Summary: Getting to know God can be like going on a treasure hunt – often the looking is as wonderful as the finding.
When I was very young, my parents used to take me and my two sisters to my godparent’s cabin at Lake Tahoe. They lived on Rubicon Bay – I always liked that name – I don’t for the life of me know what it means, but it sounds kind of mysterious, doesn’t it?
Anyway, they always told stories of the lake – you know it’s huge and deep and high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So they would try to scare me by saying that when people fall out of their boats and drown their bodies just hang there in the water for years, neither sinking nor floating. So of course I was afraid to go in the water.
That atmosphere led perfectly into the game we would play each time we went – Captain Hooks Treasure Hunt. My dad and Mr. Vukason would hide a treasure, then create elaborate clues for us to find (at least we thought they were elaborate). You know, they were “walk 6 paces to the left of the stump, turn right and see a low hanging branch” – stuff like that.
Well, by the time we found the actual treasure, always buried on the beach, we were thrilled. It didn’t matter that the “treasure” was made up of plastic toys, beach buckets, and dolls – the whole experience was magical and the search for the treasure was just as memorable as finding it.
Today Jesus paints His own picture of a treasure hunt – except that the treasure He offers us isn’t made of plastic but eternal life.
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.
45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
In one case the man found treasure by accident – in the other the merchant sought long and hard for that pearl that would set him up for life. In both cases they realized the value of what they had found, and gave up everything to get it.
In the first parable Jesus is probably talking about a day laborer. Rabbinic law stated that if a worker found something of value in a field, it belonged the owner of the property. However, in this case the man quit, got some money together, and bought the entire field – then the treasure would belong to him. This isn’t a story about how to cheat someone out of property – the point is much larger.
Sometimes people just stumble onto the kingdom of God. They might be walking down the street and hear music playing and step in the doors, hear the gospel and respond. Or someone might feel that empty void in their life and search and search for the answer until they find it in Jesus.
The point is that once they discover the treasure, they give all they have to obtain it. Jesus is trying to get across the point of how valuable the kingdom of God really is. I wonder if some of us who have known the Lord a long time see the same value as someone who has just discovered it. I think this should cause us to re-evaluate just what we have in Jesus, and what we are willing to give in response.
47 "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This parable is like the weeds and the wheat – but where that parable dealt with how long the people of God must co-exist with those who reject God, this one focuses on what happens at the end.
The mental picture the audience would have had is this – either a drag net between to fishing boats, or a net attached to the land, and attached to a boat out in the water. They would go in a wide semi-circle, with the top of the net buoyed by cork, and the bottom slightly weighted – they would catch a bunch of fish. Then the fishermen would sit on the shore and divide up the fish – throwing the good ones into baskets and throwing the bad ones – those inedible or unclean, out.