“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46
Here Jesus tells two parables or similes about treasure. We see two comparisons about the Kingdom and those who discover the Kingdom.
The main character in the first parable was not looking for treasure, he simply came upon it hidden in the field. When he saw the treasure, he recognized the value and buried it again. He was so filled with joy that he went home and sold everything he had to buy the field so that the treasure would be his. The emphasis is on his joy over finding the treasure, and he was filled with so much joy that he was willing to give up everything else he had.
That is what God offers in the Kingdom of Heaven. We do not read about him going home and contemplating the selling of his assets, consulting friends, or weighing the long-term impacts. This treasure was a true treasure and would bring him joy for a lifetime.
In the second parable, the merchant was looking for fine pearls. We have the impression that he looked far and wide, buying nice pearls but always hoping to find that one great treasure, and then he did. The merchant knew what he was looking for and when he found it, it was better than any other pearl he had imagined – it was so valuable that he was willing to sell all his other pearls for that one pearl. In these two parables, we see three things about the Kingdom of Heaven and three things about those who enter the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Heaven
1. The Kingdom of Heaven is hidden – Not everyone sees or even wants the Kingdom. The Kingdom is not hidden from those who want it, just from those whose hearts are set on other treasure and who want a different kind of kingdom.
Like the parable itself, which is only understood by those seeking truth, the Kingdom of Heaven is discovered by those whose hearts are prepared to receive. Although one was searching for treasure and another seemed to happen upon it by chance, both men saw the beauty and the value.
Some people want to hear about Jesus, and others want nothing to do with Him. This is really a heart issue, and you can’t convince someone to enter the Kingdom. The Kingdom is for those who recognize their need. This is what Jesus meant when He said:
But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. Matthew 9:12
If one does not recognize their need for a savior, a spiritual doctor, they will not see the beauty of the treasure.
2. There is nothing of greater value – True treasure cannot be measured by temporal standards and there is no price too great. There may be a perceived sacrifice to gain entrance into the kingdom, but there’s nothing of greater value than entering the kingdom. What did the prodigal son give up to go home? Pig food for a feast. What did the older brother gain by staying outside the feast? Listen to what Paul said after he lists everything he had before he encountered Jesus:
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, Philippians 3:8
Paul counted everything as loss for gaining Christ – he gave up garbage for glory.
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? “For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:34-37
What is your soul worth? It’s not about buying your way into heaven. It’s about your heart, and Jesus wants your heart.
3. The Kingdom brings great joy and satisfaction – The first man was filled with joy when he discovered the hidden treasure. The merchant had spent his life searching for the greatest pearl, and he found it. Both of them went and sold everything they had for the treasure.
Entering the Kingdom is like that – it’s all or nothing, a complete renunciation of our life. In Matthew 5, we read about kingdom values and see that contentment and joy come from the kingdom.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
We want to buy the kingdom in installment plans, but God doesn’t ask us for a payment plan. To enter the Kingdom means that everything else has to go now. Jesus is the only true hope, foundation, and reason to live.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:10-11
Seek the Kingdom, and you’ll have a full life and see the almighty God at work. The Good Shepherd already laid down His life for us. What good gift would He withhold from us? What could possibly be better than what he has already given?
Those who enter the Kingdom
1. They saw the Kingdom of heaven and believed – they recognized the value of the Kingdom, whether they were searching for the treasure or not. The disciples saw the kingdom and were amazed. They left their nets and followed Him:
For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. Luke 5:9-11
Jesus calls us to put Him ahead of all else:
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9:23
2. The beauty and the joy of the treasure moved them to sell everything they had to gain it – Salvation cannot be bought. Buying a field to gain the treasure is a picture of renunciation, unlike the story of the rich young ruler. The young ruler had done everything, yet he still felt like something was missing and he asked Jesus what he must do to enter the kingdom:
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. Mark 10:21-22
Jesus loved him, but he lacked one thing. The issue was his heart – he was trusting in his money instead of Jesus. What are we holding onto? What is God asking us to give up? Where are we getting our identity from? Where are we putting our heart?
3. Whether they were looking or not, their hearts were predisposed to see the great treasure – Some hearts are prepared to receive the treasure. Others walk by the treasure without seeing it. Some want the treasure, but don’t understand the value.
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62
For each person, it was something different. What is God asking of us today? To sell everything we own? Maybe, but probably not. What are we holding onto today? What are the values, prejudices, thoughts, relationships, and dreams holding our hearts? What are we putting our trust in before God?
As pastor and author Timothy Keller puts it, what are our functional saviors? A functional savior is something that gets us to our idea of perceived heaven. If having money is your perceived heaven, then work could be your functional savior. If being married is your idea of heaven, then your spouse or future spouse could be your functional savior. Functional saviors will always let you down because they are not true, and will distract from the real savior, creating dissatisfaction. The harder we pursue them, the more dissatisfied we will be.
What is the treasure?
Jesus is the treasure, and He paid the greatest cost so that we could enter His Kingdom. Our way to the Kingdom has been purchased by the blood of Christ, and He is the treasure:
knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19
Our way into the Kingdom has been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus. The King of Kings, Lord of Lords, became man, lived a perfect life, died, and rose again for us. So what can we do to pay Him back? Nothing! We’re not buying the treasure; we’re renouncing the things that have a hold on our hearts and that’s the parable.
The Kingdom of Heaven holds amazing joy and satisfaction, and it’s there for all. All who are seeking Him will find Him, but He does ask – He asks that He has our affection and hearts, and that we will put our trust in Him and Him alone. When we do that, we enter the Kingdom of Heaven and experience all the joy and all the satisfaction that He has.