Quite often, our senses are the obstacles to understand things clearly and find the truth. Nevertheless, we tend to rely on them heavily. One of the typical clichés is that seeing is believing. Like Jews and Greeks in the biblical days, we also tend to seek the signs and wisdoms for our mental possessions and satisfactions.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;1 Corinthians 1:22-23
When Pharisees were talking with Jesus, they also sought after the signs. They needed the evidence that their minds could understand what was going on after Jesus fed the multitude out of the limited pieces of the bread and fish. And, Jesus told them as follows:
And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.Mark 8:11-12
Seeing is believing. We always seek something we can see – something that can satisfy our senses from eating, touching, watching, hearing, and assuming. But then, Jesus was telling them (all of us in general) that there shall be no sign to our generation. What does it mean?
That is why not only Pharisees but also many other people, including the disciples themselves, got confused seeing the fact that thousands of people were able to get enough bread and fish out of the limited pieces.
And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.Mark 8:5-9
This anecdote is often about our potential prosperity and abundance by believing in God. But then, it also implies our inherent tendency and limitation to rely on the senses alone.
People ate the bread and fish provided miraculously. Indeed, they were able to touch and count them. How was it possible that only several baskets each could cover the thousands of people out there. While they got satisfied, at the same time, they also got confused. How come it was possible? Whenever we read this story in the Bible, we also got puzzled about understanding this anecdote.
The paradox here is that we get satisfied because of our senses, and yet simultaneously, we get confused because of our senses. As long as we live in this world, our senses are indispensable for our feelings and reasonings. Our physical, emotional, and mental activities cannot be intact without them. These are the foundation of our culture and society to drive the civilizations.
We can’t live without our eyes, ears, and minds. Paradoxically enough, however, these things are often the obstacles to make us blind and deaf. We can’t see things because of our eyes. We can’t hear things because of our ears. We can’t understand them because of our hardened minds. Thus, Jesus said as follows:
And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?Mark 8:17-18
After this statement, in Mark 8, there is another anecdote that Jesus healed the blind.
And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.Mark 8:23-25
Undoubtedly, healing blindness should be one of the great miracles. However, the more important thing here is that Jesus was the one who healed blindness, and possibly deafness as well. We all have our eyes, ears, and minds. By default, however, these are not yet fully functional without His healing. Without His healing, these are rather the obstacles to keep us stay in the cliché that seeing is believing, heavily relying on our senses.
The truth is the opposite. It is not that seeing is believing, but rather believing is seeing. Of course, we often tend to avoid this tendency as our blind faith. “Believing alone” would keep us innocently blind. We must be cautious about this kind of trap, which makes us superstitiously, even violently backward. On the other hand, however, “seeing along” would keep us misleadingly blind as well. Either way, our senses are the obstacles keeping us from the truth.
While our senses are essential and indispensable in this world, it is also critical for us to learn how to disable them. Sometimes, spiritually, we have to close our eyes, ears, and minds.
By closing our eyes, we can see things clearly. So do our ears and minds. Without our senses, indeed, we can get out of this world. What would be the landscape that we can see without our eyes? How about the sounds that we can hear without our ears? And, what can we understand without our minds? Perhaps, we could understand the very meaning of the bread and fish to feed thousands of people out there.