Seeing the Invisible

The title for this blog is an oxymoron, a contradiction within itself. It’s a riddle to be solved. This is not my own creation but is a figure of speech lifted directly from the Scriptures. When I ran across it in my reading, I wondered if Scripture itself could help me make sense of seeing something that is unseeable.

I want to see the invisible. Why? Because Paul tells us that, strange as it seems, the things we can now see are temporary and will eventually disappear, while the unseen things of God are eternal. Only the things that are now invisible to us will last forever (2 Cor. 4:18). He instructs us to look at these things that are unseeable!  

I found three passages of Scripture that might be helpful (but not completely, because I think this is among those biblical concepts that will remain in part mysterious). First, this from the first chapter of the book of Romans:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

This passage, I learned in my seminary training, refers to “general revelation.” Both before and after the incarnation of Christ, the existence of God was and is discernable by observing natural phenomena. The intricacy and complexity and very creativity found on earth and in the heavens necessitate belief in a Creator God. Therefore, Paul concludes, even those who haven’t heard the gospel of Jesus Christ have no excuse for rejecting the invisible God, because he can be seen in what He has created.  

As I write this, I am sitting on my patio outside, watching hummingbirds flutter around, feeling the wind on my skin, noticing the leaves and buds unfolding on the trees in perfect timing on this perfect spring day.

Photo by AS R on Pexels.com

While I was taught to believe that these are naturalistic phenomena explainable by millions of years of evolution, I simply cannot accept that argument. I say “Amen” to Frank Turek’s pithy apologetics book title, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.”

 Explaining how hummingbirds—or bumblebees, or elephants, or a thousand other extraordinary creatures–came to be according to evolutionary theory will never pass muster or make sense to me. They are simply too wonderful, and the spirit within me insists that they were created by a divine person with a most fantastical imagination.

This beautiful scene before my eyes is one of many visible fingerprints from the hand of the invisible God.

The next aspect of seeing the unseeable is expressed in Colossians 1:15-16:

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

When the “Word became flesh” (John 1:14), we received another revelation of the Creator God. Not general revelation, but very specific revelation.

As a man, Jesus was seeable, touchable, hearable, knowable. He was part of God’s natural world for a short time, but a part of the eternal realm also. While on earth he perfectly reflected and made visible the love, wisdom, holiness, grace, truth, and life that exists eternally in God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He was a tangible representation of the intangible.

On the cross we have a vivid portrayal of the love of God poured out. The ultimate passion play. Love made visible.

A third usage of this figure occurs in reference to the faith of our ancestors, the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 11:1) who believed God when they couldn’t see him. Speaking of Moses, the author of Hebrews declares,

He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (Heb. 11:26-27).

The saints of old did not have the advantage of reading about Jesus, and learning how and when the Messiah burst into the human story. They couldn’t get the visual (with some exceptions in the books of prophecy) of this man of sorrows, this one who washed feet and opened blind eyes and hung bleeding on a cruel tree.

These images were invisible to them because they hadn’t happened yet. And these dear longsuffering believers are honored for persevering in their faith without seeing its outcome. Like Moses cited here, they did see something inside of their own hearts of the Invisible One, and that was enough.

Jesus confirms to the apostle Thomas the blessing of this kind of trusting before we can see, (which is an pretty good, simple definition of faith).

Thomas had been missing when Jesus first appeared to his disciples after his resurrection. When told about Jesus’s appearance, Thomas said, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side”(John 20:25).

But eight days later, he gets his moment to see Jesus in his resurrected body and falls down in awe and worship. Jesus says to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (v. 29).

Jesus declared blessed those who see enough of the unseeable things of God that they can trust, and obey, and worship, without seeing with their physical eyes.

As we approach this Easter weekend, let us celebrate what we have seen and know about our Risen Savior. And let us ask Holy Spirit to give us the ability to see beyond, into the glory realm, where God’s invisibility becomes as real as what we can see with our eyes.

Let the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the “firstborn among many” (Rom. 8:29) fill us with faith and hope as we await our own resurrection and union with him.

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