Acts 14: “Seeing Isn’t Believing”

TEDx Talk

As many of you may know, I’m a bit of an information nerd. I’m always looking for way to learn and apply that knowledge to pastoral ministry. Well the other day I found myself watching a TEDx Talk | Victoria, from an Optometrist named Cameron McCrodan. McCrodan is not your ordinary optometrist who checks for acuity and overall physical health of your eye, instead, McCrodan is a Vision Therapist who is more concerned with eye development.

Did you know that seeing clearly (acuity) is only 1 of 17 different skills that’s needed for an efficient and accurate visual system? These 17 skills are developed over time and based on our environmental experiences. This means; what you do at home with your children even as infants, actually shapes the function of their eyes. Our visual system accounts for 70% of incoming sensory information into our brain. I learned just this past Thursday that the optic nerve is the largest nerve in our entire body! All of this is to say that our eyes are really, really, important; and they even play a vital role even in our brain development.

The current sweeping through Acts 14 is one filled with travel, teaching, healing, and persecution, but as usual, I want to look at what’s under the surface of the current. I began to read Acts 14 with a different set of “eyes;” looking for anything that the Holy Spirit could use to spark a bigger idea. What the Holy Spirit taught me through the reading was very simple: “Seeing Isn’t Believing.”

“Seeing Isn’t Believing”

You may have heard the expression, “Seeing is Believing.” The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (not the biblical book) says this idiom was believed to be first penned in 1639, and basically in short, means, “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing.” You know what I say to that? Malarky! That may or may not be a biblical term…

If seeing was believing then everyone who “watched” Jesus, or Peter, or Paul, or Barnabas perform miracles would be believers. The truth is, there were many who saw these men do incredible miracles, yet they still walked away unbelievers. If you want to take this a step further, think about how many people Jesus healed who still walked away unbelieving. They believed and had evidence that Jesus healed them physically, but they still weren’t saved.

We’ve already encountered this conclusion in our reading from Luke 17. Remember how confused Jesus was when he said, “17 …Didn’t I heal (katharizō: meaning to clean) ten men? Where are the other nine?18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed (sōzō: meaning to save or make whole, complete) you.”

Miracles Aren’t Enough

Acts 14:3-4 says, “But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. BUT the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.

Going further in the chapter we find Paul stopping in the middle of his message to heal a man who had been crippled from birth. Pretty cool… until the people declared that Paul and Barnabas are “gods in human form!”

Folks, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed, and maybe you have too, “Lord, just send them a sign,” or “give us a miracle so they’ll believe.” Truth is, even then it may not be enough to convince people to follow Jesus. Even Paul and Barnabas were performing miracles right before their eyes, and yet it wasn’t enough. All it got Paul was a couple of stones in the teeth. You have to know:

Miracles have the power to heal people, but they don’t have the power to save people.

Let’s not forget today the words of Jesus to a skeptical Thomas (notice I didn’t say doubt, that’s for another reading…),” John 20:29 (NLT) 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”