BLESSED ARE THE TWELVE
How could one be blessed who followed a man who had no place to lay his head, and that no one regarded that any one good could come where he came from? What did Jesus show these men that made them stay with him who had little to offer here on earth, but suffering, sorrow and even death? God gives eyes and ears to those who are willing to sort what is right from what is wrong. Man’s eyes and ears are the doors to their mind. It is the mind that controls these receptacles. Like a door, the mind can open or close a person’s eyes. It is unfortunately that the mind does not always do its job of filtering the information. Jesus made this curious statement: “If you were blind, you would have no sin; now that you say ‘we see’ your sin remains” (Jn. 9:41). “The eye is the lamp of a person’s body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Mt. 6:22-23). One of the saddest commentaries on human receptivity comes from the Prologue of the “Gospel of John.” The author stated, “Light into the darkness shines, and the darkness does not receive it.” Jesus was that light and his own people rejected His message. They preferred to live in darkness; rather, than open their minds or hearts to the Good News Jesus was offering. It was when the public had refused His message that Jesus turned to his disciples and made this statement, “Blessed (makarioi) are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see and did not, and to hear what you hear and did not” (Lk. 10:23-24).
There are two accounts of Jesus making the above statement. The other is found in Matthew 13:16-17. There is one change. In place of “kings” as in Luke, we have “righteous.” The setting or occasion in which Jesus made the statement is entirely different. In Luke’s account, Jesus had sent out seventy-two people to proclaim the Good News and heal the sick. He had instructed them how to behave and to warn those who would reject their message. They returned with glowing reports and boasted that even demons were subject to them. Jesus was disturbed with their attitude and told them that He had seen Satan fall from heaven, like lightning to hurt them, and that He had given them the ability to overcome Satan’s attacks. But that was no cause for rejoicing. Their real joy should be over the fact that their names were written in heaven. Then, Jesus lifted up His eyes to His Father in heaven. Jesus praised His Father for hiding His Message and His Purpose from the wise and learned, and disclosing His Message to people with the mind of a child. Jesus added that this was the Father’s good pleasure to put His Son in charge. Only, the Son had knowledge of the Father, only the Father knew the Son, and only the Son chose to reveal Him to whomever He wished. It was in this connection that Jesus told his disciples, not the crowd, that their eyes were blessed and so were their ears.
Matthew linked Jesus’ statement with the “Parable of the Sower.” Jesus had just told a large audience about a farmer who had gone forth to spread seed. Some fell on a hard walking path and was eaten by birds, other seed fell on rocky ground and was burned by the sun, some of the seed fell among thorns and was choked; but, some seed fell on good soil and produced a harvest. Even if the seed fell on good soil, the results varied from thirty, to sixty, and to one hundred fold. The disciples were puzzled and inquired why Jesus was speaking in parables to the people. Then, Jesus proceeded with a detailed answer and a quote from Isaiah as follows, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but not to them. Those who have, more will be given and they will have in abundance. But those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them. For that reason, I speak in parables: thus, seeing, they do not see and hearing they do not hear, neither do they understand. In them is fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet has said: They have ears to hear but do not understand, eyes to see but not perceive because the hearts of these people are hardened. That is why they are dull of hearing and blind in seeing, less they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and open their hearts and turn so that I can heal them. But blessed are your eyes that see and your ears that hear. For a fact, let me tell you that many prophets and righteous people wished to see what you see and did not see and hear what you hear and did not hear” (Mt. 13:16-17).
Jesus then went on and explained the “Parable of the Sower” to his disciples as it related to His Message regarding the “kingdom of heaven.” He began by saying to the disciples, “Hear and understand the message of the parable.” Not only could they hear, but the also see the results. To begin with, the heart is the soil and that is where the “message of the kingdom” is received. The heart that lacks in understanding is easy prey to the evil one that snatches away the “message” before it can germinate. The heart that has a rocky ground does not have roots to sustain the “message” and loses the “message” to trouble and tribulation. Thorns surround the worried heart. The worried heart lets in the “message” and even allows the “message” to grow, but the “message” is never allowed to mature or to ripen for harvest. Now, the fertile or understanding heart allows the “message” to root, to grow and to produce. But, even here, there are three different hearts or soils. Some hearts are only convinced at thirty percent level, some hearts are only convinced at sixty percent level, and some hearts are convinced at one hundred percent level. Both, the level of perception and output greatly differ among the believing hearts.
