Traveling to Israel has caused me to spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus’ time on earth. It was a profound experience to look at things that Jesus’ eyes would have seen. The sun shone on the sea of Galilee. The sun set on the hill of Jerusalem. The olive trees, the flowers, and the rocks still look the same way they did when Jesus saw them. That said, I think Jesus spent most of his time looking at the faces of the people around him, specifically their eyes.
William Shakespeare is often cited as the one who said, “The eyes are the window to the soul,” but those who have studied the phrase believe he was just repeating a proverb or quoting an idea that had been around a long time. The Bible speaks about the eye reflecting a person’s heart or being a window into our souls.
In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but it your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness” (Matthew 6:22–23)! Those words are found in his teaching about being careful to store our treasure in heaven. After Jesus talked about the eye he said we could not serve two masters, God and money. Jesus said either one will control us or the other will.
My mom recently had cataract surgery on both of her eyes. She has been reaching for her sunglasses every time she leaves the house. Her eyes are allowing a lot more of the sunlight to enter now that the “fog” has been cleared away. That surgery is a good explanation of what Jesus was trying to say to the crowds of people listening to him preach. Our eyes perceive the things around us. What we focus our eyes on directs our thoughts. Our thoughts direct our choices. Sometimes we see with clarity, but sometimes our eyes are clouded.
What do your eyes tend to focus on as you go through your day? A mother of young children can be busy with all kinds of activities, but her eyes are constantly checking on her kids and what they are doing. A person engrossed in a great novel can be sitting in a busy airport and never see the people milling around. When traffic is bad, our focus is on the cars around us and we can miss the scenery passing by. When our thoughts are focused inward, our eyes can miss what God wants us to see.
The apostle John teaches us to be aware of our focus. He wrote, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:19–21).
In Israel, I found myself looking at the faces of the people who passed by me, especially the women. There were elderly women who were as curious about me as I was about them. They waited to see if I would notice them and then smiled when I did. There were young women, rushing after their children, rushing to a job, or rushing to complete an errand. Some wore traditional Jewish clothing, others wore traditional Muslim clothing, and others were dressed like young women would look in most of the world’s metropolitan cities. It was often difficult to catch their eye, but fun when I did.
I received a lot of sideways glances. I was just another tourist from another foreign country that they would never see again. Sometimes, my eyes would meet with theirs and they looked surprised. I was especially aware of the Muslim women, some of whom were completely covered except for their faces. I think these women were used to being ignored or maybe viewed negatively by people around them. I remember one woman who was walking toward me, completely covered except for her face. Our eyes met and she was startled. When I smiled, she hesitated and then smiled back. I wish I could have had lunch with her and learned her story.
Jesus taught us to be aware of what our eyes focus on in this world. What thoughts consume our minds as we are walking through our days? Are we so focused on our own thoughts and situations that we are unaware of the faces passing by? Do we meet the eyes of people or do we just see vague images hurrying past?
I think about the views and vistas we saw in Israel, but mostly, I think about the faces of the people I met. The man who brought my coffee each morning in Jerusalem. The woman who worked in the store. That women who was startled when I smiled at her. I wish I had the time and opportunity to really know them. They might never choose Jesus, but I would like to have had the chance to tell them.
Whom do we have the chance to tell? Whose eyes should I be paying attention to today? Will I make the same effort to meet the eyes of the people around me in my own city? I think Jesus noticed people, and I am sure they noticed him. If I don’t love the people I have seen, how can I love God whom I have not seen . . . yet? There are faces all around us that we do have a chance to tell about Jesus. Are we focused on them, or something less important?
May our eyes reflect God’s love to a world that is sorely in need of his light. If that is all we do today, we will have done what matters most. The eyes either have him, or they don’t. Help us Lord to love them enough, to be sure.
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