"Open Thou, Our Eyes, O Lord!"
February 7, 2010
カンバーランド長老キリスト教会めぐみ教会 牧師 荒瀬牧彦 Pastor Makihiko "Mack" Arase, Megumi Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Luke 12:13-34, Second Kings 6:15-17
1. A very interesting story can be found in the Old Testament in Second Kings chapter six.
2. There was a period of time when Israel and Aram had repeated military confrontations with each other time and again, but because the prophet Elisha foresaw an attack from Aram and ended up delivering Israel from the crisis, the Aramean king became angry and wanted to arrest Elisha. When Elisha was staying over in the town of Dothan, during the night the great army of Aram surrounded the place. When the servant woke up, since they were surrounded by chariots and horses, he had lost his presence of mind. Whereupon, Elisha said something strange, "Don't be afraid. There are more people with us than there are with them." And then he prayed as follows, "O Lord, please open [the servant's] eyes and let [him] see!"
3. When the Lord opened the servant's eyes, he could see that fiery horses and chariots were filling the mountainside and surrounding Elisha. Totally opposite to that, their opponents eyes were blinded, and they ended up leaving and going off into the enemy nation Samaria. When they do see again, they're in the middle of the enemy. But, [the king of Samaria is instructed] not to kill anybody at that point and time, instead [the king] gives a big banquet, and after he lets them eat and drink, he has them go home. After that, Aram does not attack anymore.
4. On the surface it looked like Elisha had a desperate situation on his hands. But God put it under Elisha's control, first by opening the eyes of the servant and letting him see the spiritual reality where the armies of God were surrounding Elisha, and then by blinding the eyes of the men in the Aramean military. It's so interesting! I think the Bible has this power to make us see pictures we've never seen before.
5. Now, with that before us, today's passage of scripture is "The Parable Of The Rich Fool."
6. From a person worried about an issue over the family inheritance, the Lord Jesus had received a request worded as "Please tell my brother to share the inheritance with me!" I wonder why [this guy] even asked Jesus about something like this, but I guess the man's questioning head was probably busting out over the inheritance question. Maybe he was thinking, "A regular rabbi won't do. Since it is the man named Jesus, whose reputation is well-known these days, maybe he could be a heavy hitter kind of lawyer for me." In other words, he was not the least interested in "the kingdom of God" or anything like it, which Jesus had been preaching. His interest was money. His complaint and anxiety that [his brother] might not let him have a share in the family assets was becoming worse and worse, and it was this very matter that was becoming the most important issue in his life. Jesus told this parable in order to open his eyes and get him to see a different picture.
7. It is a simple parable. A rich man's field gave a bumper crop. He had no where to store [the huge harvest]. Well, what could he do? I'll build bigger barns, and I'll store all [my] grain and goods in them! Then I'll tell myself, "All right, your reserves are built up now. Rest, enjoy yourself by eating and drinking and [whatever else you want to do]!"
8. Isn't this something we hear people say often? I've had an unexpected fortune. I won't have to worry about life in the future from here on out. All right, I'm gonna enjoy myself! Doesn't this way of thinking sound right and normal to you?
9. Yet, when we take a real close look at this man's speech, we realize something. It becomes especially clear when we read it in the original Greek text.
10. To make it more clear for us, I will try to give it a more direct translation. "What am I ever gonna do! I don't have the room to store up my crops that I gotta store up. ... Here's what I'll do. I will tear down my barns, I will build even bigger barns. And I will store in them all my crops and all my fortune. I will say [this] to my soul."
