A reflection on Matthew 13:44-46 for Sunday, September 5, 2021 at Mosaic Baptist Church
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.’
Matthew 13:44-46 (NRSVA)
Again Jesus presents two micro-parables. Both, Jesus insists, tell us something about the ‘kingdom of heaven’. Each one points to something of great value – and insisting that selling everything in order to obtain the find is the best – and only – response.
The similarities between these two stories are so stark that they are appropriately addressed together.
Clearly these two comparisons equate to the claim that the ‘kingdom of heaven’ is of great value. It is both like an unexpected find and a fruitful search. It is of greater value than any lifetime of acquisition.
Of course, this is a big claim. Jesus believes there is nothing more important than the kingdom discoveries that his riddles reveal. No career. No relationship. No amount of money. No reputation. No collection of toys. There is simply nothing more valuable than the discovery of the ‘kingdom of heaven’.
And Jesus is offering it freely.
As we have seen, these parables amount to a generous scattering of the kingdom. They offer the most priceless gift even where it is not yet welcome. Open and closed soils are sown by Jesus the cavalier sower. So far Jesus has depicted the kingdom in the most accessible language. Weeds. Wheat. A single mustard seed. Yeast and flour. All these are disarmingly accessible. Almost everyone encountered these common things daily.
Now, however, Jesus has turned to things barely imaginable to peasant farmers. A lucky find of great worth. A merchant in search of a world-class jewel. The only familiar aspects of these stories were likely to be digging and the sea. Those listening had probably dug everyday. They gazed over the sea even as Jesus told his stories from his borrowed boat.
And yet, most – if not all – had never had the unimaginable luck of their plow hitting a chest of gold. Their boats returned only with fish for the day rather than a pearl to provide for a lifetime. Jesus is tapping into unfulfilled dreams of unimaginable fortune.
Dreams of freedom. Fantasies of abundant wealth.
That is why both these discoveries are worth selling everything to obtain. They tap into fanciful moments of extraordinary good luck. A turning over of a clod of soil that means a laying aside of the farm tools forever. A find in the sea that implies that the boats can safely be sold.
And this is what the discovery of the kingdom is like. It is like winning the lotto.
And yet Jesus’ telling of these twin metaphors implies that there are some who do not recognise the opportunity these innocent stories offer. They do not recognise what is here. They are being given the winning ticket and do not recognise the significance of its combination of numbers.
Of course, I do not say any of this critically. Who would easily recognise the treasures of the world in these simple sayings? Who would immediately see the most precious aspect of life in the stories of this homeless itinerant?
Perhaps no one.
But remember, the invitation is to listen well. To ruminate over these sayings. To allow the Spirit of God to open eyes and hearts to the value of the kingdom God invites us to inhabit.
As you do, you just may find yourself looking at this story from another angle. What if these stories speak of the kingdom of heaven from Jesus point of view? If so, Jesus is the one seeking finding the treasure and the pearl. He is the one selling everything to obtain something even more precious.
It is not so far fetched. Jesus’ incarnation and Matthew’s description of Jesus’ life can certainly fit into such an interpretation. Jesus left all – and then gave himself for – a pearl of great value: You. The church. The world.
Hear these stories well and you just may come to recognise them as the greatest find imaginable.
What is the greatest, most unimaginable find you can think of? What shift would need to take place for you to say the ‘kingdom of heaven’ is greater than this?
Why do you think it is so challenging for us to treasure the ‘kingdom of heaven’ above all else? How do you get this right? In what ways are you still learning?