It is clear that Jesus was observant, and although his eyes took in no more than those of others, it is clear that rather than just looking at people Jesus saw them in a way that others did not – it is as if he thought about everyone he saw. Do we have that kind of focus, or do we go through each day so busy and absorbed in our own lives that we are conscious of others, but not clearly seeing them in focus? The truth is, we can’t love without looking – seeing – comprehending. Perhaps part of the answer is that if we see ourselves as the servants of others, we will see them differently – as Christ did.
The apostle Paul put it this way: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who … made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:5-7). Think of an attentive waiter in a fine restaurant, or a rich person’s personal servant. A servant certainly watches those he is responsible for – staying aware and looking out for any need that may occur. And a person’s servant doesn’t just stop at noticing the need – the servant obviously acts swiftly to take care of it.
That’s what the Gospels show was the natural corollary of Jesus seeing people the way he did – he didn’t stop at seeing them, he immediately responded to what he saw: “seeing the woman he said …,” “seeing their faith he [healed]…,” “seeing the crowd he [asked] ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’” (John 6:5). Jesus saw and then acted with compassion according to what he saw. So seeing people in a focused way was only the first half of what he accomplished with his observant attitude. Always, the seeing led to acting in some manner in order to help those who needed help.
We too can accomplish so much more when we train our minds to really see the people around us, to focus on them and to ask ourselves what do they need and is there a way we can serve them. It’s not just about giving physical things; it’s just as much about seeing people’s emotional and spiritual needs. But it takes a kind of awakening of the eyes to see like that – we won’t do it unless we think about doing it. Perhaps that’s part of what the prophet Isaiah meant when he wrote: “Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed…” (Isaiah 32:3). He wasn’t talking about the blind, but those who see coming to really see. That may primarily mean coming to see spiritual truth, of course, but it can also mean coming to see others as we should see them – through the eyes of a servant.