepted in her own community, probably because of some sin that left her marginalised and outcast. Jesus knows all these things – later, in verses 17-18, he says to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” But he also knows that here is a person who is spiritually open and hungry, with whom he can engage on some serious spiritual matters, who could become the first female evangelist. Jesus saw her as she was and loved her.
In Matthew 9:20-22, Jesus is on his way to raise a young girl to life, when a woman, who had been bleeding for 12 years, touches the edge of his cloak. She is certain that this will bring her healing. Luke (8:43-48) and Mark (5:25-34) tell us that as she touches his cloak, she is immediately healed: “Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (Mark 5:29). Jesus feels the power of healing going out of him, but he seems not to know who it is who has touched him. So he stops and asks who it was. The disciples think he’s crazy, because there is such a big crowd around him, so he is being touched all the time. How can he possibly know that someone has specifically touched him for healing? But Jesus knows because he sees, even without his eyes. In Luke and Mark, the woman finally owns up; but Matthew says, “Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’” Jesus sees the woman. Although she has already been healed, Jesus still wants to see her, to know her, to talk with her. He knows her illness, he knows her faith. Jesus saw her as she was and loved her.
Although God already knows us intimately – after all, God created us – God still wants to see us, to know us. It takes us back to Day 3 and Day 4, where we learned that the most essential quality of God is relationship and that love is at the heart of God, and that God created the cosmos to be in fellowship with us and know us, and that knowing us is God’s great delight.
God desires that you engage with God, sharing your thoughts and feelings, your hopes and fears, your triumphs and failures. Just as Jesus wanted to know the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman at the well and the woman who was bleeding, Jesus desires to know you. Jesus wants to fellowship with you, to learn to know you, to hear you, to feel with you, to partner with you, to share with you. Truthfully, Jesus already knows you intimately – there is nothing that is hidden from Him. But He particularly wants you to share all of that with him of your own accord – to open up to Him. Jesus wants to see you, because to see you is to love you.
Jesus sees you as you are and loves you.
Meditation for the Day
Reflect on those parts of your life that you keep hidden from God, that you prefer not to share with God. Reflect on the fact that Jesus already sees those parts and loves you, that Jesus loves the whole of you. What would happen if you shared those parts with Him?
Prayer for the Day
Sweet Jesus, you already know everything about me; even the parts I try so hard to hide from you. Thank you that you see me and love me. Give me the courage to share the whole of myself with you.
 Here is a clip from the film, Avatar, in which Jake sees Neytiri, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUy606vRWI8