Looking Intently

Daily Readings: Numbers 15, Proverbs 11, Luke 24

When was the last time you remember looking intently at something? A person? A bug? A flower? A sunset? I recently discovered some skeletons of last year’s tomatillos in my garden, and delighted in examining them carefully. (Since, sadly, I didn’t eat many of them last summer, at least their growth has served an unexpected purpose 😀) These tiny plant skeletons are fascinatingly beautiful. Marvelous, really. I have enjoyed looking intently at them over and over again. I have attached a picture of them for you to peruse below.

And today we are going to talk about looking intently at things. You see, I believe, as humans, we tend not to look closely. Our attention spans are short and we are quick to forget. We become too easily dulled by even the miraculous. When it comes to the things of God, we must become sensitive people that notice the little things. We must take the time and make the effort to search out the important things. Our modern world bombards us with so many experiences and visual images that we often lose the ability to appreciate single momentous sights. Looking intently is a character trait that we should nurture.

Having faithfully completed your readings for today (right?? 😀), I imagine you already know where I am going with this. I have taken the title for today’s blog, from a phrase that is used to describe how Peter responded when he went to the tomb after the resurrection. It is an interesting word when we explore its Greek roots. Here is the verse:

But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at that which had happened.

– Luke 24:12

In Greek the whole phrase “stooping and looking in” is one single word. The word has a connotation of the body position combined with intense looking, which I find astonishing (English is not so succinct as that.) It means “to stoop to a thing in order to look at it,” “to look at with head bowed forwards,” or “to look into with the body bent.” (Strong’s G3879-parakyptō)

Peter was straining, bending, heedless of crushing muscles in order to see for himself if the tomb was really empty. His whole being – physical, emotional, and spiritual – was intent on looking for Jesus. It was of the utmost importance to him. There’s a lesson there.

Before diving into that thought, however, let’s look at the metaphorical meaning of this word, and how it is used in other places. The symbolic connotation ofparakyptō means: “to look carefully into” or “to inspect curiously.” It carries the imagery of someone who works hard to become acquainted with something. It implies time and effort – rather than just a casual interested glance in a certain direction. Hmmm, more fodder for thought, isn’t there?

There are only two other passages (outside of the Gospel accounts of Peter and Mary looking into the tomb) that use this special word. This is where we make some remarkable applications. The first passage is James 1:

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks [G3879] intently [G3879] at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

– James 1:22-25

Isn’t that terrific?!! It takes the idea of passionate people looking to see if their Master is really, truly risen from the dead and tells us that THAT is how we should be looking at God’s word! There is no room for casual acquaintance with God and His book! We must be seekers. We must be diligent seekers – unrelenting in unearthing truth and wisdom while attempting to comprehend and apply the deep messages from our hearts. We must be just like the apostles when they wanted to determine if the reports of Jesus’ resurrection were true or not. Their whole lives depended on what their eyes would reveal to them. Guess what? So do ours.

The second passage that uses our word takes the message to even more remarkable levels. It is found in 1 Peter 1:

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look. [G3879]

1 Peter 1:12

Wow! This one adds the dimension that we are incredibly privileged people! We are people who have heavenly good news delivered directly to our doorsteps! On a silver platter! In the form of a book with the letters “BIBLE” on the front. A book that people gave their lives in order to make it available for your exploration. And in this book we have been given the opportunity to commune with ideas at which angels desire to stoop and look intently! Angels?! That’s pretty astounding!

Do we value God’s word this way? Do we sometimes figuratively run with all our might to painfully look for Jesus until we find him? Do we see, and believe him as the risen Son of God in our daily lives? Do we anticipate and treasure our time with God’s word as an honored time in our day? Do we look intently at it, poring over its messages – not as forgetful hearers but as effectual doers? This obviously means we are to conscientiously apply it in our lives and to our issues. Do we do that?  These are soul-searching questions. Don’t you dare go away from reading this blog today as though you just were briefly entertained with some nice rhetoric. Let each of us resolve to indeed search our souls on this. And to make the changes necessary not to be the type of people that forget what the word says shortly after we walk out of church, or close the Bible or finish the blog. The whole point is that we must put it into action with bowed heads, straining necks and bent muscles. In order to do that, we must know what it says and back it with our lives. It takes effort to have that kind of confidence. It’s the kind that motivated apostles like Paul and Peter to be willing to die for their faith. But the promise is that the person who commits to looking intently “will be blessed in what he does.”

tomatillos