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.*
The value of the Kingdom of God is unparalleled in these two short parables of Jesus. Here are some brief illustrations and quotes that will help reinforce the priceless treasure Jesus offers you and me.
A favorite story for many growing up was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. First there was the book, then the famous Disney movie, and then the Muppet version. The whole story pivots on one boy’s quest to follow a treasure map to its promised riches. A cast of allies assemble to make the voyage possible, but as the trip progresses it becomes clear that everyone is not who they seem to be. Once the destination becomes clear, mutiny ensues and most of the crew turn out to be pirates with their own plans for the loot. The rest of the story tells of the fight between these two groups to get the treasure.
Of course, the reason Treasure Island made sense and why Jesus uses this analogy in the Bible is that in times past, before reliable and trustworthy banks were established, it was not uncommon for someone to hide valuables in the ground. Knowing where those valuables were hidden made all the difference.
And this is what has happened in Jesus’s story. There is a search underway.
Famous preacher Charles Spurgeon preached on this passage and said the first thing we need to sell off in order to have Jesus is our old prejudices. However, he was not necessarily using the word like we think of today. Instead, he uses the word to mean any preconceived ideas we have of what it means to please God. You see, the unsaved person “thinks of God as a man […] and himself as almost a god.”They try to earn their way on their own. They think that God must take note of their good deeds. Spurgeon was preaching a sermon called “A Great Bargain” when he told people to sell off these preconceived notions:
It will not fetch much, but I daresay you think it is a fine thing. Hitherto you have been very good, and your own esteem of yourself is that as touching the commandments – “all these have I kept from my youth up.” And what with a good deal of church going, or attendance at the meeting house, and a few extra prayers on a Christmas day and on Good Friday, and just a little dose of sacraments, you feel yourself in tolerable good case. Now, my friend, that old moth-eaten righteousness of yours that you are so proud of you must sell off and get rid of it, for no man can be saved by the righteousness of Christ while he puts any trust in his own. Sell it all off, every rag of it. And suppose nobody will buy it, at any rate you must part with it. Assuredly it is not worth putting amongst the filthiest of rags, for it is worse than they are.
I love the title of Spurgeon’s sermon here. “A Great Bargain.” While others that don’t know the value of the treasure might think that the men in the Biblical story were giving up far too much, the main characters knew better. While other people looking at your life may scoff at you giving up everything to follow Jesus – we know better! And in fact, as Spurgeon notes: what a great bargain you have gotten! The best deal possible – the ultimate treasure. If you don’t know the treasure of the Gospel find it today!
The Unexpected Find
The first thing we note about this first fellow is that he is not looking for the treasure – he is just digging in the dirt. He’s not necessarily treasure hunting. Many people find God like this. They are on the road to something else and they discover the good news. They will be working and not expecting to find faith. This may have been your story. Long-time pastor and theologian James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) writes:
Some are not particularly anxious to find Christ. They are going on their way when suddenly an unexpected thing confronted them: the gospel. They had never really seen it before. They were not seeking it. But there it was; and at once, with that insight granted by God’s internal work of regeneration, they saw that this was a prize of far greater value than anything that had ever come into their lives previously. They saw themselves as sinners in need of a Savior. They saw Jesus as that Savior. They recognized that if they had Him, they had all else besides. So they turned to Him and believed, on the spot.
What a story for that person’s life!
If you have ever run into someone you were not expecting to see while going about your daily life but you were excited to see them, you understand this analogy. In our parable, that is this first person — one minute they are working, the next they have run into Jesus!
Isaiah 65:1 tells how God often does this.
I was sought by those who did not ask;
I was found by those who did not seek me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’
to a nation that did not call on my name.
“A Placing Beside”
If you have found the treasure, don’t let it get dusty in the back room of your life. Don’t forget its glow and value.
Proverbs 2:1-5 [CSB]
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding; furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God.
Our word parable comes from the Greek word which means “a placing beside” – if you place these two short parables of Jesus alongside your life, what do you see?
If the goal of the follower of Jesus is to grow in your awe and respect of God while also discovering more about who He is and what He expects of you, then you must take up your shovels and dig in. There is a pursuit going on, don’t forget who you are chasing!
Looking for more ideas on using these illustrations? See Mark Fugitt’s sermon on the passage here.
James Montgomery Boice, The Parables of Jesus (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1983), 34.
Sermon Number 1424, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 24, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/a-great-bargain#flipbook/.
Boice, The Parables of Jesus (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1983), 31.