I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. Ephesians 1:17-19.
The Bible is full of stories of God opening people’s eyes. One of my favourites is in 2 Kings 6. Elisha, the prophet, is in Dothan with his servant. Because he is seer (that is, a prophet who ‘sees’ as well as hears), he has been able to tell the king of Israel every move of the king of Aram with whom Israel is at war. So the king of Aram has sent horses and chariots and a great army to Dothan to capture Elisha. When Elisha’s servant gets up in the morning and glances out from the flat roof, he nearly falls off it in terror. The city is surrounded. ‘What are we going to do?’ he screams at Elisha. Elisha shushes him. ‘Don’t panic. Aram’s army is actually outnumbered!’ And then Elisha prays, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ And we are told, ‘the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.’
What the servant saw when he first gazed out from the roof was part of the big picture but it was no means the whole of it. For that, his eyes needed to be opened.
Jesus, at the outset of his ministry, stood in the synagogue at Nazareth and (quoting from the prophet Isaiah) announced that the Father had sent him to proclaim ‘recovery of sight to the blind’ (Luke 4:18), and that was, of course, something we then finding him doing time after time during the ensuing years of ministry. There was blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10); there was the blind man on the way into Jericho (Luke 18); there were the two blind men on the way out of Jericho (Matthew 20); and, of course, there was the man born blind whose sight Jesus restored to him one Sabbath in Jerusalem. His story is found in John’s Gospel where John seems to be taking him as a representative for every spiritually blind man and woman and child in the world. To the spiritually blind Pharisees who are telling him he knows nothing, the man indignantly retorts: ‘Well one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see’ (John 9:25) … words that centuries later John Newton unforgettably incorporated into his hymn Amazing Grace.
To have our eyes opened is the Father’s will for all of us. Opened not just the once so that we can see who Jesus is and what he has done for us; but opened hour by hour to the wonders of God’s glory in an ongoing way. So Paul’s prayer for those at Ephesus who were already ‘in Christ’ was that the eyes of their hearts might be ‘made to see’ (photizo – ‘enlightened’ – is the word he uses). And made to see three specific things.
First, Paul prays they may be made to see the hope to which they had been called. What was that? Paul had spelled it out earlier. ‘He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will …’ (Ephesians 1:4-5). That is not only eye-opening it is I-opening! We see the ‘I’ we think we are and the ‘I’ other people might tell us we are – broken, damaged, inadequate, useless, unattractive, individuals of little consequence, perhaps. But then, by God’s grace … Kapow! The eyes of our heart are made to see, and what we see is that we were conceived in the heart and mind of God before even the cosmos came into being, never mind before we were ever conceived in the womb of our mothers! He made us to be perfect, glorious beloved sons and daughters at whom even angels will one day gaze in awe and wonder. And that is a sure and certain hope. One that, when our eyes are opened to the truth of it, changes everything.
Second, Paul prays that the Ephesians may be made to see the riches of the Father’s glorious inheritance among the saints. What does that mean? The clue is in the word ‘inheritance’. The Israelites were brought out of slavery in Egypt to enter into their ‘inheritance’ in Canaan. Their inheritance was ‘the promised land’ … but (as Tom Wright is so fond of pointing out) the ‘promised land’ for us Christians is not ‘heaven’ but the renewed cosmos – the new creation where heaven and earth combine in the glorious kingdom of God. The new creation was launched by the resurrection of Jesus and we are part of it (2 Corinthians 5:17) as well as co-workers with God’s Spirit in bringing it to completion. All too easily even we Christians see only doom and disaster on every side – a dystopian future where the planet is ravaged by war and man-made environmental disasters and there is misery and suffering wherever we look. But then, by God’s grace … Kapow! The eyes of our heart are made to see and what we see are the new heavens and the new earth, where we belong and where God himself dwells with us and wipes every tear from our eyes, and death is no more, and mourning and crying and pain are no more (Revelation 21).
And the third thing Paul prays for those Christians at Ephesus is that they might be made to see the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe. He wants them to see the power that is available to them. It is, he goes on to say, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead! My, how we need to see that too! ‘Oh dear,’ we think … ‘Does God really expect us to help bring about the new creation? How can we possibly do that? The task is overwhelming and we have such inadequate resources in terms of money, time, and people.’ But then, by the grace of God … Kapow! The eyes of our heart are made to see, and what we see is Jesus, ready to continue to work through us by his Spirit, bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour (Luke 4:18-19).
God truly is the great eye-opener. May he open our eyes to all these things.