Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Kingdom Parables of Jesus: The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl


The Kingdom Parables of Jesus: The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

“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 (NRSVCE)

For the past few weeks we have been breaking open the parables of Christ. Jesus, the master teacher, uses the parable to illustrate truth to the trusting, to protect truth from the skeptic and cynic, and to paint in permanent colors the most important characteristics of Kingdom living—what being a Christian is all about. Remember, the work “parable” comes from two Greek words—para (meaning alongside—like a paralegal) and ballo (which means to throw). So a parable—the word parabolein—is a throwing alongside—taking something that we know from our everyday lives, and using that one idea to show us something about the Kingdom.

And today we’re going shopping.


We actually have two parables here, one of a man who stumbled upon a treasure, and one who was looking for treasure for a long time. For both, it’s the discovery of a lifetime, the greatest treasure they could imagine; for both, it’s the most expensive thing they have every purchased; for both, they made a decision that forever changed their lives. And for both, they were filled with great joy about their decision.


What does this tell us about being a Christian? What does this tell us about the Kingdom of God? Plenty!


The Kingdom of God is the greatest treasure in the world. It costs you all that you have to obtain it, but everyone in this room can afford it.


There are also differences between these two people. One stumbled upon a treasure, one had been looking for it for a long time. That’s the way it is with the Kingdom, too. All our lives we are looking for the right connection, the right life, we want our lives to count, we want the pieces to fit, we want to have the right foundation to grow our families, to make a life for ourselves, to make it through high school and college—we are seekers in many ways, through many choices, and we grow restless until that void—that emptiness—is filled with only the One who created it can fill it with—Himself. “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee”, St. Augustine aptly said. 

Our own poets and songwriters have said it too, Bono from the Irish rock band U2 put it this way, from the album “The Joshua Tree” in 1987. . .  


"I have climbed highest mountains, I have run through the fields
I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls, These city walls
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I have kissed honey lips, felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like a fire, This burning desire
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for"

Perhaps your own taste is a bit older. Maybe some of you remember the song made famous by Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?”


"Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is . . ."


"Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee."

And each of these guys finds something of the greatest value. For one, it was an accident, for the other, it was something for which he had been looking a long time. And it was the greatest thing they had ever seen—beyond their experience, far exceeding their hopes, far more beautiful that anything they could imagine—but they knew it when they found it. It was the greatest!


And the Kingdom of God is that treasure. It’s the glory of forgiveness, it’s the land of beginning again. It’s the key to a happy family; it’s the promise of divine power in the midst of human frailty. It’s peace and contentment of knowing that you’re living life according to the One Who designed you—it’s the right software to your hardware. It’s the key to understanding your heart. It’s the way to finally overcome life-dominating sin. It’s the way to run your business; it’s the way to find a mate. It’s the destiny formed by your maker. It’s salvation, and peace, and contentment, and power, and joy, and love, and the very thing that everyone in the world is going crazy about looking for—and they are looking for it in all the wrong places. It’s true love, by the one who is love! And we can find it!

I don’t know if it was Aristotle or Billy Crystal who said about true love, “Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world. Except for a nice MLT: a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They're so perky, I love that.” Well, the Kingdom is the greatest thing in the world!


The Kingdom of God is the greatest treasure in the world. It costs you all that you have to obtain it, but everyone in this room can afford it.


It’s the greatest, and we see how in both cases it cost all that these two men had.

“in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field”… and for the merchant who had been looking, he finds the one he’d been looking for, “he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

The Kingdom of God is a paradox. It costs you all you have, but everyone can afford it. It is the greatest treasure possible, but so few make the decision to own it, because their eyes are distracted by all the other stuff that’s glittering on the shelf. All the other stuff has catchy slogans, sexy jingles, looks good on the TV and on the computer screen, and is so attractive to our senses. Some of it is even important for our lives.


But Jesus says that unless you put the Kingdom first, you cannot be his disciple. What’s the cost again? Let’s do some comparison, some price-shopping….I mean, maybe with the Great Recession going on, there’s a discount program going. Maybe if we “Friend” Jesus on Facebook, we can get a discount. Maybe there’s a Groupon coupon—we can get a group rate. Maybe there’s a frequent divine flyer program…I can fly to heaven on Aunt Sissy’s points!

