Sit tight - today we’re reading even more parables! Jesus continues to teach the crowd through these stories; although their hearts are hardened and they cannot understand the parables, the disciples continue to grow in their understanding of the gospel through these tales (Matthew 13:51-52).
Although it’s the shortest parable in this section, the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44 caught my attention and really stuck out to me! In the parables, Jesus spoke to the crowd and the disciples
using stories and imagery that they would understand. Since they didn’t have banks or safety deposit boxes like we have today, when people had treasure, often they would put it in a jar and bury it in their field for safekeeping. The Israelites would have been familiar with tales of lost treasure and fortuitous stories like today’s, where a man stumbles upon a treasure buried by someone who is likely deceased. This man was probably a day laborer, paid to work on a field. Can you imagine his surprise as he works in the dirt, toiling in the sun, only to discover something that would change his life forever? When he sees the treasure, his response is to go and sell all that he has to obtain it. He realizes that the treasure is more valuable than anything else he might ever possess.
What’s the heavenly meaning of this story? When we really encounter the truth of the kingdom of heaven, we’ll recognize that it’s the greatest treasure of all and our hearts will be compelled, in joy, to surrender everything else. This parable makes me think of Paul’s words in Philippians 3. Paul spends some time reminding us of his religious pedigree. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees and was blameless under the law. When it came to religious and social standing, Paul had it all in his circle. But then, like the day laborer in the field, his life was changed forever on the road to Damascus, when he encountered the risen Christ. Paul goes on in Philippians 3:7-11 to explain that he now joyfully counts everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, even in the suffering.
When the truth of the gospel sinks into our hearts, when we understand the treasure of forgiveness we have in Jesus, when we are captivated by the cross, everything else fades away and, in joy, we seek to press on, to hold fast to this treasure, and to follow Christ in joy and loss.
Matthew 13:24-52 (ESV):
24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
44 “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.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.”52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”