Oh Say Can You See?
by Alan Allegra 11/09/2007 / Devotionals
A man named José has just become an American. He attends his first baseball game, and goes home to his wife. "How was the game?" she asks. "Great," he replies. "Everyone was so thoughtful." "What do you mean?" she asks. He replies, "Just before the game began, everyone stood up and said, 'José, can you see?'" That's it for the third-grade jokes!
My wife's father was a loving, unselfish, hard working man. Using pickax and shovel, Russell dug out a basement in their house to make room for his woodworking equipment, which he used to make wall decorations, lawn ornaments, furniture, and remodeling projects. When he needed supplies, he walked to the lumberyard and carried the wood on his back. He enjoyed word puzzles and pinochle, and spent hours in record shops and playing checkers. You might say that Russell was the typical all-American father. But he was blindthe victim of an airplane accident in World War II.
Lynda didn't realize her Dad was blind until she was seven or eight years old. He hid his handicap so well that he appeared to be an average, sighted person. He certainly acted like it.
Things are not always what they appear to be. Outward appearances and actions do not always indicate what's in the heart. The tears of a clown remain hidden behind makeup, and ubiquitous yellow faces tell us to smile. Charlie Chaplin, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, and even Michael Jackson exhorted us to "Smile, though your heart is aching." What is in the heart is not always reflected in the life.
There was a group of religious leaders in Jesus' time called Pharisees. They were known as the most fastidiously religious people of their day. They knew all the right Scripture verses, kept all the right customs, prayed all the right prayers, and wore the right clothes. Anyone looking at them would think they were God's favorites.
However, Jesus saw right through them. Over and over, he called them blind guides and hypocrites (Matthew 23). Jesus' evaluation and remedy was particularly pointed: "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. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean" (Matthew 23:25, 26). He told them to remodel the hidden heart so that it matches the exterior image. It is possible to go through religious motions and yet be blind.
One of the most humorous and ironic angles of Russell's story has to do with the government's compensation for his blindness. What would a non-sighted person most need? A cane? Guide dog? Braille lessons? How about a brand new, shiny gray 1952 Plymouth? That's right! It sat in the street for two years, wondering what it was doing there. The reward he got for his handicap was completely useless to him.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their ostentatious displays of piety. The rewards they earned in their blinded state were useless as well: "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full" (Matthew 6:2).
Mother Teresa was considered one of the most spiritual individuals of the century because of her selfless actions. Who would deny that she was peculiarly close to God? Yet, in the book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, her own confessions reveal what she poignantly sums up in this quotation: "As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear." Although she looked good on the outside, she was far from God.
What Jesus wants all people to see is that he is the Light of the World, leading the way to reconciliation with God, and eternal life. "He said, '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). It isn't the good deeds, adherence to rituals, religious or ethnic heritage or half-hearted beliefs that matter to Godit's the heart that repents of sin and takes in Christ as Lord that opens the blind eyes.
Is there a war in your heart? Are you longing for peace, a truce between you and God? Jesus Christ offers a peace treaty written in his blood that will bring an end to all hostilities (Romans 5:1). Oh say can you see?