Faith Is Seeing What Cannot Be Seen
February 11, 2018
As we hear in the Epistle reading, Paul tells the Christians who lived in the city of Corinth that we now see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. It just so happens that this Greek city, which was second only to Athens in influence, was a source of some of the best mirrors in the ancient world at the time. They made them out of bronze and were of good quality. Our glass mirrors are much clearer, but their mirrors would give you a good idea of what you looked like.
When Paul says that now we see in a mirror dimly, he is saying that when we see a reflection we are not seeing the thing as it fully is. We are seeing it indirectly. If you look at a picture of someone you can see how they look. If you know the person, the image brings to your mind feelings and things you know about the person. But it is nothing like seeing them face to face and actually interacting with them. Looking at the picture is seeing at them, but seeing them indirectly.
This is how it is as we live in this life here on earth. We see but we don’t see fully. We know but we don’t know Him completely. This is why it’s hard to be a Christian. You believe in God but can you prove He’s real? You live a morally upright life and help others in their need but are you really better off for it? You know you need God’s help but is it actually the case that you are sinful to your core, that there is nothing in you acceptable to God? The Bible promises you blessings beyond compare but can you really say that your life is truly blessed as you would conceive of abundant blessings?
What you see in this world is evidence that if God is real He either doesn’t have power to prevent outright evil or is apathetic enough to let it go. Your life is challenging enough and filled with enough pain and sorrow that it sure doesn’t look like God loves you and blesses you abundantly. You certainly don’t see God. You aren’t able to see the fullness of the blessings God gives you. You don’t always feel the love God pours out to you.
This is why Paul says that what you see as a follower of Christ is what cannot be seen. What you see of God in this life is indirect. The fullness of God’s blessings are only seen by faith. By faith you see what the world does not see. You can’t see God with your eyes but you do see Him by faith. By faith you see what your own sinful nature is blinded to see. You see that your ultimate life is yet to come. You can’t prove that but you believe it by faith. Interestingly enough, Satan sees where you often fail to trust in God. Satan knows the Bible inside-and-out. He knows exactly who God is and knows that it is in Christ alone that there is salvation. But he doesn’t believe in Christ. He doesn’t trust in Him for his eternal welfare. So Satan, though he has far greater knowledge than we do, is forever banished to hell.
Why is it you are saved only by faith? Why does God not prove to you He is God? Why does He allow you to suffer when He wants only to bless you and give you good gifts? Because what can be proven is no greater than what humans can create and God is far more powerful than we could ever imagine. Because if you did not suffer then you would think you have no need for God. God gives you this great gift of faith so that you trust in Him and not in anyone or anything else for your hope of eternal life.
You question God, but if you trust in Him you will see that the way He works in your life is far greater than if you were to be able to control it or understand it fully. Jesus tells the disciples in the Gospel reading that they are going to Jerusalem and all things will be fulfilled that are written in the Old Testament concerning the Son of Man. Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man. He is fully God and yet was born of the Virgin, becoming a man. The Son of God who is the Son of Man was going up to Jerusalem to fulfill everything written in the Old Testament. You know how the disciples took this? They didn’t believe it. They followed Him. They believed in Him. But when it came down to Jesus being God in the flesh to save people from their sins they went by sight and not by faith.
It’s no wonder. They expected that since Jesus is God that He would work salvation in the powerful ways that God works. But not this way. Not with being insulted and demeaned and spit on and whipped. God is above that. God would smite the people who would do that to Him. But the final blow comes when the Son of Man will actually be killed. He will have to be buried because they will take His life away; they will kill Him. Do you actually expect people to believe that God Almighty succumbs to death? Jesus does also say that Son of Man will rise. But the disciples don’t understand any of it.
But notice how Luke describes it. They don’t understand it and the things Jesus said were hidden from them. The Scriptures speak this way at times. The point is that God is the one who reveals to us what we need to know. We can’t come to it on our own. We need faith. When you don’t grasp it by faith then you don’t grasp it at all. What Jesus was telling them could not be understood until Jesus went through all of those things He described.
Just as the Old Testament could not be understood fully until Jesus fulfilled it, Jesus’ words here cannot truly be understood apart from Him actually having submitted to all those brutal acts and actually dying and rising. In other words, this is how the Holy Spirit reveals to His people the truth of what Jesus spoke. In contrast to the disciples, the man by the side of the road who was blind was able to see who Jesus was even before Jesus gave sight to his eyes. Though he was the only there who could not see he saw something no one else did. He saw the Son of David and cried out to Him to have pity on him. Jesus asked him what he wanted Him to do for him and the man said to recover his sight. Jesus gave him sight and said, Your faith has saved you.
The blind man saw something more in Jesus even though he could not see. It was finally revealed to the disciples after Jesus rose from the dead. And it is revealed to you. If you try to see it you will be blind to it. But if you believe Jesus by faith then you will see what that blind man saw. You will see the one who has pity on you and saves you.
When you were Baptized no one saw the faith the Holy Spirit created in your heart. No one saw your sinful flesh dying with Christ and rising with Christ. No one saw any change in you. But you are Baptized. You are a new creation in Christ. There is no visible sign that you are Baptized. There was the water applied to you and the words spoken to you. But those visible realities were indirect ways of you actually seeing by faith that you were now living a new life, no longer dead in sin. Even though there are some who would say that you need another Baptism, such as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, when you go by faith and trust in the words of Christ spoken to you in your Baptism you know that you have been given everything you need by the Holy Spirit. There’s not anything lacking in the one Baptism you were Baptized with.
When at this altar there is bread and wine and you approach the Lord’s altar and eat that bread and wine, you, like everyone else, see nothing but bread and wine. There is no sign there is anything but that. But living by faith, you see what cannot be seen. You see Christ, for He Himself in giving you the bread and wine has said, Take and eat, this is My body, given for you. Take and drink, this is My blood, shed for you for your forgiveness. You cannot see Him, you cannot see a change in yourself as you are forgiven. But in faith you see the reality that Christ is present and that He actually gives Himself to you into your mouth and you know you are strengthened in body and soul.
Since you live by faith you see what cannot be seen. The world cannot see what you see; your own eyes and sinful nature cannot even see what you see by faith. Since your Lord comes to you in hidden ways such as through the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion and the preached words of the sermon, you are given sight in the rest of your life as well. When the world looks at other people they see some people who are bad and some people who are good. When you look at people you are given sight to see that they are all just like you, sinners who can’t overcome their sin. But they are also just like you in that Jesus died for them as He died for you. When you love them you don’t put them in a category of good person or bad person but as fellow sinner for whom Christ died. You see them as people who are in need and love them as Christ has loved you. When they do things that are wrong, or turn you off, or hurt you, you don’t write them off but rather see what can only be seen by faith. You see them as someone to love and serve and help.
On the Last Day you will see face to face. You will be in the presence of the Lord, you will have no need of faith because you will have perfect sight. Now you live by faith. You see what cannot be seen. You go forward giving thanks that what your Lord gives you cannot be reduced to what you can see but far surpasses what you can see and is yours forever. Amen.