11. For this man, his saying "I had a bumper crop" meant, from start to finish, "[Look at] what I made happen." He was saying, "How am I ever going to store my crops in my barns?" Every word from his [mouth] was a monologue that he had said to himself [alone]. No prayer to God could be found near him, and neither was there any conversation with human beings around him. His field of vision contained no God and no neighbors. He lived completely for himself, he spoke only to himself, and he blessed himself. We can see this totally clear in verse nineteen, "I will say this to my soul." (In the New Interconfessional Version of Japan it has "I will tell myself this," but in the original text it has the word "psyche [as in psychology]." In verse twenty "life" is there for the same word psyche.*)
12. Jesus warns of the dangers of announcing peace of mind to one's "soul." He isn't speaking about merely talking to ourselves in monologues, but about the arrogance of, say, a person who obtained a load of money, and [she] says, "Hey, I feel peace of mind because of this," and in those words of [hers], which anybody could have said, [she] has sold [her] soul for something you can't really count on, like cash and wealth. [Jesus is speaking about] the foolishness of that. With the store houses and the barns totally full, we announce to our own souls on our own [authority] that our lives have attained security and safety. No human can achieve this kind of thing on his or her own. Human beings are not God.
13. By whom and for what purpose was the bumper crop given [to the rich man in our story]? God gave [it to him]. [God] didn't do it just to fill up the man's barns, but did it in order to bless the world through that man, wouldn't you agree? In spite of that though, he disregards the fact that the crops were given "not to the me but to the we, that is, to us." To this man in this condition, God announces, "O fool, tonight, your life will be taken away."
14. Among the parables this parable is the only one in which God appears as a character. If we wonder why God makes a direct appearance [in a parable], [it may be] because there is a role in it which not just any human can play, that of someone who gives the verdict of death. Life comes under God's jurisdiction. The foolish rich man had forgotten that.
15. "This is the way it is for anyone who is not rich before God, even though one may have piled up riches for oneself." This is a dreadful statement. Is Jesus [trying to] intimidate or frighten human beings? In a sense, yes, he is. But he is doing so in order to get people to see a different picture, to set people free from false thinking or delusions, and to get them to walk the path of life.
16. Everybody, do you know about this thing called "Trick Art"? In Japan, as tourist attractions in sightseeing areas, trick art galleries have been built all over the place. In Japanese we call it "damashi-e (deceptive drawings)." A famous one has things like a [circuitous] never-ending staircase by [Dutch Graphic Artist Maurits Cornelis] Escher [called "Ascending and Descending"].
17. There is the drawing called "Cave of Fear" by Shepherd. It is a picture in which two monster like terrifying people are running towards [the viewer] from somewhere inside a tunnel. The one person at the forefront is small, and the other one deeper in looks evidently bigger. The person who is on the inside looks one and one half times larger. But, when measured with a ruler, the two are exactly the same size. You'd never believe it. The one closer looks much smaller.
18. When we wonder how can something look that way, it is because we've been trained by laws of distance and perspective in drawings. With depth perspective, we draw big whatever is close by, and we draw small whatever is far away. Since this is imprinted into our heads, it appears that in our brains we adjust for size and re-organize objects unconsciously.
19. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period (approx. 1558-1600 C.E.), the pictures of "Nanba-ga (Spanish and Portuguese influenced artworks)" were all the rage to paint. Copying from Western drawings and paintings, Japanese painters etched out European scenes. One of them has sheep being drawn around a sleeping shepherd, but the sheep are as small as kittens, and it is very odd. Why did [the Japanese artist] draw it that way? In the European drawings which that painter had seen, [the artist] had painted sheep, which were walking in a far away meadow. [The Japanese artist] had never seen real sheep and so he did not understand that they were drawn small because of the laws of perspective. Therefore, he thought whatever a sheep is, it is an animal that is smaller than a cat, which means that, according to his eyes, there was no need to make any automatic adjustment and compensation [for the sizes].
20. It's the same thing the way we normally and unconsciously look at a picture, but though, when we have looked at a picture in which the far away things are drawn small, then in our brains, [we tell ourselves], "That distant thing is small in the picture because it's far away, but really it's a big thing. If it was brought closer to the forefront, then it would have to be as big as this," and in our own understanding we re-organize it. This thing called trick art is a technique that makes you go in the opposite direction of that unconscious re-organization. We label it "deceptive drawings," however, when it makes you see what is false and imaginary as if it really was, it is not "deceiving" you. It is rocking "the common sense knowledge" [we all have] for understanding the world, which we unconsciously build up and put together. We try hard really wondering, "Is it truly that way? Aren't you just building a drawing of it that way in your head?"
