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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

What the ophthalmologist can't fix

Interestingly the word most often rendered "eye" (or the plural) in the New Testament is the Greek ophthalmos. As you can see it is also the basic root of our word for ophthalmologist, the M.D. who specializes in eye medicine and surgery. Some mentions of eyes in the Bible are about optical problems. But, ophthalmos is most often used in a figurative sense.

Jesus healed some blind people. He also taught about spiritual vision and people who had eyes but could not see. It was an ancient prophetic declaration that people often had the working equipment that would permit sight but that their hearts were hardened and therefore they could not see (Isaiah 44:18; Jeremiah 5:21; Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:17, et. al.). These many references addressed the nation's lack of spiritual perception, the discernment and discipline to grasp spiritual concepts and apply the lesson to life. On several occasions Jesus expressed frustration with his most intimate circle because they were like their forbears, meaning, they couldn't comprehend the aplication of his teaching. When he healed the man from Bethsaida in two stages it was a lesson about spiritual discernment and the personal growth necessary of believers to understand the deep things of God.

One of the of the most profound figurative uses of ophthalmos occurred right in the middle of significant teaching about things and wealth. The setting is important in this passage. First, Jesus taught about treasures in heaven as opposed to treasures on earth. The final note of this important teaching was "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21, ESV). Later, he spoke to them about a basic life choice: serving God or money. The hook in those verses was, "You cannot serve God and money" (Matthew 6:24, ESV).

Between those two teachings about our relationship with things and wealth, he said something important about spiritual sight.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be

full of light., but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If

then the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6: 22-23, ESV

My translation? Without spiritual sight, my relationship with the world and everything in it is going to be in shadows, in darkness. This is a vision problem that the most educated, best practiced ophthalmologist cannot fix. Only Jesus can give this kind of sight.

With an accounting and banking background, I do understand some of the business functions of serving Christ's church. Mission statements, demographics, policies and procedures, strength measurement, results orientation, evaluative processes, and many of the other realities of life in this fast, complicated, digital world make sense and have a place. Without spiritual eyes, however, the church becomes another asset management organization or health enterprise with little eternal significance. Jesus demands spiritual vision of his people and their leaders. He promises to give it so that his vision becomes theirs and they are pursuing mission within the parameters of his kingdom projections.

Paul used the word ophthalmos too. One instance is notable in this context. To the Ephesians he wrote---

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the

God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of

wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your

hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called

you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the

immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the

working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the

dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule

and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named,

not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1:16-21, ESV

Paul prayed that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom, of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of their hearts enlightened so they would know the hope of their calling, the riches of his inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of his power. Note, he prayed that they would have spiritual vision.

His prayer was quite specific too. He prayed that they would grasp the significance of Christ's resurrection and place at the right hand of the Father in this age but also the one to come. He wanted them to know the implications of what Christ had accomplished for them. He wanted them to understand, to comprehend, to see.

And, an ophthalmologist can't provide that kind of sight. Only the Great Physician can. Glory!

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