Introduction: In the past weeks we have examined four of the seven kingdom parables contained in Matthew 13. We first looked at the Parable of the Sower, which described the reactions that could be expected to the good news about the kingdom, and we saw that there would be many who would not truly believe. We also saw that we must not seek to change the message in order to try to get people to accept it, because those who have been given ears to hear will respond to the truth. Then we looked at the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, which described another mystery of the kingdom, which is that it would not come as many of the Jews in Jesus’ day expected it to come. There would be a period of time between Jesus’ first and second coming, in which His people would have to remain in this world with the evil working of the devil and his “sons of disobedience” all around them. Although the kingdom of heaven is here now, its full realization has not yet come. Then last week we examined a pair of parables – the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Leaven – both of which taught that, although the kingdom may seem to have a small and insignificant beginning, we can be assured of the greatness of its ultimate fulfillment.
Today we are going to look at another pair of parables – the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price – and again we will see that this pair of parables makes essentially the same point. They both emphasize the incomparable value of the kingdom and the realization of this by those who discover it. Or, as Michael Green states it, “These two little gems of parables go together. Both stress the incalculable value of the kingdom: it is worth any sacrifice. Both stress the cost of gaining it: it will cost all we have” (The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven).
I. The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
This parable is found in verse 44:
NKJ Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden [κρύπτω] in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
I would like to point out a couple of things this parable teaches about the kingdom of heaven.
1. The kingdom of heaven is like hidden treasure.
When Jesus says the kingdom in like treasure that is hidden, He is highlighting a theme of His teaching to the disciples earlier in His ministry as well as here in this passage. We have considered this theme in previous messages, but it is worth noting again, since Jesus again brings it up. For example, as we saw last week, Jesus emphasized this theme in the Parable of the Leaven:
NKJ Matthew 13:33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid [ἐγκρύπτω] in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
Remember also Matthew’s assertion about why Jesus taught in parables:
NKJ Matthew 13:34-35 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret [κρύπτω, or hidden] from the foundation of the world.”
But, of course, these two parables were spoken by Jesus to His disciples, immediately following His explanation of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, as is made clear in verse 36. He has taken the time to explain the meaning of the more difficult parables to them precisely because He is not hiding the kingdom from them! They are among those who to whom it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom (vs.11). They are among those who already have and to whom more is being given (vs. 12). They are among those who have been blessed with eyes to see and ears to hear (vs. 16). And this is also why we can assume that He intended them to get what He was saying in these two parables. Indeed, His point is pretty hard to miss!
Anyway, I am reviewing the context for you again so that you will not miss the emphasis intended here by Jesus when says that the kingdom of heaven is like a hidden treasure. It is something that is incredibly valuable, but that cannot be seen by everyone. Those who see its value are those who find it. But how do they find it? How can they see the kingdom at all, if it is, in fact, hidden? Well, as I have already reminded you, it is because it has been given to them by God to know, and He has blessed them with eyes to see. This is in accord with what Jesus taught the disciples on a previous occasion, that the kingdom must be revealed by God the Father:
NKJ Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden [κρύπτω] these things [kingdom truths] from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes [referring to His disciples].”
Jesus also spoke of these same things to Nicodemus on the night that he came to talk with Him:
NKJ John 3:1-6 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
We can only find the the kingdom and recognize it for the treasure that it is if the Holy Spirit works within us and gives us the eyes to see. And, although Jesus does not go into detail about this fact in this parable, His emphasis upon the kingdom as hidden assumes it.
2. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure so valuable that it is worth all that one has.
At this point there may be some who question whether the man who found the treasure was being ethical in covering it over and not telling the owner of the field about it. Well, Jesus’ hearers would not have perceived any ethical difficulty at all … for a couple of reasons:
First, the Jewish law at that time did not recognize any ethical problem with keeping what one found in such a situation. As D.A. Carson observes in his commentary on this parable:
[U]nder rabbinic law if a workman came on a treasure in a field and lifted it out, it would belong to his master, the field’s owner; but here the man is careful not to lift the treasure out till he has bought the field. So the parable deals with neither the legality nor the morality of the situation … but with the value of the treasure, which is worth every sacrifice. (EBC, Vol. 8, p. 328)
Second, the treasure apparently didn’t belong to the owner of the field anyway, or else he would surely have dug it up before he sold the field! And such a situation would not have surprised any of Jesus’ hearers either, since it was fairly common for people to bury their valuables in those days. Palestine was a place that endured many wars, and the best way to keep from losing what you had was to hide it. In addition, they did not have a banking system such as we have today, and the best way to insure that you would not lose what was valuable to you was to hide it.
