In Matthew 13:44-46, Matthew records two of Jesus’ shortest parables. However, while there isn’t a lot of drawn out detail or extended storyline, there is profound gospel truth here. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much going on in these parables. But upon further review, we can easily overturn that call and say that the most important truth in the entire universe is summed up in these two parables. The greatest news for those in Christ and the worst news for those not in Christ are each found in these parables.
Over the next four days, I’ll be offering four separate reflections on the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Value. My goal is not merely to (hopefully) say some helpful things in the unpacking of these verses. I also hope to teach you to linger on a passage. Meditation fans the flame of affections for God in the heart of a Christian. And true biblical meditation takes time. Slow and intentional lingering in the Word is a good and necessary discipline for anyone wanting to draw nearer to God.
Within the two parables of Matthew 13:44-46, there are four elements that convey one main point. I’ve outlined each of these elements in the following chart. While these parables differ in specific detail, they include the same four elements and convey the same truth.
|Four Elements||Treasure Hidden in a Field||Pearl of Great Price|
|Seeing||A man stumbles upon a treasure||A man seeks after a great pearl|
|Savoring||He rejoices in what he sees||He rejoices in what he sees|
|Sacrificing||His joy compels him to sell all he has to get it||His joy compels him to sell all he has to get it|
|Seizing||He buys the field to get the treasure||He buys the pearl|
In short, the main point of the parables of the hidden treasure and pearl of great value is that the kingdom of heaven is so valuable that losing everything you have, but gaining the kingdom is a bargain.
The four elements within these parables include seeing, savoring, sacrificing, and seizing.
See the Kingdom of Heaven for What It Is
The first element we see in these parables is that of seeing.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” [Matt. 13:44]
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” [Matt. 13:45-46]
Stumbling Upon a Treasure
In the first parable, a man finds a treasure hidden in a field. He wasn’t looking for any special treasure, nor was he a treasure hunter. He just stumbled upon an immense treasure trove of wealth. Maybe he was walking through the field and quite literally stumbled over something he thought may be a large rock sticking out of the ground. Upon further inspection, the man realizes he has found a great treasure. Culturally, it was quite common at this time to hide your own wealth in a field. People who possessed vast treasures in particular would never trust a money lender. There were no secure banks at that time to store your money, so if you had quite a bit of wealth, a logical thing would be to hide it somewhere on your property.
This is similar to what people did around the time of the Great Depression in America. Banks were unreliable, so any money you had would be stored in drawers, shoes, under mattresses, and even in boxes buried in the backyard. Yes, hiding a vast treasure would have been a common occurrence when Jesus first told the story.
But what is definitely not common is finding such a treasure, especially in this way. One commentator noted that while it was common for people to hide their treasures, to find a treasure hidden in a field would happen once in a thousand lifetimes. Stumbling upon a treasure like this would be the equivalent of winning the lottery or finding a Kentucky Wildcat fan in Tupelo, MS. Even though the man was not an expert treasure hunter, he saw this treasure for what it was. If he didn’t, he would have just dusted off his feet and moved on. But he couldn’t. The treasure was too valuable. It was too great to pass up.
Searching for a Treasure
The man in the second parable is much different than the man in the first. This man is a merchant in search of fine pearls. He knows what he is looking for. He has experience. He has been searching for fine pearls for years. He is on a quest to find the most valuable pearls. No doubt he had found many valuable pearls. I’m sure we would be impressed with his collection. But one day he finds one pearl of great value. He finds a pearl that puts the others to shame. The pearl the merchant found was not just a unique pearl. It was a be-all end-all pearl that was entirely superior to the many other pearls in his possession. Had he not seen the pearl for what it was, he would have continued his search for the one pearl that would end his searching and never find it.
I have a friend who is searching for truth. He studies and reads up on many religions and philosophies. He’s willing to try any of them out to find what he is looking for. I pray for the day when his searching ends. I pray that he would see the kingdom of heaven for what it is; that he would see Jesus for who he is and say in joy, “That’s it! I have to have that!”
Sovereign Grace to See
The fact that anyone stops to see the kingdom of heaven for what it is, is a miracle of sovereign grace. In our sin we are all blind to the treasure of the kingdom. Only by the power of God’s grace do we stop to see the kingdom as an incomparable treasure.
In order to truly savor the kingdom, you must first see it for what it truly is. The kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God is not about location, it is about fellowship with the sovereign God. The kingdom of heaven is the sovereign and saving reign of God in Christ. It is more than God’s sovereign control of all things, though it’s not less than this. Jesus announced that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. So, the kingdom is specifically brought to bear on the souls of men when God himself dwells with his people to save them from their sin. The kingdom was inaugurated with the first coming of Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. It will one day be consummated with the second coming of Christ in his judgment.
The men in Jesus’ parables see value in something other people don’t see. Their eyes have been opened to see the beauty of the objects they have found. The kingdom of heaven is attractive and compelling to those who have been made spiritually alive. Those who have been given new life in the kingdom have found a treasure that compels them for the first time to truly live.
Some of God’s people stumble into the kingdom while others enter after a long quest. In both cases, God’s grace caused eyes to see and the palette of the heart to taste that the kingdom is good. The good news of the gospel is that whether we are searching or not, it is the kingdom and the King himself that really does the finding. God lures his people into the splendor of his sovereign rule and reign—and it is always to their greatest delight. See the kingdom for what it is.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.