In the parable of the sower, Jesus teaches people’s response to the Kingdom will be mixed. In parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus taught that the kingdom itself would be mixed. There would be many who would be part of the outward, visible form of the kingdom who are not kingdom citizens. Then in parable of the mustard seed we learn that the kingdom will be marked by astonishing growth. Then in the parable of the leaven we learned that the kingdom will also be marked by invisible power.
After hearing the first four parables the question in the disciples’ minds might be, “If the kingdom is going to grow to such astonishing proportions and its permeating influence is going to be so deep, how will this happen? Are people simply assimilated into the Kingdom, or what?” That’s the question Jesus addresses in these next two parables. Let’s look at them together:
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. 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. (Matthew 13:44-46)
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
Jesus tells the story of a man who finds treasure in a field. Who put it there and how long ago we are not told. We do know places were frequently ravished by war back in that time and so it wasn’t a good idea to have your money, gold or anything else of value in places where it might easily be found. So people often buried their valuables in a field. Of course you wouldn’t tell anyone where you buried it. You kept it a secret in case they came and stole it. The problem was, if you were killed during a war, you would take your secret with you to the grave and no one would know where it was.
The man who found the treasure may have been a hired hand or a renter. He may have been ploughing the field, digging a ditch or planting a tree. Whatever he was doing, he hit something under the ground that did not sound like a rock. He dug it out and found treasure. We do not know what the treasure was but we do know when he saw it he was dumbfounded.
Within seconds he made a plan. He quickly put the treasure back its place, covered it up and went home. He knew the owner of the land had not put the treasure there. Therefore, if the owner sold him the field, the treasure would be rightfully his. So he sold all that he had – everything he owned and he went and bought the field.
The Parable of the Pearl
This time Jesus tells a story of a wealthy merchant who makes his living by trading in fine pearls. In the first century pearls were in great demand and had become a status symbol of wealthy people. Julius Caesar presented the mother of his friend Brutus with a pearl with 6 million sesterces – over 2 million dollars in our money. Cleopatra was said to have owned a pearl worth 100 million sesterces – over 33 million dollars in our money. So as you might imagine, being a dealer in fine pearls would have been a very lucrative business.
But they weren’t easy to obtain. Merchants had to travel to the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and even India to find them which meant that a merchant who dealt in fine pearls would have to travel widely, extensively, to track down the best products. In this case, after searching who knows how long and traveling who knows how far, the merchant spots the finest pearl he had ever seen. He knows what he must do. He sells everything he has and buys it.
This story is in striking contrast with the first isn’t it? The first man is just a hired labourer, working with his hands, trying to earn a crust for his family. He’s not looking for treasure. He’s not even thinking about treasure. He’s just out there ploughing his field and then suddenly he stumbles into it. The second man is very wealthy. He moves in higher circles. He travels internationally in pursuit of his business interests. He knows all about treasure. It’s what he does for a living.
Lessons for us today
Two different stories. Two very different people. Both of them find treasure – a treasure so valuable they are willing to sell up everything to obtain it. So what is Jesus telling us in these parables? He is teaching us something about the nature of the Kingdom of God and those who belong to it.
1.The Kingdom is priceless in value
Life in the kingdom of God – life found in Jesus, is the most precious thing imaginable. Nothing comes close in value. It is priceless.
Notice what these two men, with very different means available to them, do. One sells everything he has to buy the field and the other sells all he has to buy the pearl. Do you see what they’ve done? They’ve done a careful cost and benefits analysis. They’ve placed the total worth of everything in their lives on one side and the total value of what they’ve found on the other. The result is very clear to them. The benefits of possessing the treasure and the total worth of the pearl far outweighs everything they have or could ever gain.
I remember when I was just 20 years old, with the world at my doorstep. I looked at what I had – a good education, friends, money and some good career opportunities. But I knew I was missing something. There was an emptiness that gnawed at away at me day after day. Then I looked and saw what God was offering through his Son – something better than friends, something better than a good career. In Jesus there is fullness of joy, forgiveness of sin, comfort in sorrow, the promise of heaven, and fullness of joy. This is a rare treasure indeed. So what would I choose? The world or Jesus? I did what so many others have done: I chose Jesus.
