When someone says to us, “You need to come to your senses!” they do not actually mean what they are saying. That person is not asking us to start using our five senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling. Instead, they are asking us to engage our mind and stop behaving in an unreasonable way or stop thinking in an unreasonable manner. The person speaking to us is saying to us in the present that our past ways must change for us to have a future. “You need to come to your senses!” is intended to be words of wisdom said in the present to encourage us to change our past thinking, our words, and our actions so that we have a future.
Now the expression, “You need to come to your senses!” is a solid Biblical concept as well. We would find the intent of that expression found in a single Biblical word, “Repent!” In the Bible, a call to “Repent’” is said in the present to encourage a change in past thinking, words, and actions so that there can be a future. Too often in contemporary sermons, preachers have used the word repent as a word of condemnation rather than a word of encouragement. Jesus’ first sermon was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near.” To repent, in Biblical concepts, is to come to our senses about God and to see God and his call on our life differently than we had in the past. In that coming to our senses, we would then be changed and no longer rely upon our own understanding. The encouragement of repenting is beautifully and concisely expressed in the Old Testament this way: “5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). To me, these words describe a repentant life. We are trusting in God and his wisdom and following God’s ways. The result is peace and straightening out of our life now and a straight path to God forever. I think it would be safe to say that we all know that to live repentantly is a lifelong, day by day experience. This is true because every day and, in many ways, we are subjected to serious temptations, stresses, tragedies, and people that challenge us to shift our focus from God, to question God’s goodness, and to cause us to lose heart.
Because we are continually challenged, God knows we need to be able to relate to a life lived repentantly. God sent himself in human form in the person of Jesus to live that perfect life for us to imitate. The Apostle Paul encouraged us that life lived repentantly was one that imitated Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1) and would be marked by thinking, speaking, and acting in truth, in a noble manner, done rightly, done with pure motive, having the quality of being admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. We can come to our senses then about God and what God wants for our life, we can live life repentantly, by following Jesus.
While the modern expression of coming to our senses does not deal with our five senses of vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell, I believe our five physical senses can be helpful for us to understand God’s plan for our life. And so, for the next few weeks, I would like us to explore the good news of Jesus and living life repentantly through our five senses beginning with our sense of sight. We just sang the hymn, “Open My Eyes That I May See,” in which we prayed in song that God would open our eyes and reveal glimpses of truth that He has for us.
Let’s begin our journey through our senses. The senses were first given serious thought by Aristotle, a Greek philosopher. Aristotle believed that our ability to see gives us the primary capacity for the wants of life. We see it, we want it. The ancients understood that concept. Aristotle believed that our ability to see was the superior of the five senses but that our ability to see was a dependent sense. Aristotle correctly observed that our ability to see was dependent upon there being light. Without light, we have no ability to see.
Aristotle, without knowing it, was pointing to the work of God to give us vision. On page 1 of every Bible, we would read the words from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1, these words, “3 And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:3-4). God gave physical light that is necessary for us to see with our physical sense. This was the first time God sent light that we could see.
Later, in the person of Jesus, God would use the imagery of light and send light into the world a second time. In the Gospel of John, we would read, “1 In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God. 2 He [Jesus] was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light [Jesus] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5). In this case, John was revealing to us that Jesus was the light able to overcome spiritual darkness. Later in John’s Gospel, we would read Jesus accentuated this point when Jesus said of himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
On the two occasions that God sent light into the world to give us the capacity to see first physically and then spiritually. As we will see in a moment, the capacity to see physically and to see spiritually are interwoven into the message and the person of Jesus Christ.
Let’s start with physical sight and physical light. We have always been visual beings. To be able to see visually has been necessary for our very survival and appreciation of creation. In Genesis, Chapter 3, the man and woman were living in the Garden of Eden. The woman had been coaxed by the serpent to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Bible said, “6 [When] The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6). The woman saw two things physically about the fruit. The fruit was edible, and the fruit was visually appealing. So physical light and the capacity to see were recognized from the beginning was essential to survival. This we know and this understand.
We know and understand that in ancient times particularly, those people who were without sight struggled to survive. In the Bible, blind people were led to spots along the road where they could beg for food or money to stay alive. There were no social safety nets for those with physical challenges. There also developed a belief that the blind person or their parents had sinned against God and that the blindness was God’s punishment for that sin. So in addition to the physical struggles, blind people struggled with spiritual condemnation.
