Psalm 90 / Isaiah 1:24-31 / Luke 11:29-32
By Cathy Bartholomew
Keep Your Eyes Open — Luke 11:29-32 (The Message)
29-30 As the crowd swelled, he took a fresh tack: “The mood of this age is all wrong. Everybody’s looking for proof, but you’re looking for the wrong kind. All you’re looking for is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. But the only proof you’re going to get is the Jonah-proof given to the Ninevites, which looks like no proof at all. What Jonah was to Nineveh, the Son of Man is to this age.
32,31 “On Judgment Day the Ninevites will stand up and give evidence that will condemn this generation, because when Jonah preached to them they changed their lives. A far greater preacher than Jonah is here, and you squabble about ‘proofs.’ On Judgment Day the Queen of Sheba will come forward and bring evidence that condemns this generation, because she traveled from a far corner of the earth to listen to wise Solomon. Wisdom far greater than Solomon’s is right in front of you, and you quibble over ‘evidence.’
As I reflect on today’s reading in Luke 11, I wonder how often we humans are blind to that which is right in front of our faces. I sometimes think to myself,
“I would NEVER have missed it! If I saw the power of God like those witnesses did in the ancient texts or was face to face with Christ himself like the disciples, I would just KNOW!”
Or would I? Even some of the early disciples left Jesus. Others abandoned him in his time of need. One denied him. Another betrayed him. Who am I to think I would not have missed it back then? Who am I to think I am not missing it right now?
So I look to Christ’s examples whom DID have eyes to see. What can I learn from them? Here we see a motley crew of wise guys ~ The Ninevites, and The Queen of Sheba. Why them? There were other people that “recognized the obvious”. Why did Christ use these two examples to illustrate his point? Also, could he have picked a more contrasted pairing than the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba?
When I think of the Ninevites, I think of some of the prisoners my husband counseled. Prior to their incarceration, they had committed heinous crimes and lived atrocious lifestyles he often did not have the stomach to repeat to me. But some, not all, were SO WISE! These were usually the O.G.s. or “Original Gangsters”. In fact, the other day when Dave used that acronym, I asked him if it meant “Old Guys”. He laughed because, indeed, they were the Senior Citizens of prisoners – the lifers; those that had been in and out of the system for years and were unlikely to be paroled after being career criminals. Dave preferred working with them because They Had Eyes To See. They had no more illusions about machismo or the lie of criminal thinking. They KNEW. The young prisoners, for the most part, still wore blinders. They had not yet been robbed of their fools’ paradise. They still imagined that prison merely meant “street cred”, and consequently, many of them were likely to return to prison quickly upon their release for yet another crime.
The Ninevite reference makes sense. Jesus was talking to the elder brother about the wisdom of the prodigal. Nothing gives us eyes to recognize God and his truth more than our own failure.
But then he takes this sharp left turn and references the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Why? I know about the favor Solomon had with God for choosing wisdom over power or wealth when he became king. However, the Queen of Sheba is really the one being praised here and even lauded as judge; not Solomon. Interesting. It starts to make sense when I think about the story within the context of The Rich Young Ruler. He asked to follow Christ, telling him he knew and practiced all of the commandments. But when Jesus asked him to give everything he had to the poor, he could not do it, and went away. Unlike the rich young ruler, the Queen of Sheba is not content merely to be wealthy and secure. Nobody knows the lie and illusion of wealth and power better than the wealthy and powerful. They KNOW, unlike us that IMAGINE it, that it does not bring satisfaction and wholeness. So the Queen leaves the ease and luxury of her kingdom to make an arduous journey merely to sit at the feet of the wise king, Solomon. Having everything, she knows she has nothing. She knows the words he speaks about Solomon’s God are true; are more valuable than all her riches and power.
Jesus brilliantly points to the prodigal and the Queen Sheba that is within all of us. He smartly calls out the blindness while pointing to the path that has been blazed by princes and paupers; pagans and priests. We are all likely to fall in one or both of these camps – if we are lucky. We all have the opportunity to Have Eyes To See as did the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba.