Oe Ngati Kame

Look around you, what do you see? Who do you see?

If you saw the  2009 movie Avatar (is it really that old already), maybe you remember the words in the title of this post. In translation it means ‘I see you’.

For the Omaticaya people, a tribe of the Na’vi of the planet Pandora, to ‘see’ a person wasn’t literal or in the physical sense. It had a deeper meaning, more akin to ‘I know you’, or ‘I understand you’. Its meaning was so much more than just seeing someone with their eyes.

Look at a tree and what do you notice. Do you see this bit of wood with branches sprouting in all directions, covered in green leaves? Or can you see this wondrous living thing, taking food and water through it’s roots, sunlight through it’s leaves. A life within, a process we call photosynthesis, making oxygen for us to breathe and it is a home and haven for all sorts of other life. Do you remember its roots, unless you happen to trip over one. Perhaps it is a species that bears edible fruit, like apples or oranges that you and I eat.

Now look at a brick. It’s a lump of stone, sand, cement (guessing a bit, I’m not really sure what’s in one). Look at it again using the eyes you now see the tree with. Was it made new, or recycled? Who made it, where was it made and how many people were involved, from collecting the raw materials, measuring the amounts, operating the machines, packing for delivery and delivering the finished item. Who might have laid that brick into the wall of a dwelling for someone to live in.

Jesus used lots of ways to get people to ‘see’ or understand things. In Mark 2: 16-17 he used the metaphor of a doctor treating a patient;

  • …the Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…

Jesus’ most notable illustrations were almost certainly His parables, using stories to illustrate a point, instead of trying to explain it. In Paul’s epistles, he asks the recipients if they ‘see’ what he means or he uses metaphor and allusion in a similar way, as do some of the other apostles in their letters:

  • I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it… 1 Cor. 3: 2
  • Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind… Eph. 4: 14
  • For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. James 1:11.

Sometimes you will be able to get the deeper meaning of books and passages in other ways too. It’s often worth considering who was the author of a particular section. Who were they writing for and what was their point of view. Why did they write in a particular style. Luke’s gospel, for example, focussed on Jesus’ humanity and appears to have aimed for a historical account.

Luke was not a Jew, so his perspective would have been different to the others’ whereas the author of Matthew’s gospel almost certainly was a Jew, exceptionally familiar with the Jewish law but considering his position between the traditional Jewish values and the non-traditional arising from Jesus’ ministry. Now take another look into your Bible and ‘see’ what’s really there, don’t just read the words but ‘SEE’ the meaning behind them, the beauty and truth. ?


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