At any rate, finding a treasure that had been hidden in a field, most likely by someone long dead, would not have been all that unusual a situation. As we have seen, what is unusual about the story is that the kingdom of heaven has come in such a hidden way. But here the one who finds it realizes the great value of what he has found, and he is willing to give up everything to obtain it. Not only does he give up everything he has to get it, however, but he does so joyfully! Jesus says, “for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Application: Have your eyes been opened by God to see the Kingdom for what it is? If so, then won’t you be one of those who would joyfully give up everything for the sake of the kingdom? Do you see the kingdom as more valuable than everything this world has to offer?
As the martyred missionary Jim Elliot once wrote in his journal: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Isn’t this treasure really worth much more than we can ever think of giving up?
When the man buys the field at such sacrifice, he possesses far more than the price paid (cf. 10:39). The kingdom of heaven is worth infinitely more than the cost of discipleship, and those who know where the treasure lies joyfully abandon everything else to secure it. (EBC, Vol. 8, p. 328)
As Jesus will later tell the disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:24-26)
If you do not see the kingdom as such a precious treasure, as worth more to you in the end than your own life, could it be that your eyes still need to be opened? Could it be that the kingdom is still hidden from you? If so, then ask God to give you eyes to see, as David once did:
NKJ Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.”
And the rest of us will pray for you also, as Paul prayed for the Ephesians, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints ….” (Eph. 1:17-18).
Now let’s turn our attention to the next parable.
II. The Parable of the Pearl of Great price
This parable is found in verses 45-46:
NKJ Matthew 13:45-46 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
We don’t need to spend a lot of time trying to understand the intent of this parable, since it essentially makes the same point as the preceding one. However, there is a significant difference between this parable and the Parable of the Hidden treasure.
Thomas Constable is helpful in describing the difference between this parable and the preceding one:
The same basic point recurs in this parable. The difference between this parable and the last is that here the person who finds the treasure is looking for it whereas in the previous parable the discovery was accidental. In Jesus’ day there were Jews who were looking for the kingdom and Messiah (11:3) and those who were not (e.g., the religious leaders who did not accompany the wise men to Bethlehem). For both types of people the ultimate price of complete discipleship was not too much to pay for participation in the kingdom. (Notes on John, e-Sword)
Or, as D.A. Carson puts it in his commentary on this parable:
Unlike the man in the last parable, the merchant, though he sells everything he has to purchase the pearl, apparently pays a full price. Although he is an expert in pearls, this single find so far surpasses any other pearl the merchant has ever seen that he considers it a fair exchange for everything else he owns. Thus Jesus is not interested in religious efforts or in affirming that one can “buy” the kingdom; on the contrary, he is saying that the person whose whole life has been bound up with “pearls”— the entire religious heritage of the Jews? — will, on comprehending the true value of the kingdom as Jesus presents it, gladly exchange all else to follow him. (EBC, Vol. 8, p. 329)
The disciples would have been in no danger of misunderstanding Jesus’ message here. They would never have thought that they could earn or buy the kingdom, since – if you will again recall in the context – they knew it was only by God’s grace that they had been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom in the first place (recall again vs.11). They knew that they were not born with eyes to see, but that they had been blessed by God with eyes to see and ears to hear (recall again vs. 16).
In addition, I am sure they would not have forgotten some of Jesus’ previous lessons for them, such as in the Sermon on the Mount:
NKJ Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [Referring to those who understand their own spiritual poverty and thus realize they do not deserve the kingdom.]
So, the disciples knew they couldn’t and didn’t earn or buy the kingdom, but they did give up everything for it, as Peter once reminded Jesus:
NKJ Luke 18:28-30 Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” 29 So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
And later the Apostle Paul declared:
NKJ Philippians 3:7-9 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith ….
Conclusion: Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon on this latter parable, which is aptly entitled “A Great Bargain,” says:
[The man] thought the one pearl of more account than all other pearls and worth more than all that he had. Yes, I guarantee you that he thought it worth a great deal more than all that he possessed. He would not have sold all that he had in stock to buy it if he had not the notion that it was worth ten times the price then and, that when he had paid for it, he should have made his fortune and should be rich beyond a miser’s dream—for that is how traders in such things are sure to fetch their bargains! Well, when a man finds Christ I cannot tell you how much he values Him, but this I know— all the world besides seems nothing to a Christian when he has once found His Lord and Master!
Let us all remember just how precious a treasure we have found in Christ! And let us demonstrate this in our lives. I pray others may see in us how much the kingdom truly matters, that it is worth more than anything and everything we could ever hope to possess or become in this world.