Summary: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again;
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field" (Matthew 13:44).
In the popular interpretation of this parable the Gospel is the treasure hidden in the field and the man who found the treasure is "an elect and awakened sinner." It is amazing how far from the teachings of Jesus men can fall. In verse 38 Jesus tells us the field in the parables is the world. Why is field in this parable different? In the first two parables we are told a man sowed good seed in his field. Jesus told us this man is the “Son of Man” (v. 37). If the man in the second parable represents the Son of man, why, in this fifth parable, without any word to the contrary, is the man someone entirely different?
In this parable is Jesus setting before us the way of salvation, teaching us that earnestness and diligence are needed on the part of an awakened sinner if he is to find the treasure and make it his own? If He is salvation is the treasure. If the treasure is the Gospel in what possible sense is the Gospel hidden in the world? When the man found this treasure he hid it again. If the treasure represents the Gospel and the field the world, and if the man who is seeking the treasure is an awakened sinner, then this parable teaches that God requires the awakened sinner, after he has found peace and obtained salvation, to go out and hide it in the world. Is that what Jesus told His disciples they are to do? He told them they are to let their light shine that men might see their good works and glorify their Father which is in heaven. They are to be like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden and a candle that gives light to everyone in the house.
What did this man do after he found the treasure? He hid it again and went and sold all he had and purchased the field. What does an awakened sinner have to sell, and what is it that he purchases, surely not the world. This interpretation may suit and satisfy the lazy people who are too lazy to carefully examine the parable for themselves, but it certainly will not do for those who prayerfully and diligently search the Word of God. Any interpretation that contains such absurdities must be promptly dismissed.
The first key that unlocks the meaning of this parable is it was spoken by Jesus after He had dismissed the multitudes and had taken His disciples into the house. This parable, unlike the four which precede it, was spoken to the disciples only. The disciples must have been perplexed and dismayed at the gloomy picture which Jesus painted of His kingdom. He told them the Word of God would be preached to the entire world but, with meager results. Then He told them Satan would over-sow the field with tares and they are to let the tares and the wheat grow side by side until the harvest, and then the tares would be found in such quantities it would be necessary to bind them in "bundles." Then He had warned them that His professing church would develop so extensively and rapidly that it would be like a little mustard seed growing up into a herb, ultimately becoming a tree, with wide spreading branches; but Satan and his followers would find shelter in them. Then He told them a foreign and corrupting element would be introduced, stealthily and secretly into the professing church. There was a just reason for the disciples to be perplexed and dismayed. But Jesus does not leave them in their troubled situation.
Sending the multitude away and entering the house Jesus spoke words of assurance to the disciples in the parables of the treasure and pearl. He made known to them that, though the outward professing cause of Christianity upon earth would not achieve its goal there will be no failure on the part of God. He tells them there are two bodies of people who are inexpressibly precious in His sight, and that through them He will manifest the inexhaustible riches of His grace and glory. One of these two bodies of people is symbolized by the treasure hidden in the field, it is the nation of Israel, the other one the "pearl," represent the Gentiles. One is a nation the other a called out people from the world.
The second key which unlocks the parable before us, and the two which follow, is indicated in the way in which the Lord divided the parables. There are seven parables in all, and He divided them into four and three: the four spoken by the seaside in the hearing of the multitudes, the last three spoken inside the house to the disciples only. Four is the number of the earth, the world. God has stamped "four" upon it. The first four parables describe the kingdom of heaven as it appears in the world, as it is manifested here on earth. Three is the number of the Holy Trinity, and therefore in the last three parables the kingdom is looked at from God’s viewpoint. In the parable of the treasure and pearl we are told what God has in the kingdom the world cannot see.