The next day we were in town for a class I was teaching, so Keith and a friend went to her apartment for a visit while I was occupied. They, too, looked up and down and could not find the phone. Keith ran downstairs to the front desk and asked them to call the phone while the friend waited there to help. Surely one of them could follow the ring and find the thing before it went to voice mail. The phone began ringing and they knew it was in the bedroom, but look high and low they still could not find the phone.
When I returned from class, we tried again with my cell phone. This time Keith went into the bedroom and this deaf man suddenly called out, "I found it!" He walked out of the bedroom and said, "Come here." He led us to my mother's bed. "Do you see it?" No, it hadn't been under anything like a pillow or robe, he said. It was lying out right in the open. Finally I saw it—right on the bed. My mother's phone is magenta, sort of halfway between rose and purple, a little darker than fuschia. The bedspread was white, decorated with pink, purple, and magenta roses. Everyone who had walked into that bedroom looking for the phone had thought they were seeing another rose on the bed, a rose that was really a phone.
We often do the same sort of thing when we study the Bible. We can't see what is in plain sight because it is hidden by our preconceived notions, by the things "we've always heard," or by the instant acceptance of the mistaken ideas we grew up with as a child. I have a husband who constantly questions things. Some days it's very annoying, but if it hadn't been for him, I might never have discovered the truth of the matter in many of my Bible studies.
For a quick example, how about that gate called the "eye of the needle" that everyone thinks exists in Jerusalem? And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Matt 19:24).
Our first problem is that we don't keep reading. The very next verse says that the apostles were "astonished." Why would they be astonished if this were a well-known gate where, according to some of the things I have heard preachers say, you had to unload your worldly goods off the camel and then have it go down on its knees to get through this tiny little slit of a gate? That would make a great analogy, but the apostles, who would have known of such a thing, were flabbergasted, meaning they thought he meant the eye of a needle, not a gate.
Second, Jesus used language just like we do. He spoke in hyperboles quite often. Have you ever seen a man going around with a two by four sticking out of his eye? We go around using hyperboles all the time (notice what I did there?), and Jesus wanted to communicate with us in ordinary, everyday language so why wouldn't he do the same? What Jesus was really saying was, "It's really, really difficult to be saved if you are wealthy." But don't despair. Even the disciples were a little slow on that one. They took it literally, too, but we need to be careful of something we are constantly fussing at our friends about when they study the book of Revelation. Sauce for the goose, and all that.
And third, there is neither archaeological nor historical evidence of such a gate in ancient Jerusalem. The first instance of this story occurred several centuries ago, which was many centuries after Jesus spoke these words. Even the Talmud calls the "eye of the needle" a metaphor, a figure of speech. But we wouldn't need this outside knowledge if we had just kept on reading, noting the disciples' reaction and using a little common sense.
A lot of old chestnuts are floating around out there because we have gotten lazy. We accept what we have always been told far too easily. We don't look for the truth that is hidden in plain sight. We are too blinded by what we have always believed, or heard, or read. Be careful this week when you read God's Word. Don't let the Truth hide among the roses.
Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live. (Ps 119:144).