A Meaningful Discovery - Matthew 13:44-46
Many of you know that Stacey and I were in Dallas this week for our denomination’s annual gathering called General Assembly. It was a time for serious business and a great time to reconnect with friends.
But when Friday rolled around, we were both ready to get back.
And as we were flying back, we were waiting in the airport when a stewardess announced they were looking for a few people to give up their seats for a $550 voucher. Basically, it’s a free plane ticket. And then were told we’d have a guaranteed seat on the next flight that was leaving two hours later.
I’ve had layovers longer than that. Two hours was nothing. It was really a no brainer. We both took the voucher. But it meant that we were going to be getting back later than we had planned for.
We had to give up something small now in order to get something of greater value later. That’s often the way life goes. You have to give up something in the short term in order to receive something better in the long run.
Jesus lays this out a similar principle in the two parables we read earlier. Both the digger and the merchant from the parables give up everything in order to gain something of greater value.
But when you look at the parables independently you will realize something: they discover their valuable items in very different manners. The digger discovers the treasure seemingly by chance, while the merchant searches for the pearl.
Both of these parables teach us a valuable lesson about the kingdom of heaven: Some stumble upon the Kingdom of Heaven, while others seek it out.
Some Stumble Upon the Kingdom of Heaven
Let’s look at verse 44 together:
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.
Jesus continues his lengthy speech in parables in Matthew 13 comparing the kingdom of heaven to various things. Last week we looked at how he compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed and leaven.
Both of those parables said much about how the kingdom of heaven moves forward. It expands through the gospel going forth and growing within believers.
And again here, we have parables comparing the kingdom of heaven to treasure found in a field. But these parables are not concerned with how the kingdom expands. Rather both of these parables are concerned with how valuable the kingdom of heaven is. The first parable begins with a man digging in someone else’s property.
And as he’s digging he stumbles onto a treasure. I think we all have relatives that talk about how they don’t trust banks. So, they hide money under their pillows or in their walls or in some unassuming place.
Apparently, the man who owned the treasure was one of those sorts of people. I’m kidding. In ancient times, there were no banks. There were wars, raids, thieves - all sorts of people that could just steal from you and there would be nothing you could do about it.
So it really wasn’t that unusual or strange for someone to bury their possessions on their property. But here’s the digger’s problem: He has no legal claim to the treasure. You see finder’s keepers rules don’t apply when you’re on someone else’s property.
So what does the man do? He sells everything so he can buy that field. Once he bought the field the treasure was legally HIS.
Lauren and I watch a lot of home renovation shows. We’ve watched our fair share of Chip and Joanna Gaines and a similar show called Hometown on HGTV. What happens a lot on these home renovation shows is they go into the kitchen of a house and there’s old linoleum on the floor and they tear up the linoleum only to discover beautiful hardwood floors. And you wonder, why in the world would anyone cover those gorgeous floors up?
The digger in this parable happened upon the treasure. He wasn’t looking for it. It was this fantastic accident. Often we’ll watch these renovation shows and they’ll tear up the linoleum only to discover the subfloor. There was nothing hidden under the floor. But you have to be willing to take the chance!
Whenever I preach, I’ll look Matthew Henry’s commentary on the Bible. Let me read to you what he says about the treasure hidden in the field. “Many slight the gospel, because they look only upon the surface of the field. But all who search the Scriptures, so as in them to find Christ and eternal life, will discover such treasure in this field as makes it unspeakably valuable…”
The man in this parable stumbled upon this great treasure, because he was willing to dig. You see, Jesus Christ, his gospel, and being a citizen of his kingdom is this great treasure. Are you willing to dig to find him and know Him better?
Recently, I’ve spoken with some folks that told me they were thankful for the church they grew up in - because at that church - they studied the Scriptures. They knew the Bible. And what they meant by that was they can now coast spiritually. They can live on spiritual autopilot thanks to what they’ve previously been taught.
But this isn’t true for our spiritual walk. The truth is, our digging doesn’t stop once we’ve found the treasure.
Look at the parable with me again. The ESV translation says that our digger finds the treasure and then covers it. The NASB translation says, our digger hid the treasure “again.”
In other words, he finds the treasure only to have to turn around and look for it again! You see, this treasure that we have, our kingdom citizenship, the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ isn’t something that we find once and never go back to. We find it over and over and over and over again.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is something to marvel over. It’s something we find and rediscover. It never gets old. Is the gospel of Jesus Christ stale to you? Is it so familiar to you that it no longer has any impact? If that’s true for you, pray that God softens your heart, go home this afternoon, and start digging!
