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Keys to the Kingdom

Week 5: Treasure in the Kingdom

Matthew 13:44-45

First let me thank Zach for filling in last week and for sharing truth about God’s Word regarding growth in the kingdom. [If you want to read previous sermons, visit our website.] He shared the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. The kingdom of God, through Christ, started small—first with 12, then 120, then 2,000, leading to literally billions over nearly two millennia. Even though growth can be incremental and even barely noticeable sometimes, it is always universal. The kingdom is for everyone who has ears to hear and responds.

Today we will look at two more short parables of comparison regarding the VALUE of the kingdom of God. Next week we will consider the parable of the net and “gathering in the kingdom.” Finally, on Pentecost Sunday (June 8) we will round out our study of the Keys to the Kingdom by looking at advancing the Kingdom through Acts 2. But now…Treasure of the Kingdom.

44“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.

“45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

I want to show you a few pictures and I want you to tell me what you see. In each of these pictures there were at least two images you could see; maybe you could see them both. Maybe you could even see things others don’t see!

That’s the way it can be with some parables. There can be more than one way to hear the story…more than one truth that can come from one simple, two-sentence parable:

44“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.

Jesus is using illustrations familiar to his audience to convey various characteristics (what we’ve been calling “keys”) of the Kingdom of God. When you heard this parable of the treasure in the field, there’s a pretty good chance you thought of the Kingdom being Christ and the man who sold all he had to buy the field was US—followers of Jesus who are willing to give all of ourselves to have a relationship with Jesus.

There is certainly truth found in that interpretation. After all it was Jesus who also said this: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

In this statement, Jesus is clearly pointing to true discipleship as one who has his priorities in order. A disciple of Jesus Christ is not focused on personal wealth or great possessions in this life. A disciple of Christ seeks first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness, knowing that everything he needs in this life will be provided by God.

We might also consider that Jesus’s audience consisted mostly of common laborers…some field hands…some shepherds…maybe even some slaves. They would have been familiar with working in a field NOT their own. If the man OWNED the field, he clearly would not have a need to buy it from himself! So, he must have been either employed to work the field or indebted through slavery to do so.

In this parable, the worker stumbles upon a treasure in such a field. He wasn’t looking for any treasure. In a sense, the treasure found him! Excited at the prospects of wealth, he then hides the treasure so he can sell all he has to buy the field. Obviously, he doesn’t tell the owner of the field what he found in his field.

Often the Bible gives stories that include what we may consider unscrupulous actions on the part of the characters WITHOUT condoning or condemning those actions.

To focus on that part of the story would be to miss the bigger point. In this case, it’s about selling ALL that he had to buy the field so he could also own the treasure.

If we interpret the treasure in the field in this way, it would stand to reason that we would also interpret the pearl of great price in a similar way: “45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

The “pearl” is attaining Christ and his kingdom, and the merchant is US—who sell all we have to buy that one “Pearl.” Again, the treasure we seek is not material possessions, or power, or status in our community. Our treasure is the kingdom of God and his righteousness. And we are willing to surrender all we have to obtain it.

This parable is complementary to the first one, but not quite the same. In this case the merchant is SEARCHING for fine pearls, not stumbling upon them while doing something else. This suggests that the kingdom of God is not only available to those who are seeking it, but also to those who are not. The key is being open and available to God’s activity—his kingdom here on earth. Let those who have ears, hear.

We could stop here and say AMEN. Sorry to disappoint. Just like the illusions I showed you earlier, there may be another way to look at both complimentary parables. WHAT IF:

  • The treasure in the field is US? After all, in earlier parables, the field represented the world…the souls of men and women who either receive the Good News or—in one way or another—reject it. The field is the environment where both wheat and weeds grow, as difficult as it is for us to accept sometimes. The field is the place where the mustard tree (bush?) becomes the largest in the garden.
  • The one buying the field is Christ? After all, Jesus paid is ALL so that he could purchase OUR freedom from sin and death. He not only bought the treasure, but he entire field. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…
  • Not only that, but we remember in Paul’s description of Jesus and his exhortation for us to imitate Christ, he says this about Jesus: 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Did you catch that, Jesus became a servant. This parable has a servant working in the field.
  • Likewise, the pearl of great price are those who will hear and accept the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the merchant, was already in search of such pearls, and when he found one of great value—the church—he gave everything to buy Her.