21. I would like to think I have presented a case where we could call "The Parable Of The Rich Fool" a deceptive drawing from trick art. Of course, [that parable] is not at all a trick to deceive us through falsehood, but rather it is the opposite, it is what I'm calling "a reverse deceptive drawing," it is calling us to ask ourselves the questions, "Is the drawing which you are looking at true? You are not holding true some delusion, are you? You are not seeing that which is not, as though it truly is, are you?"
22. My soul is quiet and tranquil because I have money, because I have savings, because I have a home. Like that, by one's own power, nobody is able to set his or her security and safety upon himself or herself. Material wealth is, of course, a good thing. But the presence of those things does not have any certainty with it. Certainty comes from God, the One who has given the good harvest. [My] relationship with God is the very thing that gives my soul a certain safety and security.
23. In The Revelation Of John chapter three and verse thirteen it has the following.
24. "You are saying, 'I am rich. I am satisfied. I have need of not one thing,' but you do not even see how you yourself are a wretch, a pitiable person, a poor person, a blind person, a naked person."
25. Jesus continues on and shows us another different picture.
26. Come now, take a look. At black birds.
27. Black birds are not liked today and neither were they liked back in that time. Nobody values a black bird, [a crow, a raven], not even for bait. Its meat would drive [fish] away. Look at it. At these ravens. They have no sheds, no barns. They have no land of their own. They have no savings in a bank. They have no pensions. But yet, doesn't God nourish the raven?
28. Come now, take a look. At how the flowers in a field are raised. It is the flower of weeds. It is not a flower that had a flower bed carefully built for it, but is a plant, the kind when mowed it is cut and burned, and grows at will anywhere. But its flowers bloom so beautifully that they are no competition for King Solomon's dazzling splendor. God is dressing them this way so beautifully, isn't he? "To say nothing of, how much more you mean [to him]."
29. A deep thought is packed into the phrase, "To say nothing of, how much more you mean [to him]," and I would like to make the most out of reading it. This is not speaking about, though it is often commented upon in this way, the concepts of human superiority and control over nature. Who is it that said these words? We must consider what he did.
30. The Lord Jesus Christ said [them]. Jesus, who bore the suffering upon his shoulders and took the responsibility of death on the cross, said [them] in order to save human beings who suffer for having become slaves of sin. Jesus, who loves each and every person totally and completely, said [them]. It is "you" who are loved with a deep personal one-to-one relationship. How could the God, who keeps the birds and beautifully dresses the flowers of the field, ever neglect you whom he loves so much that he gave his only son!?
31. How much food and clothing are we putting up for ourselves in storage? We shouldn't worry over that. Because God will concern himself with it for us. Seek the kingdom of God! The kingdom of God is the rule and the reign of God. Seek for this world to be anew through the love of God! Seek for the righteousness of God to be on the earth. Grieve because the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God are held in low regard. You are doing fine because God gives you his care and assistance.
32. The stuff about looking at the ravens and looking at the flowers of the field is about seeing the love of God and the rule of God that is in them. Shall we not obediently look at these pictures because Jesus says "Look at [them]!?" I think [he's] saying [we] will "see the world more deeply." When we have Jesus open our eyes, we will see reality deeply just like the servant of Elisha did.
33. The pictures Jesus is showing will confuse anyone who feels secure through the material fortunes of this world. They wake us up to be concerned with "being rich in the presence of God."
34. And on the other hand, he gives great peace to those without property and stuff, to "those who cannot buy peace with money," to those who are in the midst of the insecurity that they cannot do a thing about their own life by themselves.
35. "O little flock, do not be afraid! Your father happily gives you the kingdom of God."
*This type of speech is a Hebraism, that is, it is how a Hebrew would say something in Greek; it is a person with a Hebrew world view and accent trying to speak Greek; the speaker used psyche, which as a Jew he was thinking the Hebrew term nephesh because this was the natural way a Hebrew would have spoken to himself. One more time, the native language of the person speaking Greek was Hebrew or more accurately Aramaic, which is the mother tongue behind Hebrew.