Some Search for the Kingdom of Heaven
The second parable of Jesus makes a similar point as the first. Let’s look at verses 45 and 46.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” In the previous parable, our digger stumbles upon the treasure. He didn’t know what he was looking for until he found it.
But notice that’s not the case here. The merchant is actively searching for pearls. He has an idea of what he’s looking for. Pearls in ancient times were extremely valuable, and completely unaffordable to the average person. They were a sign of great wealth.
The parable suggests that the merchant had obtained pearls of lesser value. Perhaps he had obtained fake pearls. Regardless, they weren’t “fine pearls.” But the merchant finds one pearl and immediately, he knows he has found the one. His search was successful. He eventually found a great pearl.
Have you ever gone somewhere and there’s someone selling counterfeit products on the street? Maybe a fake watch or pair of sunglasses or something? Normally, when you go to one of those stands, you know what you’re looking at isn’t the “real” thing. It has a fake Nike Swoosh, or a counterfeit Citizens engraved in the face of the watch.
And you think to yourself, “Why not? It’s so much cheaper and looks about the same.” Then a couple days later it falls apart.
A counterfeit is never as good as the real thing. There’s a reason people buy Nike shoes, Citizens watches, or Oakley sunglasses. It’s because they’re well-made products. I think this was the merchant’s problem. He had been settling for lesser pearls. Or he had been used to buying counterfeits.
But one day he had had enough. He wanted a “fine” pearl and so he set out to find it.
Too often we settle for counterfeit gospels. We think that a particular political agenda is the gospel. An emotional experience is the gospel. Maintaining a good reputation is the gospel. Keeping the peace in our family is the gospel.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, but they won’t save you. They all lead us to believe they’ll fix our problems but inevitably disappoint us. I think the evangelical christian church has settled for a counterfeit gospel. I recently read the following statement, and you decide if you think it’s true or not:
“Christians have historically tended to value action over thinking... (Baptism, pg. 3)”
That is to say, we’ll often settle for - “Just tell me what to do. We don’t want to have to think.” You see, you receive the gospel by grace through faith. That requires understanding. That requires thought. After all, the Scriptures are written in a Book! We have to read it in order to understand it!
No doubt, our faith in Jesus Christ informs the decisions we make and how we live our lives. But what you do, doesn’t save you. That’s a counterfeit gospel.
We must stop settling for counterfeit pearls. We need to settle on the fine pearl of Jesus Christ. You know, the merchant knew he needed to sail the ocean in order to find the fine pearl. You see, he knew where to begin his search.
If you’re going to find the fine pearl, Jesus Christ, you need to search the Scriptures for him. A lot of folks are redeemed by Christ either by stumbling into Him or by searching until they find Him. But consider our parables: the digger didn’t know what he was going to find, and the merchant didn’t know where to find the pearls.
You see, the implication is the same for both parables: You don’t know what you’re missing until you find it. Or you didn’t know that you needed Jesus Christ until he revealed himself to you.
The main point to both of these parables is obvious: When they found the item of great worth, the treasure or the pearl - they sold everything to obtain it.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ, a citizen in His kingdom, must mean that we’re willing to give up everything. Your political persuasions. Your academic achievements. Your reputation. Your friends. Even your family.
Are you willing to give it up for Jesus Christ? Is he valuable enough?
Paul wrote about this exact thing in Philippians chapter 3.
He said, But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
Paul lost everything for Jesus Christ. And everything he had - he counted as rubbish. Why?
“Because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.” You see, he had found the treasure. He had discovered the pearl.
Paul realized that he had found the most valuable thing in the world: Jesus Christ. Once you have Jesus Christ, nothing else compares in value. The joy of knowing Him is always greater than the pain of any earthly loss.
But this brings up an interesting point that I want us to consider as we close. We should see the value of Christ. Yes. We should be willing to give everything up for him. Yes. But we shouldn’t be motivated by a manner of mere duty.
We should never think to ourselves, “Well this is what I’m supposed to do and say because I’m a Christian…”
Rather we should find joy in Christ. Look at how the digger responded upon discovering the treasure in verse 44. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. The joy of the treasure motivated the digger to sell everything.
The joy found in Jesus Christ is more valuable than anything else you’ll ever find. And by joy I don’t necessarily mean happiness. I mean peace deep in your soul placed there by the Holy Spirit.
That joy only comes when you consider what Christ has done for you. The Son of God - the treasure, the great pearl, became nothing.
You see, he humbled himself to the point of death on the cross. He gave up everything. He sacrificed everything for those who put faith in him. He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.
Is that meaningful to you? Does that bring you joy to the point you’d be willing to give up everything for Him? Or is the cost too great? The treasure is never hidden too deep and the ocean is never too vast for you to find Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray together.