How does seeing these two parables in this way change the way you see yourself? Jesus? In this second interpretation, we are reminded of the great value we are to God. He loves you so much that He would give EVERYTHING to be in a relationship with you. That’s God’s economy!
In a world where God is often seen as the Great Wizard of OZ behind the curtain—one to be feared…one who may or may not grant you your wish if you do certain things for him—it is both comforting and enticing to know that God is much more like the loving Father in the parable of the prodigal son, searching for us…running toward us…throwing a great feast for us EVEN THOUGH we don’t deserve such gracious treatment.

But what about the first interpretation? If we see the treasure as being Jesus Christ and His Kingdom—something worthy of our complete surrender and devotion…a treasure worthy of EVERYTHING we have—then how does that change the way you see yourself? Does it cause you to examine your priorities?

Does it move you to ask, “What have I changed about my ambitions and priorities that reflects my value of being a citizen of New Jerusalem?” “Can people look at me—my ability to give generously of my time and money for others in need…my willingness to forgive others…to love others even though they’ve wronged me—and know that I put my hope and faith in Jesus?”

There are challenges to both interpretations, so let me mention a few of them:

  • If we are the treasure in the field, why is it that Jesus, the worker in the field, happens to stumble upon us. Wouldn’t he be in search of us?
  • Not only that, but doesn’t Jesus already own the entire world? Why would he have to purchase what he already owns?
  • On the other hand, if we are the ones wanting the treasure, why buy the whole field, since the field has earlier represented the world? Why would we want to buy the wheat AND the tares?
  • If Jesus is the Merchant, then why would not ALL of the pearls be of great value since we are all made in His image?

As you can see, we could spend all day trying to “poke holes” in Jesus’s parables, ultimately coming to a conclusion that nothing can be true in them! That’s why it’s important to remember that every analogy breaks down at some point. Jesus knew that, and so did his audience. He was trying to make one major point in his parables, not EVERY point! Can we accept the basic truths of these parables and set aside the hyper-analytics?

In the end, I think both statements we see about the Kingdom of God found in these parables can be true. Yes, Jesus paid it all so that He could buy our freedom from sin and death if we will hear and believe the Good News. John 3:16 is the most quoted verse in the Bible. But John 3:18 may the most significant truth of salvation: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Belief in Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world is the default position for salvation. Jesus doesn’t condemn the unbeliever…they do that to themselves! Jesus saw value in you and me and bought us with his blood BEFORE we could do anything. This is the GOOD NEWS!

But it is also true that knowing Christ as Savior requires a willingness on our part to give Him everything. In Luke 14:33, Jesus made this challenging statement , “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” And a few verses later, He said something even harder : “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple” (14:26).

Discipleship is demanding. Christianity is costly. And many of us have just been “playing church.” We have wanted what Craig Groeschel calls cafeteria Christianity: “Give me a double helping of forgiveness but hold off on the sacrifice.” “I’ll take a scoop of grace but let me pass on the commitment.”

Seeing the kingdom of God as a GREAT TREASURE or the Pearl of GREAT PRICE moves us to examine our priorities…our motives…our commitment and behavior. If Jesus paid it all for us, shouldn’t it stand to reason that we would be ALL IN when it comes to our citizenship in His Kingdom?


Look, I don’t know where each of you stands. I don’t know your hearts, but Jesus does. If you believe in the Son of God as your Savior, then your actions and attitudes should reflect your convictions. We should put our money where our mouth is!

If you have felt unworthy, unloved, unwelcomed into God’s kingdom, then Jesus wants you to hear this: You are a TREASURE…a PEARL of great price that Jesus was willing to die for so that you could have an eternal relationship with you. And he did this BEFORE you could respond. But now, He’s calling you and many others to “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”