Scripture: “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.” Matthew 13:44 ESV
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Observation: In this parable, Jesus speaks directly to his disciples and raises the bar. First, he alludes to a recurring theme of “secrecy” by detailing that it is a hidden treasure: the man serendipitously discovers the booty. Secondly, and new to this sequence of parables, it is “priceless.” Recognizing its significance, the man carefully covers the treasure with soil (having not lifted it from its hole) and sells all his possessions to buy the field and rights to its buried trove. But why not just take it—finders keepers? Theologian J.D.M. Derrett notes that if a worker discovers a treasure and lifts it out of the ground, then under rabbinical law, it would belong to the field’s owner (Law in the New Testament, pp.1-16).
Of note, because marauders often pillaged Palestine, a buried treasure, as Jesus illustrates, would not be uncommon. Still, finding one would be extraordinary. Indeed, as theologian Norman Huffman contends, the chance of discovering a buried treasure would be once in thousand lifetimes (Atypical Features in the Parables of Jesus, p.213). Thus, Jesus’ disciples would not miss his second point of the kingdom of heaven’s priceless value.
Takeaway: As addressed in our reflections on the past four parables, secrecy is a recurring theme. But here and in the following parable (tomorrow’s Daily Focus), Jesus introduces this new element of “pricelessness.” And there are two aspects:
- the immeasurable value of belonging to his kingdom and
- the length at which its citizens will go to gain access.
The man wastes no time and sells all his possessions to buy the land and the rights to its buried treasure. As theologian Michael Wilkins rightfully contends, “The emphasis is on the supreme worth of the treasure that is unseen by others; it is worth far more than any sacrifice one might make to acquire it” (NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, p.487).
In contrast, Matthew will later tell the story of the rich young ruler who walks away when invited to follow Jesus under his kingdom rule because he deems his wealth of greater worth (19:16-22). But eleven of Jesus’ disciples would give up all to follow him and grow his kingdom. And Paul also embraced the far superior riches of a discipleship relationship with Jesus: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8 ESV). Still, as Wilkins maintains, “In this parable Jesus is not speaking to self-sacrifice so much as joyful abandonment to obtain the kingdom of God” (p.487).
So what is our takeaway? The parable raises, rather than answers, questions:
- Is following Jesus’s commands via the lead of his Holy Spirit a joy or a burden?
- Do I value an authentic, loving relationship with him more than my stuff or the affections of others?
- Would I joyfully abandon myself to the One, who for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2), willfully incurred abandonment (forsaken) while bearing my sins in his body (Matthew 27:46)?
If I am honest, I can answer yes to these three questions occasionally but often fall short. Hence, I must lean on Christ’s grace, which is always sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), and trust that he will finish the good work he has started in me (Philippians 1:6).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the priceless sacrifice of your Son, who joyfully endured his cross, bearing our sins in his body and incurring the consequences of abandonment for our sake. We confess that we often conduct our lives unmindful of the freedom and love we have in Christ and that, apart from his grace, we will not see much improvement. So would you please help us submit to your Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work so that we might consistently joyfully abandon ourselves to your Son?
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling