Behold and See

The Lord is with you this day! And a blessed Reformation Day to you!

I just returned from a visit with Pastor Heckert, and as always, it was a time of togetherness and refreshment in Christ. Of the many things we talked about, one was with regard to the Epistle reading for this Sunday from 1 John 3:1-3, the first verse in particular, which is: “See what kind of love the Father as given us, that we should be called children of God…”

In the original Greek text, the first word in the sentence is Ἴδετε, which is typically translated as “see.” Sometimes people will even translate it as “behold,” although there’s another word better translated as “behold,” and that’s ἰδοὺ. In particular, ἰδοὺ is used when something extraordinary is happening—like an angel is delivering a message, or the Holy Spirit is descending on Christ at His Baptism. It is an emphatic word calling attention to detail or a particular idea. Another way to put it is that it is the “Wow, would you look at that!” of the first century.

But in 1 John 3:1, while the Apostle could have chosen to use ἰδοὺ, he doesn’t. It certainly would have been appropriate in the sense that being called a child of God is an amazingly incredible thing. But again, instead, he chose Ἴδετε, a much simpler form which means to see something and understand—to comprehend its significance.

Pastor Heckert and I talked about this, and we came to the realization that Ἴδετε works well because the fuller context of the reading is specifically situated in Jesus Christ. In other words, certainly we can marvel that we are God’s children, but more importantly, we are to know and understand that the greatness of God’s love—and therefore our role and title and His children—is seen and understood completely in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the One who died and rose again to win for us this blessed reality. The word ἰδοὺ (Wow, look at that!) insinuates something you don’t want to miss, but Ἴδετε speaks to understanding what’s at the heart of what is before you. In this case, it is the divine love of God displayed in Jesus on the cross for sinful humanity. Yes, even while we were God’s enemies, He gave of Himself for our rescue. We see and understand this when we, by faith, look to His Son, Jesus.

Pretty great stuff.

And so, with that, look to the Son of God. See in Him God’s undeserved kindness toward you. Looking upon the cross, know and understand the price for Sin, but more importantly, look there to know and understand what Saint John calls “ποταπὴν ἀγάπην”—the sort of love (“agape” – the perfect love that only God can have)—that is located in Jesus Christ.

Looking there, the Christian is never left to wonder as to God’s intentions for humanity. In Jesus, the message is crystal clear.