“And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.” John 20:14
What we “see” is determined by our “perceptions.” It’s interesting how we can “see” or taste or hear the exact same thing as someone else, yet not “perceive” it the same way. I can eat cilantro and think it’s fine. My mom and brother can’t because it tastes like metal in their mouths. I can hear certain music and it sounds like noise and disharmony to me. Someone else can listen to it and enjoy it. Some people “see” modern art and “perceive” great things from it, whereas I “see” it and “perceive”, “Huh?” So, not only can our perceptions be different, but sometimes they can just be wrong.
Mary was at the tomb. In John 20:12, Scripture tells us that she saw two angels sitting where Your body had been, Jesus. Now this word for “see” is “theoreo.” It can mean to consider, perceive, apprehend, discern and enjoy the presence of. But it can also mean to look at, gaze at, behold. At least that’s what some blogger shared and Vine’s Greek New Testament Dictionary. And I suppose what I’m “seeing” today is that we don’t always “see” things correctly.
I’m wondering if Mary really saw those two angels for who they were? I mean, when she saw two angels, what was her response? Because most of the time, when people see angels in the Bible, the angels tell them not to be afraid. But I don’t see that going on here. I’m wondering if Mary was so deep in her grief that she didn’t even really “see” that these “men” were angels? After all, they aske her, “Why are you weeping?” Here she was sobbing and maybe wailing loudly. Could her eyes and heart have been so full with tears that she didn’t really “see”?
“They’ve taken away my Jesus and I don’t know where He is.” Only sorrow there. No sense of awe that I can see. She even turns her back on them. Then she “saw” Jesus. But when she “saw” Jesus, she didn’t “know” Him. She didn’t “perceive” You were Him. You were just a gardener to her. Two angels bearing hope gave no hope. One risen Lord and Savior stood unrecognized. “Why are you weeping and who are you searching for?”, You asked. But she doesn’t recognize Your voice. Why? Is there something standing in the way of her perception, in the way of her really “seeing”?
All I know is that it took one word from You, and she “saw.” “Mary.” Even though she did not “see” You, You “saw” her. You “saw” her and “broke the silence” of her heart and eyes. It’s funny, but that one blogger on theoreo.wordpress.com shared that theoreo “implies listening through the ‘ear of the heart.'” But for us to “see” and “hear”, You have to break the silence of our eyes and hearts.
Once You open our eyes and hearts, we “see” things differently, as they really are, no matter how they look. In Acts 17:22, Paul “saw” the men in Athens were overly superstitious in everything. Another time when he was prisoner on a ship, he “saw” that the ship was going to end up in big trouble. Jesus, You, Yourself sat outside the temple one day “seeing.” Mark 12: 41 tells us “And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury ; and many rich people were putting in large sums.” Skip Moen says theoreo, ” implies a careful and deliberate attention to something seen.” Sometimes it means we actually get it. But sometimes we can be paying attention closely and still not get it.
I think about the Samaritan woman at the well. She “saw” that You were a prophet. Is that a correct perception? The Hebrew words raah, biyn, and yada also are used in the same way. Job said, “When He passes me, I cannot see Him; when He goes by, I cannot perceive Him.” Rodney W. Francis shared this of Job, “Job was going through a major trial in his life and it seems that his circumstances were “blinding” him from comprehending God and His voice? How we must guard against our circumstances getting in the way of perceiving when God is near.” Isn’t that what was going on with Mary? Don’t I fall into that trap sometimes? Only I would change one thing that Mr. Francis said. I want to comprehend, to know that God is ALWAYS near because His Word says He will NEVER not be near. If He dwells inside me, how can there ever be a time when He is not near? And how much closer can You get than within?
This “not really getting it” is a common problem among us “mortals.” Jeremiah asked, “Who among them has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should perceive and hear His Word? Who has marked His Word, noticing and observing and giving attention to it, and has actually heard it?” It’s why You, Yourself, warn us, Lord, “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” I am to “know”, “yada”, really comprehend it, really get it. But I have to stop focussing on everything else and really start looking at You. I need to stop looking for a dead body and start staring intently at the living Savior.
Matthew 28:1 tells us that “the Mary’s” came to see the sepulcher. So, what were they looking for? They were looking for a dead Jesus. Often, what we are looking for is all we see, even if it isn’t true. Sadly, our perceptions often lie to us about reality. How many times have we allowed ourselves to perceive someone’s actions a certain way and accused someone wrongly, or maybe we have been the one accused wrongly, due to misperceptions. This is the sad part. I can carefully and deliberately focus on the wrong thing and totally miss the right thing.
I can deliberately focus on my sorrow, someone else’s wrongs, the world affairs, even my own joy, and miss out on what the Lord has for me to see. Sometimes the problem is that we are “seeing” from “afar off” when we ought to be right next to You, listening intently to Your every word and acting on it. I can look and see the stone rolled away but never ask You to help me understand. I can stand there and put it into my own perspective, and end up with not only a wrong conclusion, but a wrong focus, and believe a lie instead of the truth. I mean, who got the credit for rolling the stone away at first? The guards. But it was You. My misperceptions cause me to give the glory to another. I shouldn’t take lightly how I choose to perceive things. I ought to desperately seek You and rely on You to give me a proper vision.
In all reality, lots of people “saw” You and “perceived” You on the cross. But their sight and their perception was wrong. They missed the point. The Chosen One of God, the Christ, couldn’t save Himself from the cross. He had to stay on that cross to save them, to save us. They perceived a man. That’s all they saw. What if they had seen and perceived God? What if I saw and perceived God? How would my responses, my life change?
I’m not finding fault in Mary. I’m saying, we’re all like Mary in a way and at times. Jesus asked his disciples, “And what if you shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?” Would we perceive that correctly? Would it really make a difference? I mean, if I can’t believe Your words, would I believe and act correctly upon seeing You arise?
And maybe the whole point is that I need to be desperately seeking for You, for the Truth. But my seeking alone is not enough. I can’t understand Your words correctly or perceive Your ascension correctly, or perceive You correctly if You don’t give me life. My human sight is not enough. Your Spirit must give me understanding and life. No one can come unto You and get it unles You make it possible. Do I believe that You have the only words of eternal life? Am I willing to turn my eyes off of everything going on around me, and just focus on You? But, Lord, I need You to call out my name and get my whole attention just as much as Mary did that day.
Lord, there are a lot of tough things going on around us in this world right now. There’s family burdens, spiritual burdens, financial burdens, and more burdens than I can name. But I think of You sharing about how the real shepherd doesn’t leave his flock when the wolf comes. Someone who doesn’t really care, sees the wolf and runs. But not You and we shouldn’t either. It reminds me of a time I was with my friend. And she had stepped into a cage with two large boa constrictors who were fighting over a chicken dinner. The one had sunk his teeth into the other. And she, though not a snake lover, was trying to separate them so the one wouldn’t hurt the other. I remember watching intently because I don’t like snakes. But I know one thing that day. Had that boa or both of them turned on her, I would have forgotten all fear and beaten those “suckers” off of her no matter what it cost.
So, why do we get so down? Why do we forget so easily. You are right there, just waiting to charge in and rescue us every time. Whether I’m delivered or taken home with You, I get to see You either way! So, take my eyes off the snakes. Keep my eyes focused on You. Keep my eyes focused on the the One I love. Keep me focused on the ones You are focused on. Because Your eyes were never focussed on things, but always focussed on God, on us, on people. So, though I have a human tendency to focus on circumstances and things, change my perception and focus me on the Real Thing, on You and on others as You see them. And as my focus is perfected, perfect my response. Teach me to be a real shepherd like You.