Trumpet Creeper seed pod by John Morgan
Do you remember the game Chinese Whispers? This is the one where a group of people sit in a circle and a message is whispered to one person, who must whisper it to the next person. It continues around the circle until the last person receives the message. Then this person stands up and calls out the message as he received it. The whole point of it is to see if the original message survives the round trip or if it is corrupted. When I played the game growing up, the message that the last person called out was usually totally different from the original. Sometimes it was so funny that people were rolling around on the floor laughing. For instance, “I hope that John gets better” could end up as “nope, that’s a dear John letter.”
The same thing sort of happened with the definition of the word eunuch. It was passed from ear to ear in Old Testament times and always came out the same – a male who was castrated. Eunuchs were traditionally associated with castration, no sexual feelings, no seeds, no children, no heirs, and no witnesses. They were also traditionally known as bed keepers, especially in royal palaces. They were entrusted with guarding the virtue of future kings and queens. But then Jesus came along and took a seat at Chinese Whispers. With one whisper (Matthew 19:12) the traditional job description of a eunuch was immediately transformed into a role for the sake of the kingdom of God. This amounted to the most dramatic revision of a word in the history of mankind. The castrated eunuchs with dry seeds who had been despised on earth were suddenly given an eternal role for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. The metaphor goes deeper than that though. Can you think of a eunuch who was actually despised on earth and given a special role in heaven? Could Jesus also be talking about himself? I think so. A eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake goes much deeper than someone who does not marry. He’s light years from being single. The person actually forfeits the right to marry and have children and makes that decision known publically. He renounces earthly matters and embraces heavenly matters. Another thing that changed with Matthew 19:12 is that eunuchs now included women. Can you see the faces of the Pharisees twisting in confusion? “Excuse me, but how do you castrate a woman.” I think we should take it for granted that Jesus is always at least one step ahead of us. Another reason this is such a drastic change is because of the importance that Jewish society placed on offspring and covenantal blessings. Jesus is actually saying that fruit can now multiply without seeds and that spiritual children are now more important than physical children. This is what tore the veil between the holy place and the holy of holies in the Jerusalem temple and allowed everyone, including eunuchs, to enter.
The eunuch metaphor goes still deeper than that. If Jesus was just talking about people who didn’t want to get married or have kids, he could have just used the term “unmarried,” or what we refer to as single. But eunuchs could not have sex. Little did they know that there would be people ahead of them who did not want to have sex. So Jesus was also talking about renouncing sexual relations and abstinence. He is talking about dying a virgin. What a jolting thought for our culture today. Do you think a teenager today would consider that “the bomb?” Just as the ancient eunuchs guarded the royal bedchambers and depended upon the king for their very existence, eunuchs today point to eternity in heaven and dependence upon the king of kings for everything they need to live. Only eunuchs are able to keep in check the ever-growing idolatry of marriage and family. They were not only valued in ancient times because they posed no sexual threat. They were valued because they had no babies and no heirs. They posed no threat to kings because they had no line of succession. Eunuchs are still giving birth to spiritual children and guarding heavenly fortunes today. Is it time you updated your dictionary?