Gallery of Christmas Portraits: The Corner of His Eye
The Reason For The Season
The first Sunday of Advent. I love this time of year, with lights burning brightly even as darkness descends more and more upon the land.
I also love the trappings of the season; the carols, the yuletide, the festivities and of course, most of all, I love the Christmas story.
And, of all the characters in the Christmas story, the Christ Child – the babe born in the manger, remains the central figure not only of the story but also as the reason for the season.
No Christ, no Christmas. You remove Jesus from the picture and you may have festivities and perhaps even celebration but you don’t have Christmas.
Jesus is indeed the reason for the season.
People love the image of a baby in swaddling clothes, love the idea of a baby boy wrapped up snug and warm against his mom in a cozy country barn.
For many that is who he remains; the eternal baby Jesus. Never gets lifted out of the crib nor ever placed on a cross. For others he remains in the realm of the moral teacher, social advocate or compassionate friend.
This raises the question: Who is this Jesus? To us he is our Savior: “She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21).
He is our Savior and our Messiah; the one who saves us from our sin. What more would you want him to be?
Chisel and Sandpaper
He is, of course, Son of God and Savior of the world. Yet we need to push a little harder, we need to go beyond this sweeping generalization so that the finer nuances of who he was as Savior are not lost on us.
Which is what is at the back of my mind with this new sermon series we are calling, “A Gallery of Christmas Portraits”.
What I would like to do over the next couple of weeks is tease out some of those finer nuances of who Jesus is, that may otherwise be lost to the vastness of the fact that He is first and foremost the world’s Savior.
I want to paint for you four pictures of Jesus that bring out some of the finer nuances of his person. It’s like taking a fine chisel and some sandpaper to the wooden statue of Jesus our Savior, to bring out the finer features that are otherwise lost.
The wooden statue of Jesus as Savior is incredibly inspiring and important to us. So imagine our surprise as we chisel down a little that he is also a Savior who, amongst other things, has time for the little man!
It’s easy to have an image of Jesus as incredibly preoccupied with being the Savior of the world. What an ambitious agenda. Talk about something all consuming, with little time and energy left for anything else.
So imagine our surprise as we tease out the fact that the sparrows in the trees and the flowers in the fields are not lost to him and that he actually stops midsentence and midway to take time for the little guy.
Be it little children who got in the way, a shy woman with an issue of blood who just needed to touch him, a blind beggar who calls out from the back of the pack or quite literally, a little guy hiding up in a tree.
Jesus finds time for the little guy! So he is forever catching people out of the corner of his eye and making them the apple of his eye, as he turns his full attention to them.
A Wee Little Man was He!
A great example of this is the little man who catches the corner of Jesus’ eye, and that at a time when Jesus obviously had bigger things on his mind.
The story starts out with Jesus passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through” (Luke 19:1)
Luke 19:28 tells us where he is going and what the occasion was: “After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem” in what we now call the Triumphal Entry, a week before his death.
This was an incredibly important time in his life. He was on his way to become the Savior of the world; on his way to the cross where He would eventually conquer sin and death.
So don’t disturb him and don’t get in his way.
“If Jerusalem was the finish line, then Jericho was the back stretch. Less than twenty miles away from a collision that would jar the foundations of the world. The mighty gears of wrath and redemption were about to mesh. Earth trembled. The cosmos held its breath.” Larry Libby
He was a man on a great mission. He was on the road to the cross. “Surely he needed to focus. Cement his gaze. Shove aside distractions. Marshal his energies.” Libby
He was passing through Jericho. Who’s got time to stop when the cross awaits? Stay focused, keep moving, don’t stop; bigger things await.
Jericho. No sense stopping there. Keep moving to Jerusalem.
Perhaps that’s you in Jericho. Perhaps it feels as though he is passing through your town on his way to a much bigger thing.
Maybe that’s how it’s always been for you with Jesus; glad that he is passing through my town, thrilled that he is my Savior but doubtful that he knows my name. Happy to have him be my Savior, with no need to bother him with my little old life.
I bet many think that way. This world is full of little guys named Zacchaeus.
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” Luke 19:1-4
In this story Zacchaeus becomes a picture of every one of us.
We may not be miserable tax collectors, and certainly not chief tax collectors, nor have we accumulated our wealth by illegal means, but in many ways Zacchaeus is a picture of you and me. We are sinners in need of salvation.
There is Jesus on his way through to Jerusalem. Happy for him to be my Savior. Don’t need him to know me by name. Just want to see a glimpse of him passing through.
If that is not us, then I don’t know what is! We are that wee little man, we really are!
