Summary: How do I really feel about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What is it worth to me? Do I really care about it all that much? Important questions, all.
The Smith House in Dahlonega, Georgia, has been sitting on a gold mine for more than a century. During renovation of the landmark hotel back in February of 2006, workers discovered the entrance to a four-foot wide hole under the concrete floor in the main dining room. The hole goes straight down nineteen feet to the entrance to a gold mine under the building.
Captain Frank Hall built the house in 1884. As legend has it, the city would not permit Hall to dig for gold on the property, partly because it was too close to the downtown square and partly because he was a Yankee. It would appear that he built the house to cover-up his mining operation until his health failed and he sold the land.
"We never would have known it if we hadn’t chipped up the concrete,” Chris Welch, the owner of the hotel, said.
For many years, the owners have joked with patrons that they were “sitting on a gold mine”. They had no idea just how true a statement that really was.
Kind of makes one wonder doesn’t it: What treasure might there be in your life that you don’t know is there because you haven’t looked for it?
Have you ever looked at a word that you see all the time – like the word “the” – and said to yourself, “That looks like it is spelled wrong…how do you spell ‘the’ again?”
That is what happened to me this week while I was studying these last four parables in Matthew 13. They seem to be simple and straight-forward enough – until you stare at them too long. Then they begin to swim in your vision and they don’t make as much sense as they did when you started.
Let’s look at the first two parables together first, since they are so similar. We find them in Matthew 13:44-46 (read).
Okay, so what do we need to know if we are going to understand these two parables? In the first one, we need to understand who the man is, what the field is, why was it hidden and why was it re-hidden. In the second one, we need to understand who the merchant is and what the pearl is. The man in each parable sold all he had to acquire the treasure/pearl.
There are a couple of possibilities in each case. The treasure and the pearl could be believers and the man could be Jesus Christ. That would mean that Jesus valued those who were to be His so much that He gave up, or “sold”, all that He had in order to purchase us out of the world.
As true as this scenario is, I don’t think that it holds to the parables – for a couple of reasons. First, this is not in keeping with the theme of the other parables in this chapter. Second, this interpretation doesn’t fit with the theme of the last four parables in context together.
The reason I have put these four parables together in one session, even though the first two seem to be a couplet and the third and fourth seem to be able to stand alone is that, if you look at the first word of verse 45 and verse 47, both verses begin with the same word: “Again.” Then, in verse 52, you have Jesus starting off with the word, “Therefore.” That word automatically ties what follows with what comes before. Jesus has strung these four “pearls” together, so we will take them that way.
Okay, let’s look at another possibility for how these parables can be interpreted. You will begin to see what I meant by my illustration at the beginning about the word “the”.
A second possibility for interpreting these parables is for us to follow what we have seen so far and apply that here. What were the seeds and the leaven, the small things that were mentioned in the other parables? The Gospel, correct? Okay, so if the small things so far have been the Gospel, then what are the small things in these two parables? The Gospel, right?
Maybe…maybe. I had this all figured out until I started looking back at the explanation Jesus gave us last time for the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. What was the seed? One seed, the good seed, were “the sons of the kingdom”, and the tares were “the sons of the evil one” (verse 38). Well, this second possibility just doesn’t wash now, does it?
Or, does it? What if I have the right interpretation, but the wrong reasons for it? Beginning to see what I meant by “the” no longer appearing to be spelled right? So, back to the basics of parabolic exposition, okay?
The opening phrase in verse 36 gave me a place to start: “Then He left the multitudes…” These last four teachings of Jesus occur with His disciples in private, as did the explanation of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. The other parables were spoken in public and were shared with the multitudes. We are peeking in on a private session with the Lord and His disciples.