Jesus had been traveling the countryside teaching and, in the case of the religious leaders, correcting false doctrine. It was a common theme in the Gospels.
In Mark 7, for instance, He addresses multiple topics, chastising both the Scribes and the Pharisees for putting tradition—the commandments of men-ahead of the commandments of God. They were upset that the disciples had eaten with defiled hands, hands that had not been washed before eating. As was His way, Jesus turned their arguments upside down. True defilement, He argued, came not from our exterior environs (i.e. the outside in), but from the heart.
What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (v. 20-23)
During the very next exchange, we see Jesus dealing with internal evil up-close when His focus shifts from teaching to healing, as he delivered a girl from an unclean spirit.
In verse 32, Jesus is at it again, this time with a deaf man, who also has a speech impediment. In other words, he had two strikes against him as members of the community pleaded with Jesus to lay His hands on the man.
And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. (v. 33-35)
This isn’t the only passage where Jesus looks toward the heavens. One of the most powerful passages of foreboding in the New Testament comes in John 17, referred to by some as Jesus’ “high priestly prayer.” He starts the prayer by praying for himself, then is disciples and, ultimately, future believers. It covers the full chapter.
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You …” (v. 1)
Jesus understood the source of His Power: God the Father.
I think that’s why one of the song’s we sang in church Sunday—Lauren Daigle’s “Look Up Child”—is so powerful. Life is hard. Distractions aplenty. We tend to operate on a horizontal plane that gives us mixed messages. Beauty abounds, but so does darkness. Sunlight and shadows. Hope and sorrow. Peace and pain.
But God created a way that, by simply shifting our perspective from the horizontal to the vertical, we can engage with the Creator of the universe. The Author of Salvation. Our healer. Our provider. Our sanctuary. Our provision. As Daigle’s song says:
“You’re not threatened by the war
You’re not shaken by the storm
I know You’re in control
Even in our suffering
Even when it can’t be seen
I know You’re in control”
Looking heavenward doesn’t solve all the ills we face. We only need to look at the crucifixion to verify that. Jesus carried the cross. He hung on the cross. Endured the cross. He also knew what was coming and, yet, He willingly followed the Father. It bears repeating, especially in a place where humanity brings human hurts:
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You …” (John 17:1)
It’s a simple, but surefire salve.
Crane the neck.
Look up, child.
Looking with you,