[#pictureLent] Feb. 24: "Magic Eyes" of Faith

By Monique McBride
First UMC, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

First, read Matthew 16:13-20

Do you remember those “magic eye” pictures so popular in the 90s? (I give you permission to Google them as long as you promise to come back.) Similar to the Rubik’s cubes of the 80s, these little beauties caused much frustration as we all stood in front of them trying to see the hidden picture somewhere amidst the bright colors and patterns.

On coffee table books, posters and advertisements, these pictures were everywhere and had us all staring endlessly, crossing our eyes, moving the pictures back and forth in front of us and trying sometimes hopelessly to see the shape of Mickey Mouse, Darth Vader or a puppy dog hidden within.

You might be able to tell from my tone that I was one of those people who simply couldn’t see the hidden picture. Though I tried all the tricks, I could never make out whatever image was supposedly hidden within all those shapes and colors. Even when my friends would show me where to look, I could barely see what they were talking about. And as fast as I could make out a little bit of the image, it was gone. To this day, I can’t do it.

When Jesus took the disciples on a little journey up to Caesarea Philippi, he had some questions for them. He asked, “Who am I? What do others say? What do you believe? What do you see when you look at me?” Much like those magic eye pictures, even when right in front of their noses, the disciples and others simply couldn’t see Jesus.

Caught up in the distractions of doubt and the day-to-day, they couldn’t see him as the Messiah. Though at times they caught glimpses and vague understandings of Jesus’ identity as their Lord and Savior, again and again their belief was gone almost as quickly as it came.

Weary from the crowds and looking for a little time away, Jesus took His buddies up to Caesarea Phillipi. Up in the hills and away from their fishing village of Capernaum, Jesus was hoping this little getaway would give them some clarity about who He was and what they all were called to do as His disciples. With the sounds of the Jordan River bubbling around them, He hoped this retreat would give them a chance to see Him for who He was.

Though they had all seen him perform healings, miracles and express the love of God in countless ways, Jesus knew they were confused and scared and unable to focus on the “big picture” of who He really was. In the stillness of the moment and with help from God, it was Peter who identified Jesus as “the Messiah” and “the Son of the living God.” For those of you who have been on a youth group retreat or mission trip, you probably can identify with those special and sacred moments of clarity when we can all of the sudden see with the eyes of faith what has been there all along with us.

Maintaining these “magic eyes” of faith is difficult. Like the disciples, we struggle with daily distractions and disbelief to understand and truly see the fullness of our Lord and Savior. Though we catch glimpses and outlines, it is impossible on our own to have and keep the clarity of faith.

The good news is, as we read scripture, spend time in worship and prayer and give to others, the hidden picture of Jesus is revealed. With time, it becomes easier and easier to see the way Christ is with us and guides through our every day. What about you? What helps you to look past all the distractions of life and focus on the good news and love of Jesus?

Prayer: God of Truth, Give us eyes to see your love for us and all people. Guide us through the distractions and frustrations of our lives and help us to trust in you above all things. Reveal to us your message of grace and unending love during this most holy season.

Discussion Questions

  1. What distracts you from seeing the love of Jesus in your life?
  2. Which practices help you to stay focused on your faith?
  3. What can you do today to help others see the love of Jesus?