The first blessed recipients were the disciples, and then those who believed in Jesus like the disciples did (Jn. 17:20). Both, Matthew and Luke used the Greek word ”nepiois” to describe those whom Jesus identified as the “makarioi” of seeing and hearing and understanding the message of the kingdom of heaven. However, Matthew linked the understanding of the kingdom of heaven with Jesus’ invitation to the weary and heavily burdened (Mt. 11:25-30). The term “nepiois” can mean infants, babes, little children, simple minded, childlike, uneducated, or a minor. Basically, all the options suggest an individual who accepts the message about Christ in simple faith. For our purpose, we shall study four such individuals.
First of all, this blessed individual is childlike in faith. He or she accept and trust what they hear and see. To teach his own followers how to believe, Jesus picked a child. Jesus put the child in their midst and told them that unless they became like that child, they could not enter the Kingdom of God (Mt. 18:3). It was to these little children that the kingdom belonged (Mt. 19:14). Their angels always saw His Father’s face (Mt. 18:10). It was not the child’s goodness, but the child’s simple trust that made the child a candidate for heaven. There was absolutely no doubt, in the heart of that child, that Jesus had only good intentions toward that child. A child is not without fault. The child, too, gets angry and quickly strikes back. The child can and does inflict pain – our grandchildren do – but it does not prolong a feud or a vengeance. A child can dislike certain people, but the child does not mind playing with them. A child does not forget, but the child can instantly forgive and makes up for its mistakes. However, anyone that makes a promise to a child should make absolutely certain that you keep that promise. The child will hold you accountable. Woe unto us who fails that child. Those who cause one of these little wants to sin do not deserve to live (Mt. 18:6). And it was the child’s kind of trust that Jesus was looking for in his followers and Jesus is still looking for in us.
The second person has the right heart or mind. The Hebrews did their thinking with the heart and the Greeks did their thinking with the mind. The heart included feelings and sensitivities. The mind was cool and collective. The heart dealt with the person as a whole, while the mind lived only on facts. The heart required no proof, but the mind did. The heart could grasp without seeing. The mind had to see before it could believe. More than often, the heart would allow itself to be filled with desirable things, which would block more beneficial things from entering. The heart will rest on likes and dislikes. The heart disallows the mind to function as a fact-finding instrument. Thus, the heart controls what mind sees and hears. The heart is capable of shutting out anything that threatens its comfort zone. The heart can become hardened, callous, and dull. When that happens, the mind has stopped functioning and no new information is being received. That was the condition of the heart during the days of Isaiah, at the time of Jesus, and in our own time.
Third, Jesus looked for individuals with a healthy inner vision. The Greek word for a healthy inner vision is “haplous.” It means single, simple, sound, unimpaired or perfect. An unhealthy inner vision is “poneros” and it stands for evil, corrupt or bad. Both terms were used to record Jesus’ explanation of the good and bad eye (Mt. 6:22-23). The eye is only as healthy as the heart. The heart gathers treasures and assigns value to the eye (Mt. 6:21). The heart projects either good or bad (Mt. 15:18). The heart can be deceptive and render lip service (Mt. 15:8), or the heart can be noble, good, and bring forth a stream of good thoughts (Jn. 7:38). The heart can become hard as a rock and force a lawmaker like Moses to yield to its demands (Mt. 19:8). The evil heart specializes in finding little faults or specks in others (Mt. 7:3). The evil heart overlooks its own glaring errors as large as planks or logs (Lk. 6:41). Even when the facts are in, the heart is slow to believe or to understand (Lk. 24:25). Is it any wonder that Jesus was grieved over his generation (Mk. 3:5)? And why are we so surprised that secular courts and governments do rule in favor of the wicked heart? Once the heart is blemished, only Almighty God can correct it; and then only by a transplant with a new heart and a new spirit (Ez. 36:26). With the Psalmist, we should pray, “Create in me a pure hear, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me” (Ps. 51:10-13).
That inner vision comes from the world of the Spirit. In the wisdom of Paul the Apostle, we are not just contending with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers in heavenly place (Eph. 6:12). There is a force or power in the world that is against everything that God assigned a natural order to it. How else can one explain the perversion of marriage, abortion, sex and the exaltation of our carnal desires? According to Jesus, the shocking reality is that the world has Satan as their prince (Jn. 14:30). It is not the world God has created, but the one man has carved out for himself. It is that part or kingdoms that Satan could offer to Christ for the mere purpose of giving up on God (Mt. 4:8-10). The kingdoms that the Devil offered to Christ were endowed with great splendor. In other words, they were the rich and developed countries and not those in poverty. These kingdoms had already abandoned God’s jurisdiction and had become Satan’s domain. Unwelcome as this concept may appear, it is backed by the fact that the western world, no longer, abides by God’s Laws; and, therefore the western world has surrendered to Satan, the prince of this world.