And now I can tell you with all honesty that it was all worth it. Jesus is just as precious (in fact more so) to me today as he when I first found him 25 years ago. I can say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but You Lord Jesus – you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25–26). You are the pearl of great price. You are more valuable to me than anything else.”
Can I ask you, what is Eternal Life worth to you? A million dollars? What is peace of mind and forgiveness of sin worth to you? What would you give up for it? There are many things tugging at us to be the treasure of our life. Jesus say when you see priceless value of the Kingdom of God you’ll be willing to everything in order to obtain it.
There’s a second lesson we learn about the Kingdom from these parables:
2. The Kingdom is discovered in different ways
There are similarities in both these parables. Both men found something of immense value. Both recognized the great value of what they had found and were willing to pay any price to get it. But there is also one big difference. In the parable of the treasure, the man made his find by accident. In the parable of the pearl, the man was searching.
This tells us people enter the kingdom in very different ways. Saul wasn’t seeking to enter the Kingdom. He was on his way to Damascus to kill more Christians. The next thing he knew he was flat on his back, in the middle of the road. He wasn’t looking for Jesus, but Jesus was looking for him. The Samaritan woman wasn’t looking for Jesus. She was looking for a drink. Then she met Jesus and went home redeemed. There are people who aren’t looking for Jesus, yet they stumble upon Him.
And then there are people, like the merchant in search of fine pearls, who are earnestly seeking the kingdom. People like the Ethiopian eunuch who was carefully studying the Old Testament in search of its meaning; people like Lydia from the city of Philippi who was paying careful attention to what was been said by Paul, and people like Philippian jailer who cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” These people were all searching for something. What they didn’t know was the answer lay in one pearl – one person. His name is Jesus.
There is a third lesson about the kingdom we learn from these parables:
3.The Kingdom is a source of great joy
Jesus acknowledges something in these two parables that is basic to every human: the desire to be happy. In the parable of the hidden treasure, we see that the man’s response in finding the treasure is one of great joy. And one’s response in finding Christ should be one of great joy. “Joy,” said one Christian, “is the flag which is flown from the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there.” Christians should rejoice more than any other people, for they have found true treasure. They have Jesus.
There is one last lesson we can draw from these parables. It is perhaps the most important lesson of all:
4.The Kingdom must be personally appropriated
The labourer, when he recognized the value of what he discovered in the field sold everything so that he could have it. The merchant, having discovered the pearl of great price, sold everything so that he could buy it. In each case there is personal appropriation.
So it is with the Kingdom. A person does not enter the Kingdom of heaven merely by thinking about it but by doing something about it. Faith has three elements. There is the cognitive element (head), which requires an understanding of the truths of the gospel. There is the emotional element (heart) where we find ourselves being drawn to Christ so that we may taste and experience him. Then there is the volitional element, in which we actually make a commitment to Him.
So we see salvation is very much an individual matter. People are not saved by Jesus in groups or through the faith of others. The man in the field did not let someone else to buy the treasure in the hope that he might share in it. The merchant did not form a cooperative to acquire the pearl of great price. Each made the purchase individually.
And so it is with the kingdom. People are saved one by one as they recognize their need and respond to him in faith, believing him to be who he claims to be and trusting in what he has done for them on the cross. It is not enough to understand that Jesus is a great treasure, the pearl of great price. He must be personally appropriated.
Back in the early 1980’s the rock band U2 released a new song called, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For.” It became an instant hit. It was if U2 had put to words the internal longing of entire generation. They claimed it as their personal anthem. The song’s relevance hasn’t changed today. There is a clear consensus among millions around the world that something is missing in their lives.
Perhaps that sums you up as well. You know something is missing, something deep in your soul. You’ve been on a journey all your life trying to find out what that something is, and you still haven’t found it. The answer is lying right in front you. Jesus is that something missing in your life. He is the treasure lying in the field. He is the pearl of great price.
Now it is up to you to obtain Him.