We All Want to Be Seen
The other day I was at our small town’s school right before the dismissal bell. Some pre-K students were sitting in front of the school with their teachers, waiting to be picked up. I walked up to a little girl from our church. It was one of her first days at school, so I wanted to see how it was going. I asked her what was on her pretty book-sack, and as she was showing me, another student who I don’t know said, “Mine is Paw Patrol!” If you walk into a pre-K classroom and tell one child you like their socks, within ten seconds you will have 15 little four-year-olds all showing you their socks. We all want to be seen.
Several weeks ago my stepson Nathan and I were eating lunch at a Popeyes. (Before they introduced their controversial chicken sandwiches.) I brought our food back to the table, said our blessing, and we began to eat. An older gentleman appeared beside our table and, after commending us for praying before our meal, proceeded to share what seemed like his entire life story. I tried to navigate listening attentively while also eating my delicious chicken. For the better part of 30 minutes he stood there by our table, talking to us. We all want to be seen.
Almost every week I go to see one of our members, Ms. Marie, who lives in a nursing home in town. I have noticed that residents there find reasons to speak to me, not because I am anyone special, but because I am someone different from the same people they interact with each day. I’m not one of the caretakers. I’m not a fellow resident. I’m someone from “out there” where life is still happening. This might sound crazy, but it’s almost like they feel that, by speaking to me, they are reminding the rest of the world that they’re still here. They feel less invisible. We all want to be seen.
One of the great things about Jesus is that he is so good at seeing people. In Luke we find Jesus teaching in the synagogue, as he was apt to do. At this particular gathering in the synagogue, someone showed up who caught Jesus’s eye.
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. (Luke 13:10-13 ESV)
Jesus sees this woman who has suffered for so long. At a time when there is no such thing as handicap parking spots, disability insurance, or wheelchairs, this woman’s life has been increasingly difficult for nearly two decades. Yet Jesus sees her.
If you continue reading, you will see that some think this isn’t the time or place for healings. There are six other days for the physical stuff; this is a time for the spiritual! But Jesus does not seem to recognize the neat little dichotomy of physical and spiritual that we often use to see the world. This woman’s physical suffering has spiritual consequences. What better time than the Sabbath for this woman to find rest? What better place than the synagogue for this woman to receive the good news of her deliverance?
Jesus’s act is an embodiment of the gospel. Earlier in Luke, while in his hometown synagogue, we find Jesus standing up and reading from the scroll which contained Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
No wonder Jesus greets the woman with the good news of her healing by saying, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”
As the church we are the body of Christ, but are we the eyes of Christ as well? Are we constantly looking around us for those who are in desperate need of being seen? There are little children begging for attention. There are older people longing for conversation. All around us there are people struggling to make it through life. They ask themselves almost every day, “Does anyone see me? Does anyone care?” Jesus sees, Jesus cares, and if we call ourselves his followers, so should we.