I Must Stay at Your House Today
Then the most remarkable thing happens. Jesus notices this wee little man.
“ When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5
It was such an odd time to talk to a little man in a tree. How he ever spotted him is beyond me. He must have somehow caught him out of the corner of his eye.
Before anybody can say anything, the little man in the tree becomes the center of his attention as though nothing else mattered.
“I must stay at your house today.” Stunning, to say the least! Jesus knows him by name. Knows what kind of a scoundrel he really is. Knows that his wealth was accumulated in a fraudulent manner on the backs of the poor. Yet he invites himself over for a stay.
“He has gone to be the guest of a sinner!” people muttered under their breath. He was forever going to be the guest of sinners. He got himself into hot water more than once with eating with so called tax collectors and sinners.
His only response has always been: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
The Corner of His Eye!
It wasn’t just Zacchaeus. There was always someone catching him out of
the corner of his eye. A leper here, a blind man there. Someone deaf here, a caboodle of kids there. A guy being lowered on a stretcher through an opened roof, or a woman needing forgiveness at a well.
So what’s one more tax collector dropping out of a tree?
No sooner does he get back on his way after helping Zacchaeus come to faith and makes things right, that he hears the pitiful cry from the back of the crowd: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk. 10:47).
Jesus instantly picks up on what he hears and makes Blind Bartemaeus the center of his attention next:“Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ ” (Mk 10:49)
This is so typical of him; be it Bartemaeus, the blind beggar or Zacchaeus, the tax collector!
He sees someone out of the corner of his eye, and then makes her the center of his attention as if nothing else matters.
“For all His relentless sense of mission, there’s something about our Lord’s peripheral vision that merit’s a moment’s pause.” Larry Libby
Actually, it merits more than a moment’s notice because it’s not just that you are in his peripheral vision or that he happens to notice you out of the corner of his eye but that once he does you very quickly become the apple of his eye.
The Apple of His Eye
We would be very happy to be in his periphery, right? We who think He never ever notices us would be thrilled to be in his periphery. What a thrill to be seen out of the corner of his eye!
You need to know that you are not only in his periphery, but in the center of his vision; not only are you in the corner of his eye but you become the apple of his eye!
That is so much more than we could ever fathom. The Psalmist wrote: “Keep me as the apple of your eye.” (Ps. 17:8). There are many references to his people as the apple of His eye.
Do you know what the apple of your eye is? It is the little person staring back at you when you look at someone’s eye close up.
“The original Hebrew for this idiom can be literally translated as "Little Man of the Eye." This is a reference to the tiny reflection of yourself that you can see in other people's pupils.” The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament
The ‘little man of the eye’ is actually your image reflected back when you look into the eye of someone right in front of you. The person is so close to you that his eye acts as a mirror.
When it says that you are the apple of God’s eye it means that He not only has you on his periphery but that He sees nothing but you!
You are what’s on his mind. You are what he is concerned with more than anything else. He’s got you in his eyes; He’s got you on his mind! When He sees you nothing else matters.
“Zacchaeus, I will find a way to get to Jerusalem but right now the only thing that matters in the world is that I come to your house and be with you.”
“Bartemaeus, don’t listen to what they are telling you about not bothering me. The only thing that matters is that you tell me what you want me to do for you?”
You can put in anyone’s name including you and it will be the same.
You are not only in his periphery, and he not only notices you out of the corner of his eye, but you are the apple of his eye and nothing in the world matters more to him than you!
He will stop everything in this world to come along aside of you, and be with you where you are today.
How do you explain that except to say that it has to do with his omniscience and omnipresence (meaning, He is all knowing and all present or present everywhere at once) coupled with his incredible love for you that makes you the apple of his eye.
Believing that will make you climb out of sycamore trees, shout for his attention from the back of crowds, make holes in ceilings so as to be lowered down to his feet, or push through those in the way until you touch the hem of his garment.
The Evidence in Front of You
Do you believe that you are the apple of his eye? The evidence sits on top of the Communion Table!
There is a piece of bread and a cup of drink with your name on it! No, it’s not that you are sharing Him with six billion others or that you are getting just a tiny piece of Him.
When you eat that bread and drink that cup, God’s entire eye is on you! You are not in his periphery, but in the center of his eye. It is as though his body and blood are exclusively yours.
There is a line in the song “O How He Loves You and Me” that says “He gave his life, what more could he give?”
Him giving his life just for you shows you how much you are the apple of his eye.
I invite you to come down from your tree, push through the crowd and be lowered from ceilings as you receive the fact that you are the apple of his eye!
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.