Seeing and Sensing

by Spiroz Zodhiates

Giving sight to the blind was a vital facet of Jesus' ministry. And He did so in more ways than one, as evidenced by three verbs having to do with sight: optnomai (3700), edo\ (1492), and blépo\ (991). The verbs optnomai and edo\ are somewhat related, yet in their most basic definitions blépo\ and optnomai are more closely associated. In fact, edo\ and blépo\ are so distinct that each describes a separate type of light that God sheds on man once he begins to see.

During our Lord's earthly ministry, He performed many supernatural acts (se\mea [4592], signs of Christ's deity). It may seem a bit contradictory to call a miracle "common"—especially when miracles are so uncommon by their very nature—but Jesus healed so many people of their blindness that those supernatural acts in particular became common in His presence without becoming any less extraordinary (Matt. 9:27-31; 12:22; 15:30; 21:14; Mark 8:22-26; 10:51, 52; Luke 7:21; John 9:5, 6, 18; cf. Matt. 11:4, 5; Luke 4:18; 7:22). Indeed, the amount of recorded incidents of the Savior healing blindness actually signals its importance. After all, if Jesus Christ were not God incarnate, why and how could He supernaturally dispel the physical darkness that clouded so many eyes?

Having physical sight restored—or experienced for the first time—is where the verb blépo\, to see with the eyes, emerges in its principal form. Jesus healed blind men and women so that they could behold the world around them. In performing the miracle of giving sight to the blind, the Lord used physical means to emphasize His role as the true light of the world (John 1:9; 8:12; 9:5).

However, we must notice that while blépo\ denotes the act of seeing, it does not necessarily imply spiritual perception. The Savior often asserted that although His listeners could see (blépo\) His miracles and mighty acts, they had not yet understood the deeper meaning behind what they saw (Matt. 13:13, 14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10).

The Greek verb optnomai is partially synonymous with blépo\ in that it denotes physical sight, but it also involves the spiritual realities that believers and unbelievers will behold in the future. Some of these occurrences are true right now—such as Jesus being seated at the Father's right hand (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62)—but will not become apparent to our physical sight until God deems it appropriate. Only those alive during Jesus' earthly ministry saw (blépo\) His earthly acts, but all humanity will observe (optnomai) His future coming (Matt. 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7) and the spiritual events that will transpire concurrently (Luke 13:28).

Optnomai still suggests physical sight even though it is used of those observing an event that may be spiritual in nature. For example, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared (optnomai) to the three disciples (Matt. 17:3) and Jesus appeared to His followers after the resurrection (Matt. 28:7, 10; Mark 16:7; Luke 24:34; Acts 1:3).

While blépo\ for the most part includes only what is seen and optnomai extends into what will be seen, edo\ encompasses both physical sight and spiritual comprehension. Edo\ is a primary verb, being closely related to the Greek verb horo\ ([3708], to see physically and mentally). The exclamation, "Oh, I see," is often used by speakers of English when they grasp a difficult concept. The response is similar when God reveals truth to a growing believer. Indeed, we Christians see (edo\) life from God's perspective when our physical perception correlates with our spiritual comprehension. I like to call that "seeing the synthesis of life."

Jesus not only exhibited the supernatural ability to heal the sick but also exemplified the discernment that comes with spiritual maturity. When the Master interacted with others, the multitudes in particular, He ascertained what they lacked in regard to both their temporal and spiritual needs. As the multitudes resorted to Him for instruction, our Lord sensed that they were "as sheep without a shepherd" (Matt. 9:36), requiring guidance from spiritual mentors (cf. Matt. 14:14; Luke 19:41).

Seeing and perceiving spiritually is the second kind of light with which God illumines men and women. In addition to opening the eyes of blind men, Jesus made them comprehend the spiritual truths surrounding His deity and mission (John 9:30-34). When talking with Nicodemus, for instance, Jesus confronted him with the "synthesis of life" existing between physical birth and being born again (John 3:1-9).

The Savior came to earth because no man had seen God up to that time and truly sensed all that He desired to do for them (John 1:18). He gave the world a glimpse of the unseen Trinity and enabled unbelievers to understand why they needed to put their confidence in Him.

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