I wish there was a way I could know how many of you saw the gorilla in the Monkey Business Illusion video we watched together on Sunday. I heard from a few of you. Some of you said you saw the gorilla, but missed the curtain changing colors and the player on the black team leaving the game. A couple of you admitted to missing the gorilla too.
The psychologists who designed this video concluded that we can miss a lot of other significant things happening around us when we are focused on only one thing—our own agenda. Other scientists have taken this idea a step further. They discovered that that what we expect to see has a powerful impact on what our brains comprehend.
In one study, a group of subjects (not realizing they were part of a study) went out on a boat on Loch Ness, the supposed home of the famous Loch Ness Monster. The subjects were told that there had been several sightings of “Nessie” by locals recently, and there was a good chance they would see something that morning. As part of the test, a diver had been submerged out in the lake with a plain 4x4 piece of lumber. At a particular point in the voyage, the diver slowly raised the 4x4 board out of the water, held it there for a few seconds, then took it back below the surface.
The people on the boat responded with excitement. When they returned to shore, they were asked to draw what they had seen. The subjects drew a long thin neck—with a head! What they saw was completely different from reality—because they weren’t primed to see reality. They were primed to see what they imagined, what they hoped was true.
The same thing happens in the way we view our lives and our relationships. The story of Jesus healing a man who had been blind since birth (John 9:1-3) illustrates how what we see is often so different from what Jesus sees. “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’ ”
It was a common belief in Jewish culture that calamity or suffering was the result of some great sin. The disciples saw this man as a potential for a theological argument. “Hey, guys, here’s a hurting person—let’s try to figure out whose fault it is!” But Jesus saw a hurting person—and an opportunity to glorify his heavenly Father. He saw with clearer eyes what was really going on in this man’s life.
This kind of thing happens over and over again in the life of Jesus. After a while, the disciples start getting the hang of it. They follow and imitate their Rabbi long enough that it starts to sink in. They begin to see people as Jesus saw them. Contrast this story in John with the account of Peter and John healing a lame beggar in Acts 3. This time the disciples get it right!
Look at verse 4. In the NIV it says, “Peter looked straight at him.” Other versions say Peter was “fixing his eyes on him,” or “looked him straight in the eye.” The Greek word used here is not the regular word for “look” or “see.” This is a heightened word that only occurs a few times in the New Testament. It’s like “rivet your eyes on,” “look intensely,” or “do a double take.” Peter didn’t just look, he “LOOK-looked.” He really saw this man.
If we’re going to follow Jesus, we need to notice what He notices, see how He sees…and let that transform the way we see and treat others. After three years of watching and following Jesus, Peter and John had changed how they saw lost people. They came to see them not as inconveniences to be avoided, nor as undesirables to be pitied, but as opportunities for God to be glorified. May it be so for me, and may it be so for you.
Prayer: God, we live in a fallen world where bad behavior goes unpunished, good behavior goes unrewarded, and innocent people sometimes suffer. When we look at others, help us not to judge or feel superior, but to see them with eyes of compassion, as opportunities for you to be glorified. Amen.