|Vol 4 No 28||October 31, 1999|
Ed BarnesMost of us are familiar with the words of Jesus in Luke 8:18, "take heed therefore how ye hear" (KJV). We also ought to take heed how we see. Generally speaking, our eyes play an important role in our faith because the Bible is a book to be read, reread, studied, analyzed and then read again, ad infinitum. 1 Timothy 4:13 says, "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture." Paul expresses his personal need for reading and study when he requests of Timothy, "When you come, bring . . my scrolls, especially the parchments" (2 Tim 4:13). Our physical eyes, therefore, play in important role in the process of establishing faith and in our unending effort to remain strong in that faith.
There are differences, however, in how one sees the scriptures. One can see a scripture simply in the act of viewing it. It can also be said that one sees the scriptures in looking closely at its details. And finally, one can see a passage in the sense that he perceives its spiritual meaning and application.
The differences between viewing, looking closely, and perceiving are remarkably illustrated in the empty tomb narrative of John 20:1-10. In this context the English word see (or a slight variation) is used to translate three different Greek words, which when examined, reveal three different ways of seeing.
Upon receiving Mary Magdalene's report that Jesus' body had been taken out of the sepulcher, Peter and John run together to the place of burial. "Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in"(Jn 20:4,5). The Greek word translated looked is blepei. The meaning of the word indicates that Peter simply viewed or took a look at the contents of the tomb from without, apparently without any significant reaction other than the affirmation that what Mary had just seen and reported was true.
Peter's observation was more intimate. The context says: "Then Simon Peter, who as behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen" (Jn 20:6,7). Peter actually went into the sepulcher and saw something clearly astounding. The napkin, or head roll, was still intact like a cocoon, all rolled up. The Greek word translated see in this instance is theorei. The meaning is to behold, or to look closely or intently. Peter stood there looking and looking at those bands of linen and the head roll. He did more than just view or glance over the items in the tomb. He knew he was looking at something special, unusual and significant. Peter's seeing was more intense than John's for Peter was face to face with the impossible: the separation of a body from its grave wrappings, without the disturbance of the latter.
The text continues with John entering the tomb. "Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed" 20:8). The text says that John saw. The Greek word here is eiden. The meaning here is to perceive or understand. John saw and believed. He believed as a consequence of what he saw. In this context the word must mean that he believed in the resurrection of Jesus. The evidence before his eyes he read rightly and reacted in the right way. In the previous instance, when Peter saw the contents of the tomb, even though he looked closely at the evidence, he did not believe. As a matter of fact Luke 24:12 tells us that Peter went away confused, wondering to himself what had happened. However, when John saw the evidence that Peter saw, he was convinced. He believed.
How do you see the Scriptures? What is your reaction when you consider the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? You say that you do believe in Jesus and in the fact of his resurrection! Well, then how do you see the commands of Jesus? Is it your habit to simply view the Bible as a good book filled with good suggestions? Or have you gone a step farther and looked closely at the Word of God to see how it applies to your life? Hopefully, you will see and believe as John did.
(Sources: William Barclay Commentary. R.C.H. Lenski Commentary)