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THE PARABLE OF THE HIDDEN TREASURE

TEXT: Matthew 13.44.

MEMORY VERSE: Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden 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. [Matthew 13.44.]

The chapter of parables of Matthew 13 contains two parables which form a pair. Since they are almost similar, we may assume that they are twin parables. Of course, we’re talking about parables about a hidden treasure and a pearl.

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This parable begins with the familiar introductory phrase ‘the heavenly Kingdom is like this… Here Jesus compares the heavenly Kingdom to a hidden treasure. He tells a story about a man who discovered a treasure hidden in a field. The man was made happy by this discovery. He buried it quickly and went home to sell everything he owned in order to buy the field and get the treasure.

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This parable has two main interpretations.

Some claim that this parable was used by Jesus to explain the tremendous importance of the celestial Kingdom. It is so valuable that to acquire it. It is worth sacrificing everything.

Others say Jesus is the man and people who are in the world represent the treasure in the field. Jesus, according to this view, sees the treasures of men in the earth, and he sacrifices everything to save them by seeing them.

I am going to argue in our lesson today in favor of the first interpretation. Then in the next lecture, from the point of view of the second interpretation, I will present the parable of the secret treasure. You are encouraged to analyze each position’s basis and draw your conclusions.

Life everlasting in the Kingdom

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The Lord Jesus says, “Thus is the kingdom of heaven…” What is the Kingdom of Heaven? It is possible to translate the Kingdom of Heaven as the government of Heaven. It is God’s government, God’s laws. And we apply to the way of life that is under the government of God and where God is the king when we use the word’ government of God.’ So if you’re in the Kingdom of Heaven, it means that in your life, God is king. Jesus often stresses that the real Christian must live under the rule of God in all His teaching. When God rules the life of a person as a sovereign, then you know that this person is a true believer.

But some Christians have God as a ‘constitutional’ king in their lives. You know that the majority of kings and queens have little political or military influence nowadays. They are rulers only in a symbolic way, having practically no influence in the affairs of the state to make decisions. In this sort of way, God may not be king in your universe. You are a true believer only if Jesus rules your life day by day, moment by moment.

If you go to the Epistles of the NT, you will find that the term ‘kingdom’ is rarely used. It is easy to understand the explanation. That is because, in the person of Jesus, the entire Kingdom of God is summed up. That is why, instead of speaking of being in the Kingdom, Paul speaks of being in Christ. Being in Christ, or being in the empire, is exactly the same thing. Both of them refer to a new way of life, the eternal life which God gives us. And it is only in Christ that you have this treasure, only in the Kingdom. In the NT, this ‘life of believers in Christ’ is also called everlasting life. It’s not just that having eternal life means that you are going to live forever. More significantly, it means that the life of God’s Kingdom is within you. It means you have the life of God inside of you. All this becomes part of your life, His holiness, His devotion, His strength, His joy, His peace.

The Kingdom of Heaven, then, is like a treasure hidden in a field. We don’t know who put it there and how long ago it was. It was very common in those days, in the absence of banks, for people who wanted to protect their valuables by burying them in a field instead of hiding them in a building. The field is a better place for something to hide. For example, in the parable of talents, the unprofitable servant concealed his talent in the world to avoid losing it. As you know, ancient Palestine was always ravished by war. The secret of the hidden treasure will be lost if someone buried a treasure in his land and was then killed during a battle. However often accidental discoveries of a treasure may occur.

In the parable, a hired labourer or a renter may have been the man who discovered such a treasure. He may have ploughed a field, dug a ditch, or planted a tree. We can’t be completely certain. He struck something hard, whatever the case, which didn’t sound like a rock. He kept searching and finally discovered a treasure, possibly in a jar of clay containing coins and jewellery. Seeing why they’d use earthen jars is easy:

 they kept the dampness out and could last in the soil almost forever.

So the man was getting pretty excited. He already thought that if he did a few things, the treasure would become his. He quickly placed the treasure back in its place with a plan in mind, covered it up and went home. He knew that if he could succeed in convincing the owner of the field to sell him the part of the field where the treasure was hidden, he could have the treasure. He was not very wealthy, but he was willing to go as far as selling everything he had to get the funds he wanted. So he went west, sold all his belongings, and bought a field for the treasure.

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In line with Jewish law

This story is perplexing. It seems the guy, buying without disclosing the existence of the treasure, took advantage of the field owner. The legality and morality of his acts, we may definitely call into doubt. For instance, it could be argued that had he known that there was a fortune hidden in that property, the original owner of the field would never have sold his land. But in a Jewish court of law, will that be a good argument? Actually not.

Consider this subject. Does the treasure rightly belong to the owner of the field? Oh, no. Under Jewish law, the owner of the field should not belong to the treasure. And he only purchased the field and nothing else when he bought the field. He was unable to purchase what he did not realize was there. Even if there was a fortune, he could not claim it as his own, because when he first bought the property, he didn’t know it was there. That is the logic behind Jewish law.

We read in the Mishnah that If one sees and falls on an ownerless object, and another person comes and seizes it, he is entitled to his possession if he has seized it Thus until he himself finds it this treasure does not belong to the owner of the field. And because he had not discovered it, he had no claim to the treasure. There is, therefore, no reason why he should be told about it. You can see that the parable’s transaction was completely in line with Jewish law. There was nothing unethical about the behaviour of the finder.

The Hidden Treasure

The parable depicts the Kingdom as an exciting and highly valuable item. This is why Jesus compared the Kingdom to a treasure. Nothing could be more precious than the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the point of the pearl parable, too. The merchant was able to see this pearl’s worth. He sold everything he had to purchase when he discovered it.

The Kingdom of Heaven, though, is not only a treasure. The Lord Jesus identified it as a treasure found hidden in a field. The treasure is covered. Something can be very important, you know, but this does not mean that everyone will immediately understand it. 

