Word Study #162 — Find, Found

“Find” is another word that has acquired a unique usage – which has little to do with its lexical properties – among people of “evangelical” persuasions, who love to talk about the magical-seeming effects when an errant individual “finds God” or “finds Jesus” – neither of whom, in case you wondered, has ever been “lost”!

“Find / found” is a very simple study, involving only one single Greek word, heurisko, for which the classical lexicography includes “to discover or find out; to devise or invent; to be able; to get, gain, or procure; to acquire or obtain;” or even “the price obtained at an auction”! Heurisko appears 174 times in the New Testament. Its grammatical object may be information, a creature or object, or a person.

For example, Mt.1:18 reports the discovery of Mary’s pregnancy; Mt.26:60 and Mk.24:55 speak of the inability of Jesus’ opponents to “find” adequate false witnesses against him; Lk.4:17 notes that Jesus “found” Isaiah’s prophecy in the synagogue’s scroll; and later, (8:18) Jesus’ rather plaintive wondering if, at his coming, he would “find” any faithfulness on the earth.

There are indeed instances of people “finding” Jesus – but all refer simply to his physical location: the shepherds (Lk.2;12) after their angelic visitation; the Magi (Mt.2:8); Mary and Joseph when he stayed behind in the temple (Lk.2:45,46); the disciples who were hunting for him when he had gone off to pray (Mk.1:37); the crowds who were following him (Jn.6:25); and Andrew’s excited report to Peter (Jn.1:41), “We have found the Messiah!” After Jesus’ resurrection, the women “found” the stone rolled away from the tomb, and failed to “find” his body (Lk.24:2,3,23,24).

More frequently, it is reported that it was Jesus who “found” someone: Philip (Jn.1:43), a man from whom he had cast out demons (Lk.8:35); others whom he had healed (Jn.5:4, 9:35); merchants in the temple (Jn.2:14); the disciples sleeping in Gethsemane (Mt.26:40, 43; Mk.14:37,40; Lk.22:45).

In parables, he told of a master “finding” servants acting faithfully or unfaithfully (Mt.24:45-50, Mk.13:36, Lk.12:37-38,43); of one servant “finding” another (Mt.18:28); or a landowner “finding” workers to hire. Other parables deal with people “finding” mundane things like a treasure (Mt.13:44), a pearl (Mt.13:46), a coin (Lk.15:8,9); a sheep (Lk.15:4,5; Mt.8:13); a colt (Mt.21:2 and parallels), figs on a tree (or not) (Mk.11:13,21; Lk.13:6,7); or fish in the sea (Jn.21:6).

More significantly, Jesus also spoke of “finding” less tangible things. One of the most frequently quoted statements, Mt.7:7-10, and its parallel in Lk.11:9-12, contain no clear statement of what is to be “sought” or “found”. The word “find” has no direct object. Matthew refers simply to the Father “giving good things”, and Luke to his provision of the Holy Spirit. Jesus remarked that those who “find” the “road that leads into life” (zoen) (Mt.7:14) are few, but then seems to make a blanket offer of “rest for yourselves” – psuchen – (Mt.11:29) in companionship with him and in sharing in his work. Absorption into partnership in the work of the Kingdom provides welcome rest from the often desperate efforts at self-aggrandizement that occupy so many.

Here, we circle back to the discussion in the previous post, where we noticed that it is in the loss of one’s psuche – the self-centered, self-focused life – that one “finds” or “enters into” the zoen aionion – the “eternal life” of the Kingdom. Please refer again to #28. The change of vocabulary regarding “life” is vital to proper understanding.

The 34 references in Acts are exclusively to locating people or acquiring information, except for a single mention in Ac.17:27 of the possibility of Gentiles earnestly seeking and “finding” God. Paul reiterates this hope in Rom.10:21, but in most of his other writings, his concern is more for “finding” evidence of faithfulness on the part of his readers (Rom.4:1, 7:10, 7:18, 7:21, I Cor.4:2, II Cor.5:3, 9:4, 11:12, 12:20; Phil.3:9). Peter (I Pet.1:7, II Pet.3:14) and John (II Jn.4, Rv.2:2, 3:2, 5:4, 9:6, 12:8, 14:5) share the same concern.

At other times, “finding” is simply an acknowledgment of “the way things are” : Gal.2:17 – one’s own need of the Lord’s intervention, Phil.2:8 – recognition of Jesus’ humanity, I Cor.15:15 – Paul’s admission that he would be “found” a false witness if there were no resurrection. Pilate’s testimony of having “found no fault” in Jesus (Lk.23:4,14,22 and Jn.18:38, 19:4, 19:6), and Jesus’ group “finding” that Lazarus had already been buried (Jn.11:7) are similar simple statements of fact.
The delightful discovery of a gracious healing (Mk.7:30, Lk.7:10,117:18) likewise is announced with the use of heurisko.

On a more sober note, Jesus (Jn.7:34,35,36) describes a time when people will not be able to “find” him even if they decide to look for him, because of their having refused to heed his message while he was in their presence.

In contrast, for those committed to following him, there is the comforting prospect of sheep “finding” good pasture and safe shelter in the loving care of their Shepherd (Jn.10:9); of a faithful messenger and his household “finding” [enjoying, experiencing] the mercy of the Lord (II Tim.1:16-18); and the confidence born of acquaintance with a sympathetic and understanding High Priest, by whose ministrations “we may receive mercy (#59), and find grace (#60) for timely help!” (Heb.4:14-16).

With deepest gratitude, then, may we together bend every effort to provide an affirmative answer to our Lord’s question (Lk.18:8) “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faithfulness on the earth?”.
May he “find” us faithful servants, carefully following his instructions (Mt.24:46) #55, and (Lk.12:37-38) eagerly watching (#125) for his arrival!

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