May 18 2011

Seeing Jesus Everywhere

In the Old Testament there is a story where Moses is leading the Hebrews through the wilderness and they find themselves in great need of water to drink.  God tells Moses to strike a nearby rock with his staff.  Once he did out of the rock flowed life giving water. (See Exodus 17:1-7 for more details.)  In the New Testament we find the apostle Paul writing to the church at Corinth and he reminds them of this same story but he adds a significant twist.

In 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 he said “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”  Paul’s words are surprising because Jesus, as we know and understand him, was not present with Moses on that particular day.  It would be centuries before he would be born in the village of Bethlehem.  Still, Paul insists that Jesus was there, that he was the “rock” that provided life for the thirsty Hebrews.

Rob Bell, writing in his new book Love Wins, says “Paul’s interpretation that Christ was present in the Exodus raises the question: Where else has Christ been present?  When else?  With who else?  How else?”  Bell goes on to say, “Paul finds Jesus there, in that rock, because Paul finds Jesus everywhere.”

I suspect Bell is right.  The great apostle did not look at the world quite as literally as most of us do these days.  He was able to see Jesus in places where we do not recognize him.  Does that mean Paul was wrong or perhaps even crazy?  I don’t think so. This coming Sunday I’ll be preaching a message on Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  (Matthew 5:8)   I cannot help but believe that Paul was able to see God in places we don’t because of the state of his heart or soul.  I also believe that Jesus’ words imply that as our own hearts are increasingly cleansed and purified that we will begin to see God in places we have not before.  Like Paul we can come to see Jesus everywhere—in the rocks and trees, in the person seeking a handout at the busy intersection, in the smile of a child, or perhaps even in the face staring back at us in the mirror.

Today my prayer is the words of the familiar hymn: “Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.  Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!”


(I took the two images above during my recent visit to the Falls of the Stony in Jefferson National Forest.  The bottom image is Upper Falls.)