Then Jesus entered the scene as the light of the world. Jesus began to preach a message to “Repent,” a coming to one’s senses about God. Jesus was saying in the present to change the ways of the past to have a future. To show the authority to proclaim his message of repentance, Jesus began to heal people of various illnesses and disabilities. One of the conditions Jesus healed was blindness, the inability to see. Jesus changed the physical condition of blind people and restored their sight. All four gospels have specific accounts of Jesus giving sight to the blind. Some of the stories are very detailed. In one story, Jesus spit on the ground to make a sort of muddy paste and put that on the blind man’s eyes to give him sight. In another story, the man’s name, Bartimaeus, is cited. And in yet another account, the religious leaders seeking to deny the authority of Jesus claimed the blind man healed by Jesus as well as that man’s parents were frauds. Why was it so important for Jesus to restore sight and so important that the gospel writers ensure those stories were recorded?
I think there were three reasons for the importance placed on the matter of blindness and vision. First, as mentioned, blindness was considered a matter between God and the individual. God, in conversation with Moses said, “11 Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11). To give sight to the blind then would be an expression of God. Therefore, it was important that Jesus heal the blind.
Second, God said, he would send his Messiah to redeem the people from their sins. God shared the mission of the Messiah and how the people would know who the true Messiah from any false claimants. God said: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” [That is the mission of the Messiah.] 5 This is what God the Lord says - the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:1-7). Through the Lord’s Messiah, “5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy (Isaiah 34:5-6). The giving of sight to the blind was necessary to show the authority of Jesus and his message about God.
Finally, the restoration of sight was necessary to move people from what they knew to what they did not know. The people understood physical sight and physical light. Jesus needed to move people to understand spiritual sight and spiritual light. Jesus interwove the physical with the spiritual so that his listeners who now include you and me could learn the magnificence of God.
In weaving together physical sight and spiritual sight, Jesus taught that “22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23). Here our old friend Aristotle can help us. As we recall, Aristotle concluded our ability to see gives us the primary capacity for the wants of life. What we look toward and at shows what we desire. Jesus telling his listeners that if your eyes are healthy, if you have spiritual sight and you keep your eyes are focused on God, then your whole body, your whole way of life, will be full of light. If we keep our spiritual eyes on Jesus, then we will imitate him in how we think. Thinking like Jesus changes the way we talk. Talking like Jesus will change the way we act. If our eyes are focused on Jesus, then we will be able to come to our senses about God and live repentantly. We will let go of our past and have a future.
Jesus warned, however, if our eyes are unhealthy, if we are spiritually blind and squinting in God’s direction and yet are wide-eyed to the world, then darkness, instead of light, will fill our thinking, be present in our words, and evident in our actions. We will not have come to our senses, and we will not be living life repentantly. Our life now and forever will be dark.
Jesus was using the imagery of our physical sense of vision to bring us to an understanding of the spiritual vision we must possess. As our physical eyes need light to see, our spiritual eyes need the light and we find that spiritual light in Jesus, the light of the world.
From this concept of seeing with spiritual eyes, Jesus taught his followers in parables or short stories working from the known physical world to teach what listeners did not know spiritually. Often when concluding those parables, Jesus would say, “Let those with eyes see,” meaning if you are attentive to God, understand this teaching and be blessed by following it.
Jesus also interwove physical sight and blindness with spiritual sight and blindness to challenge those who refused to open their hearts and minds to the message of peace Jesus was offering. In the Gospel of Matthew, we would read that Jesus saying to the Pharisees, the religious leaders who ought to know better, “25 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23:25-26). Jesus was challenging the Pharisees to stop being so concerned with physical appearances. Instead, they needed to dig down deep within them and clean out the gunk that made them greedy and selfish. The eyes of the Pharisees were fixed on the things of their desire, namely wealth and prestige, instead of the things of God.
What then are we to do with our sense of vision? I think there are two things.
First, we should treasure the gift of physical sight as a blessing from God. We should use our gift of sight to see God’s creative expression in the majesty of the mountains, in the simple reflection of sunlight upon a puddle of water, or the delicate movement of the wings of a baby hummingbird. God did it all and it is all there for us, the great and the small. We should draw it in and know what we can know of God this way. There is peace to be had for us in using our physical sense of sight made possible by God giving us physical light.
Second, we should treasure the gift of spiritual sight as a blessing from God. God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to live in the flesh so that we could experience life with him and he with us. God sent Jesus as our spiritual light to illuminate us within and to see God as God really is. God as lived out by Jesus is slow to anger, steadfast in love, rich in compassion, and forgiving. Jesus gives us the spiritual light to see that and thus come to our senses about God.
Our response to such seeing God this way does not need to be complicated with religious process or procedure. All we need to do, it use our spiritually healthy eyes to take in the light of the world from Jesus and follow him. In doing that, we let go of the past and can be assured of our future. Let us pray.