I am going to be dating myself a bit here, but there was little more frustrating to my early adult life than those stupid “Magic Eye” pictures! Okay, let’s be honest, it wasn’t so much thepictures that were frustrating but it was the self-proclaimed savant that was badgering you to see some “picture within the picture” that he or she apparently thought was the new Mensa standard of measuring the genius-level I.Q. My wife would argue that it was actually thepresence of higher-level thinking that precluded some people from being able to behold the secondary visage. Of course, her stalwart belief in this conclusion was in no small part influenced by the fact that she, in reality, could NOT see said picture. Many a failed attempt to behold the graphic grail was summarily commenced with the pronouncement that, “this is just stupid.” But truthfully, any measure of intellectual acumen that is enhanced by the ability of a participant to “cross one eye and then slooooowly uncross it” is probably not going to appear on the MIT entrance exam.
That being said, there was a certain euphoric brotherhood that instantly developed between those who possessed the requisite intellect (or eye-muscle control) to behold the hidden picture. It was as if the bearer of the portrait were some long-lost emissary of a secret society in search of a shaman who could see all things. That is why the bearer of the art would rarely ask “Do you see the ship in this picture?” but rather, “What do you see….?” It was all very mystical. Of course, it would have to be – we were dealing with the revelation of someone who had a “Magic” eye! The scene would play out with the participants looking intently at the picture, his or her eyes darting from corner to corner, simultaneously looking and not looking at what was on the canvas before them. There was an eery pal over the whole proceedings, a zen-like anticipation as the sensei awaited the unveiling of the Chosen One. And then it happened. Suddenly light burst forth into the subconscious of the seeker. “Wait…. I SEE IT!! I SEE IT!!” In one sweeping rush of adrenaline that was like a pat on the back from the sages of history, enlightenment had come. The photo that was at one time simply a skyline of New York City had gloriously transformed into an almost three-dimensional representation of the surface of the moon! The picture-bearer simply grins and nods towards the pupil – that “nod of knowing.” The guild had found another convert. Meanwhile, a frustrated fledgling nearby walks away mumbling, “This is just stupid…”
That overly-dramatic depiction is a bit like what I assume it may have been like to walk with and learn from Jesus. “Wait!” you might say, “Jesus wouldn’t let someone walk away!” (there is a young ruler with too much cash that might disagree with you) And yet, when he taught he very often used the equivalent of Magic Eye word pictures called parables. In Matthew 13 there is a great example of what I’m talking about. Jesus has just shared with the crowd a parable that you know well if you are familiar with Jesus’ teaching: the parable of the Sower. In essence, he held up for them a “Magic Eye” word picture. On the surface it looked like a guy out working his field. But behind it there was a bigger picture – a snapshot of how the Kingdom of God is received – and not received – by men.
The next interaction we hear is one with Jesus’ disciples, men who saw the picture-behind-the-picture. They ask Jesus, understandably, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Why not just paint them a big ol’ picture of exactly what you’re saying? His answer is one that should encourage all who have come to know Christ. He tells them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given… I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand… But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:11, 13, 16)
In essence, Jesus tells them that they see the deeper picture because they have been given eyes that see it. They don’t have better eyes. They don’t work harder at seeing. They have been given the ability to see to “Kingdom depth” – and not everyone has that ability. This revelation from Christ could turn into a cascade of “why,” but the better response may be a fountain of “thank you.”
The longer we walk with understanding the more apt we are to loose sight of how gracious a gift that it is. Simply put, the fact that you have been given understanding of the Kingdom of heaven and the work and identity of Christ is a gracious gift. That the seed has been planted in you and is bearing fruit for the harvest is a reflection of God’s mercy. Not all can comprehend. Your eyes behold what his mercy has allowed you to see. What grace! What mercy!
Let us not miss the opportunity to thank and praise the Lord today for the glorious “AHA! I SEE IT!” that is his revelation of Christ to our hearts.
Jay Sampson is the Teaching Elder at Heritage Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma where he pastors literally tens of people every week. A father of three and aspiring fantasy baseball champion, Jay has been teaching at Heritage since 2007. Weekly podcasts can be found atwww.heritageshawnee.org.