Word of the Week
December 24, 2022
Aneuriskō: How the Shepherds Found Jesus
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
Luke 2:16 ESV
This Christmas we are reaching back into the archives for an appropriate word study from December 2018. And here it is!
You and the other shepherds are still dazed from a sky filled with angels. Your night vision is just starting to return, battered by the blazing glory of light. You look at each other and think, Did that really just happen?
If it was a hallucination, all the other guys shared it. They all saw the angel who appeared from nowhere, announcing that the Messiah had just been born in Bethlehem. They all heard the words, “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.”
The next step was obvious: go and see the baby!
According to the account in Luke, the shepherds wasted no time. Once the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds chattered excitedly among one another and decided, “Let go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing that God has revealed to us!”
After such a spectacular display of supernatural fireworks, you might expect to find something out of the ordinary in the village of Bethlehem. It would seem only appropriate to have a neon sign blinking over the right feeding trough, or one more angel pointing the way to the crib. But that was not the case.
Luke 2:16 tells us that they harried to town to look for the baby, and they did find him. But the Greek word for “find” is not the one you usually find in the New Testament. Instead, Luke adds an extra syllable on the front to intensify the meaning. The word aneuriskō means “to find out by searching.” One dictionary explains it as “to come upon by looking here and there, to locate or track down.” (Danker, Concise Greek Lexicon).
The shepherds didn’t find Jesus in the way you find a penny in the parking lot. They didn’t just happen on Mary and Joseph.
The shepherds didn’t waltz into town and go directly to the stable, guided by a star or an angel.
No, they found the promised One after an intense search, going from house to inn to barn, looking for the manger that held a baby announced by angel armies. These men were not conducting a casual search. They were highly motivated to find Him.
The word aneuriskō appears only one other time in the New Testament. The apostle Paul was hurrying toward Jerusalem, carrying an offering for the impoverished believers there. When his ship anchored in the harbor at Tyre to unload cargo, Paul decided to search for other Christians in that city. Acts 21:4 records it: “We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days” NIV. It was a similar situation. Paul was entering an unfamiliar town, carrying no address book. But he knew there were fellow-Christians there. So he searched the place until he found them!
Many people find Christmas to be a depressing time. Haunted by bad memories, frustrated by tense relationships, buried by mounds of undone holiday obligations, they don’t seem to find the joy that everyone sings about. Jesus may be the reason for the season, but they haven’t noticed him around lately.
Any of us can move through the Christmas season without finding Christ there. But it might be that we aren’t actively looking for him. We are just waiting for to grab us by the elbow and say, “He’s over here!”
Suppose the shepherds had halted at the edge of town, looked around to find only a slumbering village and turned to go back to the sheep, disappointed that there was nothing to see. They would have missed the marvel of the manger. Instead, they found the baby because they searched with all their energy.
God has announced in a thousand ways that Christmas is the season when His Son was born to bring eternal joy and salvation to the world. Let’s search for Him in this holiday rush, looking everywhere until we find Him.
When a word only occurs twice, you can’t build a profile by examining a long list of uses. That calls for a little more time in the dictionaries. One helpful feature: aneuriskō is a more intense version of heuriskō, the usual Greek word for “find.”
Q – Have you done any studies on 1 Corinthians 8:6?
A – It’s a fascinating verse. Paul is wading into a controversy about meat offered to idols, spending three solid chapters on the issue. Here he makes the point that there is only one God. Even if pagans worship other gods, we know that “there is only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ.” It’s a strong hint about the deity of Christ.
The apostle enriches his statement by adding two pairs of prepositional phrases:
One God: The Father from (ek) whom are all things, and we [are] for (eis) Him
One Lord: Jesus Christ, through (dia) whom are all things, and we [are] through (dia) Him
Prepositions are versatile and sometimes tricky, but here’s what I think is going on.
God the Father is the source (ek) from whom all things originate, and our purpose (eis) is to exist for Him.
The Lord Jesus is the One through (dia) whom all things were created (see John 1:3). Paul uses the same word dia because we live the Christian life through Him.
In honor of the New Year, our next word study is going to examine the Greek words for “New.” Learn how to tell whether a Greek expects something unique or just another copy of the old version.
©Ezra Project 2022
Great insight about the shepherds. Thank you.
Do you have another lesson about how the Magi found Jesus? Again a very deliberate search (including a long range plan to follow a star hundreds of miles, possibly nearly 2 years from first sighting, bringing gifts) and culminating in a short few miles to Bethlehem guided my the star to the house. This time the star “went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.” (Mt 2:9 NKJV). As a young child I imagined something that looked like a spot light on the bottom of a helicopter. I don’t think that would look much like a star and I don’t think Herod would have any trouble finding it himself.
Oh, by the way, Herod looked for Jesus too, but he didn’t find him. There might be another sermon in there somewhere.
Sorry to be so slow in replying to this! I haven’t writtenanything about the Magi’s search for the star, but you’re right in thinking that it’s a topic worth some serious study. I have looked at some of the suggestions people have offered about conjunctions of planets or supernovas or other normal stellar occurrences, but I have trouble seeing how they would work for all parts of the story. So I am inclined to think that this was something supernatural that God arranged for the occasion – a new star that they hadn’t seen before, and one that changed position in unusual ways. Beyond that, I’m just guessing.
Thank you again. These studies are so excellent and encouraging.