Oh, It’s About Jesus

Back when I was in high school, autostereograms were quite popular.

Known as “Magic Eye” posters, they were two-dimensional pictures that contained three-dimensional images that were visible if you looked at them in a particular way. While interesting and fun, they could be incredibly frustrating for those who couldn’t see the hidden image. Those in my generation may remember the movie Mallrats where one character spends the entire day staring at a Magic Eye picture in a mall that supposedly contained a sailboat. One by one, characters pass by him and find the picture easily, while he remains in the dark. Eventually, his exasperation leads him to lose his cool with a young girl, informing her that “there is no Easter bunny!”

I was given one of these Magic Eye posters as a present, the title of which was “The Gift.” It took me a while, and I got a few headaches in my attempts to squint and cross my eyes. Eventually, however, I was able to adjust my vision and the hidden image took shape. What appeared was a picture of the cross, with a rising sun behind it. “Oh,” I remember thinking, “it’s about Jesus!”

Sometimes when I stare at the text during sermon preparation, I feel that same headache coming on. During those moments, I’m grateful that text study or additional readings often help me see things differently. I wonder if it isn’t the same for many people as they open the Bible, perhaps for the first or the fiftieth time, and attempt to study it on their own. Staring at the text, they grow increasingly frustrated at their inability to understand.

One of the privileges of preaching is having the opportunity to open up the text in a new way for those who hunger for its meaning. Too often, churches can become places where that good news is hidden in the midst of arguments, rhetoric born of fear and caution, or jargon that just doesn’t translate well. The task of the preacher is to use the tools available to find a way to make the image of Christ come alive, to add dimension and depth, and to unwrap the gift of the Cross in such a way that the burdened exclaim, “Oh! It’s about Jesus!”