The Christian culture has developed many canned-responses as answers for problems in life. One of the most common ones is “look to Jesus” . Whenever there’s a problem, some well-intentioned believer will smile and say “Oh, you just need to look to Jesus!”
Technically, this advice is correct, but there is a huge gaping problem with it… What exactly does it mean to look to Jesus? While the advice may be right, it does little good if the person on the receiving end does not know how to put it into practice. So today, we will be studying what it actually means to look to Jesus, and the answer may surprise you.
Let’s begin by examining a well-known verse of scripture which many people draw this particular phrase from, in Hebrews 12:2:
“Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
This verse seems rather plain and straightforward in the English, but when we dig deeper by reading the Greek text, we begin to notice some details that we otherwise would not see.
The word “to” or “unto” as used in the verse above (looking to Jesus) is the Greek word εἰς which means “into” with the implication of going into something, such as a house or location. This is actually quite different than what we typically think of the phrase “look to Jesus” to mean. We usually think of it as meaning, look at Jesus, but we see here that it is telling us to look into Jesus. Allow me to share with you a story from m own life which will illustrate this difference further.
Once when I was at a restaurant, I began choking on a piece of food. During this time as people were walking past me, I was not looking at them, but I was looking to them, hoping and expecting them to help me.
Likewise, this verse is telling us here that we should look to Jesus in the same manner, with hope and expectation. There are many believers who simply look at Jesus, but don’t actually expect anything from Him. To them, He is more of a curiosity than a Savior. That kind of looking will never accomplish anything. Let’s examine another account from Numbers 21:5-9, which will better demonstrate the type of looking that we are studying today:
“And the people spoke against God, and against Moses, Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loathes this light bread.
And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against you; pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
And the LORD said to Moses, Make you a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looks on it, shall live.
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it on a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”
Now we have studied various aspects of this story over the years, but there is one point which is relevant to our study here today, and that is found in verses 8 and 9. In both instances where God instructs Moses to tell the people to look on the bronze serpent (verse 8), and when they actually behold it (verse 9), the words used there in the Hebrew text both carry a meaning of more than just a passing glance or an empty stare.
In verse 8, the LORD says that when the people “look upon” the bronze serpent, they will be healed. That word in Hebrew, is ra’ah, which means “to intently look upon”. Looking upon something with intent, is obviously not just casually noticing something with your eyes, but perceiving it with a purpose, just as with my story in the restaurant. When I was looking to people, I was looking upon them with the intent of receiving help and rescue, just as we should with Jesus.
The other word used in verse 9, “beheld” is the Hebrew word nāḇaṭ, which means “to show regard for, pay attention to and consider”. This is also something that requires focus and mental energy in the looking, not just a passing glance or quick peek. The lesson here being that when we set our eyes upon Jesus, we do so with the purpose and intent of receiving something in return… why? Because we know Him and His character.
Those who do not really know Jesus may talk a good game, but they never really expect anything from Him because the relationship is not there, and they don’t give Him the time or attention that He truly deserves either. Remember that only those who intently and purposefully looked upon the bronze serpent were healed; the ones who merely glanced at it or didn’t pay any mind at all to it ended up dying from the poison.
So what is the practical application for us today? In closing, I want to show you two more scriptures which show us how we can use what we have learned in our daily lives. The first is in John 1:14:
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”
You may be noticing that word “beheld” in the verse above. Since your New Testament was originally written in Greek, while your Old Testament was written in Hebrew, that word there is the Greek equivalent of the same Hebrew word which we have just finished studying. Here “beheld” is the Greek word θεάομαι, which means “to look closely at”… in other words, not just an empty glance, but a determined and purposeful inspection. And why would we want to behold Jesus’ glory? Turn now to 2nd Corinthians 3:18:
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.”
As we study the scriptures, and we purposefully (with intent) look upon Jesus, seeing all of His glory and magnificence, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the very same image of Jesus! Does that seem to good to be true? We have just read it in scripture! We simply need to start believing that the Word of God is true.
As we look to Jesus for our help, our provision, our companionship, our protection and our healing, we will see all of those miracles manifest in our life. There is nothing magical or mystical about it. It is simply the truth of scripture. He is the sun and we are the moon, the more we see of Him, then the more His light reflects off of us for all to see. Unlike the moon however, the light of Jesus changes us from the inside out, it is not merely a skin-deep transformation – those never last – but a genuine change of our very nature. My friends, it all begins and ends with looking upon Jesus properly with honesty and intent.
You may be asking “James, can it really be that simple?” Yes! As simple as it was for Peter to look upon Jesus and walk on the water just as Jesus did. He looked at Jesus and became like Jesus, doing the same thing as Jesus.
This is the key, those who truly are focused on Jesus will naturally be like Him and doing the things that Jesus does. They will be genuine followers of Jesus and not mere pretenders. They will not need to be poked or prodded to produce the same fruits as Jesus, it will be a natural overflow of the light of Jesus being in their life. This is how you can truly live an effortless life filled with the miracles of Jesus. (Note that I did not say trouble-free, because Jesus’ life had trouble), but even with the persecutions of the world, you and Jesus will be a majority together, and what we have studied and learned today is how you accomplish it. It’s a concept so simple, that even most Christians don’t believe that it is true, but it is the amazing truth of the Word of God – the Gospel of Christ – Look to Jesus and be saved completely to the uttermost.