‘It’s a sight for sore eyes’

When God instituted the Passover meal through Moses (Exodus 13:9), from which the Lord’s supper derives, he said: ‘it shall be to you as a sign on your hand [something to touch] and a memorial between your eyes [something to see], that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth [something to say in praise and prayer, in testimony and counselling]’, as well as something to taste. All these are aspects of the Lord’s supper.

But let’s focus on the ‘memorial between your eyes’. My mother used the expression a sight for sore eyes in a negative way – if my hair was tousled, or my garter elastic had snapped and my school stocking was down at my ankle, a blazer button was missing or I had a hole in my pullover. The two thugs who were crucified on either side of Jesus both looked at him. The first one gawped and saw a man whipped to shreds and badly disfigured, a sight for sore eyes – so he just sneered: ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ (Luke 23:39). The other looked at Jesus and saw a man blooded but unbowed and thought: you’re a sight for sore eyes, as would someone trapped in his car in a traffic accident on seeing the vehicle rescue service and ambulance arrive; so he praised him (‘this man has done nothing wrong,’ verse Luke 23:41) and prayed to him (‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,’ verse Luke 23:42). Both men looked at Jesus, but only the latter looked to Jesus.

When John in his Gospel quoted Zechariah’s prophetic sentence about Jesus’ crucifixion, ‘they will look on [or at] him whom they have pierced’ (John 19:37), he had in mind those who like the first criminal gawped and gasped, shrugged and passed on.  But Zechariah had also seen those who would look at Jesus like the other criminal and ‘mourn … and weep bitterly over him’ (John 12:10), repenting of their sins of indifference and rebellion. This would enable them to look to Jesus to end their grief, for Psalm 34:5 tells us: ‘Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.’

When we break communion bread together and share communion wine, let’s also:

Look at him

Not only was he physically and mentally tortured, but his cry: ‘My God, my God, why did you forsake me?’ was like that of an astronaut stranded in space without his space suit whose blood would boil, whose extremities would roast and whose heart would stop within moments of leaving his space station. Look at him! But also:

Look to him

As Psalm 104:15 has it, here is ‘wine to gladden the heart of man’ because ‘we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses’ (Ephesians 1:7). And here is ‘bread to strengthen man’s heart’. And even more: through the Holy Spirit the believer has ‘oil to make his face shine’, for’ we have a great high priest … able to sympathise with our weaknesses’ and to bestow ‘mercy and grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:14-16).

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