Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies conducted an intense study on the way our eyes see and concluded that we actually do not see with our eyes but with our brain. While it may seem that it takes very little effort to ‘see’ with our eyes it is up to our brains to process and understand what information is parading before them. From the time light hits the retina till the signal is well along the brain pathway that processes visual information, at least 70 milliseconds have passed. During this time, a baseball that clocks in at a rather lame 85 mph has already traveled 10 feet! For the player to hit the ball, experience notwithstanding, his brain has to compensate for the delay. I believe that in the photographic realm that 10 seconds is used to “see” a story beyond the obvious- it’s the ability to look more deeply and that translates into others seeing the story as well. Kathy Ryan, former Director of Photography for the NY Times Magazine wrote, “Photographers teach us to look again, look harder and look through their eyes.”
Several words across the pages of the Scripture describe seeing and carry all the nuances of both the action and the mental associations that take place during the process of sight. The different words used for seeing in the New Testament are particularly clear when applied to how we see Jesus. In Matthew 11:2-6, the most common of these verbs, blepo (which appears 137 times in the NT), is used. Blepo is primarily used to define the physical ability to see or having the faculty of sight, but also includes the ability to understand what we are seeing (I see something round. It bounces. Oh, it’s a ball!). Harao (to see or perceive with the eyes) and theaomai (to look at intently, contemplate) are not used in these verses but depending on where we are in our walk of faith and the circumstances we find ourselves in, we will see Jesus on each or all of these “sight levels”.
Circumstances for John the Baptist had changed dramatically since the day he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River (Mt. 3:1-12). He had been arrested by Herod Antipas for speaking out against the ruler’s marriage to his former sister-in-law Herodias (further explanation is given in Mt. 14:1-12). Although we are not given the reason for John’s doubts in this passage, it’s possible that John was expecting one of two outcomes- a physical release thanks to someone stepping up to help obtain his release, or the political overthrow of the Romans which many expected the Messiah to perform when He came. To see if his expectations were correct regarding Jesus as the source of those options, John sends some of his disciples to Jesus to find out if he is right. Jesus’ response it somewhat surprising. Rather than reassuring words that “Everything’s gonna be alright John”, Jesus replies with an exhortation in the form of a beatitude, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (v. 6). It is easy to hold on to faith when everything is going well. But the tumultuous and uncomfortable times we face in life demand “seeing” beyond the “shot” and recognizing “the story”.
What makes you see “a shot” is the natural faculty of sight. What makes you see “THE” story in the shot is perception or insight. As a photographer I want to look at my world and see things that others don’t see. I want to see beyond the obvious. As a believer I want this kind of seeing present in my walk of faith too. I want to see Jesus the way He challenged John to see Him. It is popular to only see Jesus as a loving shepherd or a good friend who fills our needs when others fail us. But He is far more than that. He is the Messiah and has all the attributes of the magnificent God who parted seas, judged insurrections and healed the helpless in the days of Israel’s wanderings which was attested to by His earthly ministry in Galilee. I want my seeing to be on the deepest level not only for a picture’s sake but even more importantly for recognizing Jesus in all the Scriptures He fulfills. If I am looking for Him in this way (the prosdokao of verse 3), I too will perceive Him (the blepo of verse 4) as He truly is. How do you see Him?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre