Recently I went on a trip to see some of the most iconic overlooks the world has to offer. I've seen pictures of these places before. I've heard people speak about them before. I've read about them in books. All the images and stories were so rich in beauty that I could almost imagine myself being there. Except everyone I met who had actually gone always told me, “You have to go! You have to see it with your own eyes!”
After hiking 7 miles from the South Rim into the Grand Canyon I found myself at a place called Plateau Point. I felt like I was on a different planet. I saw the splendor and beauty of a world untouched by mankind and all sorts of emotions ran through me. The vast canyons and towering cliffs made me feel so small and insignificant. I wondered how plants could grow and animals live out here in scorching heat. Yet it was teeming with life and vegetation. I knew a simple process of erosion over millions of years created what I see before me, but I couldn't help but see the undeniable beauty and order here that transcended a mere earthly perspective.The lyrics of the song "How Great is our God", popped into my head. With the canyon before me, I breathed the air in, my feet stood firmly at the edge of the cliff, with the wind strong enough to make me afraid. I was there in the midst of God's glory manifest in creation. Pictures, stories, books, videos even— they can all get close, but it’s not as awesome as the real thing.
After my trip I couldn't help but share what I had seen and experienced. This got me thinking. What's the significance of seeing something with your own eyes? What changes in a person when they become an eyewitness to something amazing? When I read the scriptures sometimes I forget that that the gospels were actually written from eyewitness accounts.
In 1 John chapter 1, John, a disciple of Jesus, starts off:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we look upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may complete." 1 John 1:1-4
After standing in the middle of that canyon, I read this now and am taken aback by the significance of these words. John was there. John saw him with his own eyes. He walked with him, broke bread with him. What was it like to be an eyewitness to the events and person of Christ, the exact imprint of the invisible God— the fullness of God in man? After seeing the Grand Canyon myself I thought, how much more seriously do I take John's account. It's not merely a story. He was there!
If I were to tell you about the wonders I saw on my trip would you rather hear about my trip from a friend I told, who told another friend, who told another friend, who finally told you? No, you wouldn’t. You would come directly to me, and I would show you the pictures and share the stories. The funny thing is, it was so amazing that I would tell you, "you’ve got to go see it yourself, you have to see it and know it with your own eyes." I’d tell you it’s worth it; there truly is nothing like it!
John who walked and talked with Jesus, who was an eyewitness to the resurrection does the same thing. In his gospel account he tells us that he shares all these things all so that you too may come to know God personally, that you may believe and have life in his name. I realize what’s written is not merely to describe the events that happened, but it’s written so that I might take a step further to have fellowship with God.
It's interesting to see that the early church was born out of eyewitness testimony. The reason Christianity in any form is a thing today is because there were eyewitnesses to the resurrection. When the apostles chose to share what they believed with the unbelievers in their midst, they did so by proclaiming the truth of the resurrection and their own status as eyewitnesses. The apostles identified themselves as eyewitnesses, shared the truth as eyewitnesses, and eventually wrote the Gospels as eyewitnesses.
Being an eyewitness to something amazing changes you. Thomas, another disciple of Jesus is often nicknamed "the doubter", because he refused to believe at first that Jesus resurrected from the dead without seeing it himself. But when he saw with his own eyes, and placed his fingers in the holes where the spear pierced and the nails drove through, he was changed. He would go from one who fled the scene at the crucifixion to one would take the message all the way to India and die a martyr.
Have you ever been an eyewitness to something amazing? I'm sure you too will tell whoever you are sharing with something along the lines of, "I wish you'd been there"; "you need to go see it yourself"; or even "trust me, believe me, I was there".