These are some final thoughts on Jesus’s seventh letter, written to the assembly of Laodicea.


Confounding Contrast

Each of Jesus’s revelations pointed back to what the Laodicean Christians thought they had, but did not really.

you do not perceive that you are the one wretched and miserable and impoverished and blind and naked

Jesus to the assembly of Laodicea, Revelation 3:17

To the church in Smyrna, Jesus had said, “I have perceived your crushing oppression, and your poverty—(but rather you are abundantly wealthy).” For they had taken Jesus’s teaching to heart.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus, Matthew 6:19-21 (NRSV)
do not lay up earthly treasures ~ doctrine of Christ on possessions (Matthew 6:19; Luke 12:21) Christ’s sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) | By Rijksmuseum – CC0

But to this church, Jesus revealed a different mystery.

  • Physically, you are surrounded by prosperity, but spiritually, you are wretched.
  • You have the best medical care available for your bodies, but your spirits are miserable.
  • You are the financial center of the entire region, but internally you are impoverished.
  • You hold the patent on eye salve, but your spiritual eyes are blind.
  • You drape yourselves in the finest wool money can buy, but in the heavenly realm the disgrace of nakedness is your only garment.

Counsel Rather Than Command

Jesus could have commanded His own to turn away from all that had lured them from living by faith, by the wisdom of God, in the power of the Spirit, to the praise of God’s glory.

But instead, Jesus counseled them.

Jesus spoke to each point of their spiritual reality,

  • Redeem their physical gold, which was perishable, for the everlasting gold of their inheritance in eternity, for a genuine faith that endures, that praises and glorifies, and honors God.
  • With their faith, and their treasure now in heaven, redeem their physical finery for the righteousness of Christ, the new self which is holy.
  • Now living fully surrendered to Jesus, redeem their worldly wisdom for spiritual insight.

Get Salve for Your Eyes

Jesus had taught consistently on the importance of spiritual understanding. And the Lord taught this in a variety of ways.

Give Sight to the Blind

He healed the blind, fulfilling both Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies, but also juxtaposing spiritual and physical insight. No story does this more sharply than John’s account of the blind man who could now see, and the religious rulers who stood on their spiritual sight but were actually woefully blind. When some of these Pharisees accosted Jesus about it all, Jesus said,

 “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see may see and those who do see may become blind.” 

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Jesus to the Pharisees, John 9:39-41 (NRSV)
The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus by Fernando Gallego workshop, 1480-1488, oil on panel – University of Arizona Museum of Art – University of Arizona – Tucson, Arizona, USA. | By Workshop of Fernando Gallego – Own work, Public Domain

These words were as much for the Laodiceans, who thought they could see, but were in fact blind.

Pluck out Bad Eyes

Jesus used hyperbole and metaphor to get this foundational truth across, teaching several times that “if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.”

To the Laodiceans, Jesus offered redemption for their sinful eyes.

The apostle John later wrote to the assemblies God had place in his care

Do not love the world nor that [which is] in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in [that person], inasmuch as all that [is] in the world

—the lust of the flesh, and

—the lust of the eyes, and

—the false pretension of livelihood

is not from the Father, but rather is from the world, and the world and its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains [forever].

1 John 2:15-17

“Eyes” are the metaphor for wisdom and insight. Worldly wisdom teaches us how to obtain what we have set our sights on. Jesus says, Be very careful, then, on what (or whom) you set your sights.

Find the Right Lamp

Jesus also spoke of eyes as a metaphor for windows to the soul. What light the eyes let in would be what the soul could see by. The Lord did not come up with a new illustration, but rather reached back to Psalms famous to His audience.

It is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.

And

Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.

Psalm 18:28 and Psalm 119:105 (NRSV)

Jesus gave His students and followers a way to understand these passages and live by them, teaching,

The eye is the lamp of the body. So,

if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 

but

if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.

If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Jesus to His followers, Matthew 6:22-23 (NRSV)

Replica of an antique Roman oil lamp, with Christian symbol Photograph by Rama | By No machine-readable author provided. Rama assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 2.0 fr

This was the very darkness blinding the Laodiceans’ eyes.

God alone provides the light that will enlighten the soul. It is the Holy Spirit Who illumines God’s words for believers. Without the Spirit of Christ, spiritual insight is unattainable.

Judge Rightly

Jesus often taught with parables and simple stories, and one of His examples has been the subject of songs, rhymes, and sayings, being repeated often. At the time, Jesus was speaking on the value of right judgment, of being gracious and forgiving rather than critical and condemning. The wise use good judgment when they see the fruit of a tree and rightly understand what kind of tree it is that produces that fruit.

Be careful, Jesus was saying, that when you wade in to correct and reprove you are doing so with wisdom and spiritual insight, rather than with short-sighted self-importance and self-righteousness.

Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 

A disciple is not above the teacher, but every disciple who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. 

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Jesus to His students and followers, Luke 6:39-42 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Mote and the Beam | By Ottmar Elliger the Younger – This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0

The Laodiceans were so profoundly blind they mistook their physical prosperity for spiritual prosperity. Their judgment was greatly blinded.

God Disciplines Those Whom God Loves

It is to this final aspect of spiritual insight that Jesus now turned, reassuring the Laodicean Christians that His stern reproof came from His very great love for them, and His desire to see them thrive. “As many as I would love I reprove and correct,” He told them, in reference to the wisdom passage that said,

for the Lord reproves the one he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.

Proverbs 3:12 (NRSV)

For those who will respond to Jesus’s chastening—who open the door to Jesus’s gentle knock—then Jesus would come in to dine together with them, certainly a reference both to God’s invitation in the Torah to feast with God, and to the love feasts of the early church, celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

Painting of a feast / Early Christian catacomb of San Callisto (Saint Calixte Catacomb) / 3rd century / Paleochristian art. | Public Domain

For even in this, it seems, the Laodiceans were blind, not realizing their love feasts must have left Jesus out.


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