Happy the eyes that see what you see,
for I tell you that many prophets and kings
wanted to see what you see, and never saw it;
to hear what you hear, and never heard it.
The Swiss theologian Karl Barth is widely considered to be one of the greatest theologians of last century. One biographer comments that “reading Barth’s theology poses a challenge, however, because of the sheer size of his corpus, the complexity of his claims, and the distance between his context and the context of his readers.”
As a 75 year old man on a lecture tour of the United States Barth was asked by a student if he could summarise his life’s work in a simple sentence. His response: Yes, I can. In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
There’s a good reason that Barth’s words are quoted so often. It’s because we suspect that we tend to complicate things that are really very simple and that we make difficult what is really very easy. Children get it, but (excuse the clumsy grammar), as children grow we adults unlearn them it.
I’m reminded of the old tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The wise and learned character in this ancient story was not any of the well-educated sycophantic subjects of the ruler, but the child who had not yet unlearned the simplicity of essential truth and freedom. It is the child who has not yet learned to fear and who therefore wouldn’t think of sacrificing integrity to win status in the eyes of others.
This is where the teaching of Jesus causes us discomfort since it seems just too basic, too simple to be true. Jesus communicates most often in simple parables which confuse the learned and clever yet make complete sense to the one who has the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
You might like to:
- spend two or three minutes now in stillness and silence simply being aware of your breathing, noticing what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell with the senses of your soul.
- share a comment below offering your own thought or reflection. Many FFF readers comment that they are encouraged by what others share on these pages. It’s inspiring to see readers interacting with each other in the comments section.
- send the initials of those you would like FFF readers to remember in prayer to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you add a note indicating any special intention I will list these in a paragraph separate from the initials.