A few years ago, I remember coming across a humor article entitled: Bible Verses Where “Behold” Has Been Replaced With “Look, Buddy.” It was awesome and hilarious. Unfortunately, the article did not contain any quotes from Luke, which I felt was a missed opportunity to play with some iconic passages.
“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Look buddy, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
– Luke 1:30-31
“Then Mary said, ‘Look buddy, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.”
– Luke 1:38
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, look buddy, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
– Luke 2:10
Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” Then Peter said, “Look buddy, we have left our homes and followed you.”
– Luke 18:28
Sure, this is an absolutely absurd approach to reading scripture, and yet it has the potential to highlight a word that is often overlooked and underappreciated.
The Greek for behold is the word idou (ἰδοὺ), and it appears 56 times in the Lukan Gospel. It is often employed as a way to arrest the attention of the reader or listener. Sometimes it seems as though translators do not even know what to do with it, so they soften its gusto by rendering it as see or look. And sometimes they just skip it altogether. Honestly, I find this shocking because one could argue that behold is central to reading the Lukan Gospel. It gives us a deeper understanding of what discipleship entails according to Luke.
For instance, I believe Mary’s fiat (Behold, I am the servant of Lord) commends that behold is an invitation to relationship and communion with God in a most remarkable manner. There is a sense of contemplative adoration that opens the heart and spirit to possibility and grace. This suggests that beholding is prayerful, and it is, and yet it is prayer and more. Beholding is ripe with anticipation, like potential energy building at the starting blocks of a race.
Ultimately, it is acknowledging the presence and movement of God in the world, that we stand on the threshold of holiness in particular moments. Beholding is seeing the world, and all the people we encounter, with expectancy; looking with expectancy to encounter Jesus in these moments, in each and every person.
The Gospel reading for the Feast of Saint Luke comes from chapter 4 in which Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
It is in beholding that we become witnesses to the fulfillment of this reading: in the space we carve out for God in our own being, in the moments we take hold of God, and in the possibilities that are born in the movement and grace of God in our lives…particularly with a heart bent toward good news for the poor, the suffering, the oppressed, the downtrodden, and the disinherited.
A way to celebrate the Feast of Saint Luke is to read aloud some of the Luke passages with the word behold. Trying reading behold in different ways to see how it changes the feel and meaning (maybe even try Look buddy!). Ask those gathered how they may see or look for Jesus in other people. What does it mean to see Jesus in the poor, the hungry, and the suffering? What types of things or situations trouble you? Brainstorm on ways that you can partner with God and be good news for the poor and those situations that trouble you.
[Meme created by the author using Guido Reno’s painting of Saint Luke from the Public Domain via WikiArt]