Divine things and universal reality do not actually make sense to people. Many people will listen when you preach the gospel, but they will not understand. They listen to the word of God, but they are not touched at all by its life-giving force. So it’s secret in the sense that they’re deaf to the spiritual world. It is a life-altering experience for some. They say, ‘This is a very special post. It is not possible to come from human beings. It must be the word of everlasting life.’ As Paul says,’ To some people, the message we preach is hidden. It is concealed from those who perish. They look, but they don’t see (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).” The Kingdom of Heaven is a treasure. But few individuals can discern its importance.

Getting the treasure

There’s another point that we need to discuss. When has the treasure been acquired? Well, the story tells us that in order to get it, the man had to sell everything. Now does that mean that since he bought the ground, he has won this treasure? Does that mean that we can get eternal life through our own works and sacrifices in some way? Elsewhere the Lord Jesus said,’ Search, and you’ll find it. Strive to enter through the narrow gate.’ Doesn’t he talk about efforts?

Note the great balance of the teaching of Jesus. The treasure is a present. That man was able to buy the ground, but not the treasure. Eternal life is God’s gift to humanity. Since it’s invaluable, there’s absolutely nothing we can do to win it. It is simply beyond the jurisdiction of anyone to buy it. But this does not mean, on the other hand, that God wants nothing from us. He genuinely wants us to give up anything for him. The Kingdom is a treasure for which to give all up.

From the viewpoint of love, I would like to explain this. You see in terms of devotion, we can understand trust. Love is something that offers itself to you freely, but that creates a demand on you as well. Something that is priceless is love. You can’t purchase love from someone. The world’s richest man can’t buy the love of the poorest woman. The richest woman in the world can’t buy the poorest man’s love. Today, when a person loves another person and gives that person to himself or herself, we can say it’s a free gift. But while love is self-giving, it has aspirations as well. It doesn’t mean that when Jesus loves us and offers Himself for us, He doesn’t expect us to have something. What is he expecting? The only proper answer to love is love. When Jesus loves me and gives himself to me, loving him and giving myself to him is the most fitting answer for me. 

Let this be understood by us. As God gives us everlasting life, when he gives us his own life, he wants us to give him our life back in exchange. If we accept the love of Jesus for us, then the only proper response is to say, ‘God, I offer myself fully to You.’ In those words, the apostle Paul expresses it. He died for all so that those who live could live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again for them (2 Corinthians 5:15). 

Carried free by gladness.

We do this out of the love that motivates us. Another argument of the parable is this. The driver of transformation is Joy. The man in the parable had his joy carried away. The joy he felt encouraged him to fully change his life, to sell almost everything he had, and to buy a new and precious reality. Out of his joy, he goes and sells everything that he has, and he buys the ground. From the point of view of the guy, he didn’t make a sacrifice by selling anything. It’s been a treat! The joy of the discovery of Jesus, through whom all the treasures of wisdom and truth are concealed (Colossians 2:3), has always driven people through decisions and acts of renunciation that transform their lives.

You know, it’s not like they make sacrifices by asking people to make sacrifices. It is not, first of all, by preaching the law of God that men do the law of God. In pursuing God, it is first by telling people about the treasure of God that people make the requisite sales.

Both teachers and preachers want their people to travel in their spiritual life, to ‘sell everything they have,’ and to live for the Kingdom. They invite them to different acts of piety-to give the church more time and money, to pray more, to be more committed. From time to time, all these exhortations need to be articulated. We should realize, however, that if the believer is not first swept away by the joy of having Jesus in his heart, they may readily turn into a crippling burden of must’.

The reason for discipleship is joy, the joy that induces the zeal to sell everything. Note the perfect balance once again. There is joy, but there is a demand as well. Joy makes a sale, but the treasure is only obtained by selling. In other words, if we ever have a treasure, adherence to the commands of Jesus must accompany joy in the treasure of Jesus.

The connection between grace and human duty is the relationship between finding and selling. For example, this is well illustrated in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), where the finding is the gift of divine forgiveness and the obligation of human forgiveness is to sell. Selling is thus a result of exploration, not a prerequisite for it. But once it has been found, selling becomes a prerequisite for keeping, having a treasure, having an empire.

A particular view of the alternative interpretation

We’re going to conclude our lesson about this issue. Could this discovery of treasure be a reference to Jesus finding us? Perhaps this parable tells us that Jesus gave up all His divine glory to find us that treasure. This is the alternate interpretation, if you recall, of the parable that we described at the beginning of the lesson.

It’s real that Jesus gave up everything in order to save us. But is this the argument that Jesus is making in this story? I want these objections to be raised.

First of all, did you notice how this man finds the treasure? It was an unintended discovery. He did not know there was a treasure. When he mistakenly stumbled across this treasure, he was doing his job. Did the Lord Jesus, when he came into the world, find us by accident? Not of course. In reality, he is seeking us. How does the treasure symbolize us then?

Secondly, in the scriptures, man is never compared to a treasure. Rather the man in sin is portrayed in the Bible as sick or lost. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2Corinthians, 4:7).

The third thing we need to remember is that the treasure is not originally owned by the person who discovered it. But we belong, right from the start, to Heaven. We are Creatures of Him. That’s why we are being called ‘lost.’ We cannot be lost unless, first of all, we belong to Him.

And fourthly, discipleship still refers to the notion of selling everything in order to receive the Kingdom. That is the lesson we learn from the account of the rich young ruler who was ordered to sell everything and obey Jesus, who wanted to join the Kingdom. Jesus never talks about it in relation to himself in his teaching.

These reasons enable us to see that the treasure has to be Jesus Himself and that it is we who find that treasure through God’s grace.

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