The verb “atenizo” can change your day
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One of the most important lessons in Bible study is to pay close attention to the verbs in the original language. 

I’m blessed to have some great help with Hebrew and Greek. My husband has a PhD from seminary, but I have a PhT: “Put husband Through” seminary. 

My PhT allows me to ask Jim my questions and he is good to answer! He has a computer program with Greek and Hebrew, and I’m often amazed at the difference it makes to learn exactly what a word meant to those for whom the passage was originally written.

The Greek verb atenizo 

The Greek verb atenizo is used four times in our New Testament. When you see how it is used, it can change your personal walk with the Lord today and always. 

That verb means “to stare intently” or to “look with intent or purpose.” Why is that a powerful verb in the Bible? 

Consider this example. 

You are shopping for a particular shirt in a particular color. You scan the rack filled with shirts, but your eyes are drawn to those that are the color you want. So, you look at each of those shirts until you find . . . the PERFECT shirt, in the perfect color, made in your size. 

You pull that shirt off the rack, reach for the tag and atenizo at the price. You look at the tag with significant interest and focus.  

Now that you understand the meaning of the Greek verb, how was atenizo used in the Bible? 

The crowd atenizo-ed Jesus 

Jesus went to his hometown, Nazareth, on the Sabbath and entered the synagogue there. By this time people would have begun to hear and speculate about whether or not Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus took the scroll of Isaiah that day and read this passage to the people gathered in the synagogue:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19).

Everyone listening knew those words to be a Messianic prophecy from Isaiah. Luke 4:20–21 says, “And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ’Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” 

The phrase “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him” is atenizo

Jesus had just told them Isaiah’s words were fulfilled now. If you remember the rest of the story, you will know that it ends with Jesus being taken to the side of the mountain to be thrown down and stoned by the crowd. After all, this was just “Joseph’s son.” But somehow Jesus passed “through their midst” and went away (v. 30), fulfilling the Scripture that “no prophet was acceptable in his hometown” (v. 24). 

Imagine the people in Nazareth staring at Jesus, whom they considered to be Joseph’s son, and wondering if he was their long-awaited Messiah. 

One day Jesus will return and everyone will atenizo Jesus. 

On that day, there will be no doubt. 

The Mount of Ascension 

Acts 1 tells of the crowd gathered on the Mount of Ascension. Jesus had just issued the Great Commission in Acts 1:8 and then he ascended to heaven. 

Acts 1:10–11 says, “And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” 

What did it look like to see Jesus ascend into heaven? 

Those on that mountain were staring with great focus as they watched a miracle. But, they were told not to remain on the mountain. Their atenizo was to move from gazing into the heavens to focusing on those in the world who needed the gospel. 

The temple gate called Beautiful 

I learned the verb atenizo when I was scheduled to teach this powerful story from Acts 3. There are times in ministry when my eyes are drawn to someone in a crowd, a class, a restaurant, or any other place. I find myself looking at a person, but it goes beyond just noticing their presence. Sometimes a glance becomes atenizo because it is a calling, or, as I like to call it, “an appointment from God.” 

Shortly after Pentecost, Peter and John were walking to the temple for a regular time of prayer. The temple gate called Beautiful was the most common entrance to the synagogue because it was large, ornate, and located on the eastern side of the wall. 

Scripture tells us “a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate” (Acts 3:2). On this particular day, “Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us’” (v. 4).  

Peter and John, and very likely Jesus, had seen this man every time they went to the synagogue. He was placed at this gate “daily.” Yet, on this day, when they saw the lame man, they did more than just “see” him. 

Peter and John’s “direct gaze” is atenizo. They looked at him with intention and purpose. They had received the Holy Spirit in their lives, and they saw this man with a sense of calling. Peter took the man’s arm and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (v. 6). 

After the man was healed, he was “walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (vv. 8–10).  

Jesus had probably passed this man each time he entered the synagogue, just like Peter, John, and thousands of other Jewish men. But this day was different. Today, Peter and John would display the power of God through the gift of his Holy Spirit. The disciples atenizo-ed the man and his life was forever changed

The Christian movement was dramatically changed that day as well. Jesus had saved this man’s healing for his disciples. That day many people witnessed the fact that there was power in the name of Jesus and that power now dwelt in those who believed. 

Stephen saw Jesus too

The final time the verb atenizo is used is at the stoning of Stephen. Scripture says, “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’” (Acts 7:55–56).  

Stephen, filled with God’s Spirit, told the truth about gazing into heaven, atenizo, and seeing the glory of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Stephen saw Jesus the way we should see Jesus today: glorified in heaven and standing to do his Father’s will. 

Who needs to see Jesus today? 

The words gazing into heaven are represented in the Greek word atenizo. It’s the same word for the way Peter looked at the lame man and the way the disciples watched the ascension. It is also the word that describes how the people of Jesus’ hometown watched him as he preached. 

It is likely the word that describes how the entire world will be transfixed when Jesus returns. That day some will atenizo with joy, awe, and gratitude; others will fix their eyes with fear and sorrow.  

Whose eternal atenizo can be changed and blessed today because of your personal witness? 

One day the Holy Spirit will cause you to atenizo a person. You will look at him or her and listen to them with a sense of calling. You will stare at them as you pray for God’s direction. God will cause you to look intently, to atenizo, at people for the rest of your days on earth, if you are Spirit-led and willing to serve. 

Will you offer your eyes to God for his holy purpose? 

That prayer will change your life, and, quite likely, many other lives as well.