The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
To develop a different understanding of this passage and more coherent view of the parables, we would first need to understand the context. This is how Jesus decoded the Parable of the Weeds just before He told these other parables:
Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
If we applied this to the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, it flips the whole meaning of the parable on its head. Christ is the active finder – not us. The field is the world – not an undetermined environment or object. The joy belongs to Christ – not us. The price of attaining this treasure is made by Christ. Two verses come to mind that ties this together:
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
You were bought at a price;
1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23a
The price of purchase was Jesus Himself, “enduring the cross, scorning its shame”, but He did so for joy! The picture this parable paints of salvation stands Christ, not in ourselves or what we have to give (since we have nothing to give). The question still remains as to who is the treasure and why was it hidden when it was found. The bible gives us clues.
There are four ways treasure is viewed in the bible: as earthly riches such as gold and silver (Daniel 11:43; Matthew 2:11), as intangible things that are precious such as wisdom or the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:7; Colossians 2:3), as heavenly riches (Matthew 6:19-21; 19:20; 1 Timothy 6:19) or Israel (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Psalm 135:4). The only one that would have any meaning here is that God’s treasure is Israel. God’s hiding of Israel would literally have to be a hiding – something that covers Israel to ensure that it is not found. Something like Israel’s captivity!
Israel ceased to exist as a state under Babylonian rule, Hellenistic rule and Romans rule. In fact, their reputation as a nation was far from being a treasure. They were indeed hidden. Thus, the “un-hiding” or purchase of Israel wasn’t in a political move to establish the Jewish state again, but in a spiritual reclamation and reconciliation back to God through Christ (and not just for the Jews, but for the whole world).
This parable is turned on its head and we see not just how precious God is to us, but how precious we are to God! This is our God, who joyfully pays the price for redemption and reconciliation. Even for a nation as unfaithful as Israel, He paid the full price by sending His own Son to death on the cross. There truly is no limit to God’s mercy and grace!
How then do we view the Parable of the Pearl and the Parable of the Net? Stay tuned, there’s more to come!