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26–27 (NRSVCE)



And just in case we missed it, in Luke 14:33 we read "So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."


And then in Luke 9:23 “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."


What’s that price again?


It’s an unrivalled love. There is nothing—and no one—who is more important in our life than Christ.


It’s an unceasing crossbearing. We bear their cross daily. What does it mean to bear the cross? Jesus is not talking about jewelry, he’s talking about sacrifice, about dying to our own wants and desires to serve and love others.


It’s an unqualified renunciation. You have to give them up, Jesus gets to own them now.


Wow! That’s a high price! And there are no discounts.


But once you have it, it’s joyful! It’s fantastic, you want to share it with others.

Our son Tim was engaged last weekend, and it was so neat to see his fiancé, Melanie, parading that ring around. Was she ashamed about it? Was she fearful? No way! The love for her fiancé, and the beauty of the gift, meant she was showing that thing to everyone. Note in our story, “in his joy” he went out and sold it. Do you think, once he had it, that he let people know about it? 


Look what I found!!! We have great opportunities to let people know what we have found in Christ. We have a wonderful Vacation Bible School coming up—what a great opportunity to let children know about Christ—and let their parents know, too. And we have other opportunities—bringing our friends to Mass, to our Adult Bible Study classes, to pull our friends, those among our Separated Brethren, former Catholics back in—let them know that they missed a treasure right there in their midst—and we will have some great opportunities in August, our anniversary (we should have everyone who ever worshipped with us at that special Mass)… 


The price of the pearl; the price of the treasure. All that you have, are, and hope to be.
The Kingdom of God is the greatest treasure in the world. It costs you all that you have to obtain it, but everyone in this room can afford it.


So, what’s the bottom line, Rick. How do you figure out how much it will cost me? I need some guidance!

Well, whenever we have something to buy in the Bauer household, we set up a budget. So let’s sit down with Jesus, and run the numbers.


"I want this pearl. How much is it?"
"Well," the seller says, "it's very expensive."
"But, how much?" we ask.
"Well, a very large amount."

 "Do you think I could buy it?"

 "Oh, of course, everyone can buy it."

 "But, didn't you say it was very expensive?"

 "Yes."

 "Well, how much is it?"

 "Everything you have," says the seller.

 We make up our minds, "All right, I'll buy it," we say.

 "Well, what do you have?" he wants to know. "Let's write it down."

 "Well, I have three thousand dollars in the bank right now."

 "Good—three thousand dollars. What else?"

 "That's all … That's all I have; I mean, that’s in the money market, there’s a few hundred in the checking, and a few more thousand in the savings account. And I have a few dollars here in my pocket."

 "How much?"

 We start digging. "Well, let's see--thirty, forty, fifty, fifty three, fifty three dollars.”

 “What else do you have?"

 "Well, nothing. That's all. I mean, I have some balance on my credit cards. But that’s it."

 "Where do you live?" He's still probing.

 "In my house. Yes, I have a house."

 "The house, too, then." He writes that down.

 "You mean I have to live in my camper?"

 "You have a camper? That, too. What else?"

 "I'll have to sleep in my car!"

 "You have a car?"

 "Two of them."

 "Both become mine, both cars. What else?"

 "Shoot, I will have to tap my 401K!”

 “You have a 401K?”

 “Not much of one after the downturn, but yes.”

 “OK, that too. Anything else?”

 “Well, you already have my money, my house, my camper, my cars, my retirement. What more do you want?"

 "Are you alone in this world?"

 "No, I have a wife and two children, and a wonderful grandchild....."

 "Oh, yes, your wife, children, and grandchildren, too. What else?"

 "I have nothing left! I am left alone now."

Suddenly the seller exclaims, "Oh, I almost forgot! You yourself, too!
Everything becomes mine--wife, children, house, money, cars—and you, too." Then he goes on. "Now listen—I will allow you to use all these things for the time being. But don't forget that they are mine, just as you are. And whenever I need any of them you must give them up, because now I am the owner."[1]

The Kingdom of God is the greatest treasure in the world. It costs you all that you have to obtain it, but everyone in this room can afford it.



[1] Adapted from Juan Carlos Ortiz, Disciple. Altamonte Springs: Creation House, 1975.

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