Summary: This message explores the treasure principle: that the Kingdom of God is so valuable that it is worth any cost in this life, even life itself, to enjoy it more fully.
“The Treasure Principle” A sermon on Matthew 13:44-45 by Matthew Everhard, originally delivered at Hudson Presbyterian Church, November 26, 2006.
The Leg: I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, a residential city where the houses are all close together, and the backyards small. Our playground, for the most part, was the street in front of our house. And so there was nothing I enjoyed more than going to my cousin’s house who lived in the country. Their house was on a large property, with fields, and woods, and streams and rocks to play on. One time as we were exploring the woods, following the creak downstream, we came upon a dump, where someone had apparently for quite some time, been illegally dumping their garbage. And as we approached we saw something that terrified us. (At this point I should tell you that this is a true story). We saw sticking out of that pile of junk, a human leg. And so, we did what any courageous young men would do: we ran away. But then we came back! Finally we mustered up the courage to move the pile of broken equipment, discarded boxes, and broken bottles to recover the body. And then, grabbing the leg and pulling, we discovered that it was a prosthetic leg! A real, honest to goodness prosthetic leg that some amputee had once used. Instead of a horror story, the adventure became a discovery of hidden treasure! Imagine all the ways two 10-year-old boys could use this device! The pranks, the gags, the practical jokes that could be done with this leg: the treasure was almost incalculable!
The joy of discovery: twin parables. Have you ever discovered something; found something that brought you instant joy or happiness? Ever found a ring on a beach, or uncovered an old coin with a metal detector, or found an arrowhead on a farm? If so, then you know the feeling of joyful discovery that Jesus is hinting at in these twin parables of the treasure and the pearl. In these twin parables in Matthew 13:44-45, which I believe both have the same meaning, Jesus tells the same three-part story: 1) a precious joy is discovered 2) the ultimate sacrifice is required to obtain it and 3) the supreme value is gained and treasured.
Interpreting parables: As a general rule, when we are interpreting parables, we have to caution ourselves not to overplay the details: We do not have to identify or spiritualize every single detail: what does “hidden” mean? Is that election? What is the “field” is that the Holy Spirit? What is “joy”? Is that martyrdom predicted in the first century? No! On the contrary, when we interpret Jesus’ parables, we are looking (on most occasions) for one primary thrust, one primary concept or idea that helps to communicate a spiritual truth that advances our love for God and our understanding of His reign.
Doctrine, The Treasure Principle: The Kingdom of God, that is, the reign of Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives, is so supremely valuable that it is worth any cost or price in this life, including life itself, in order that we may enjoy Him forever (repeat).
1. A Precious Joy Discovered: Let’s look closely again at this one sentence story:
In the Ground: Usually when modern readers hear this parable we wonder about the realism of the story. Would this kind of thing ever really happen? And yet we have to look back to the ancient world, a world where there were no banks, no safe deposit boxes, no instant transactions. And so if you had the fortune of accumulating any wealth, where do you think you would put it? Of course you would bury it. But the problem is that the old twenty-paces-from-the-sycamore-tree routine was a bit of an imprecise science. And so, from time to time, it was quite conceivable that buried treasure could be lost or forgotten.
How did he discover it? Well, the story does not tell us. Perhaps this man was a hired hand on the field, working the land with a plow when the blade struck a clay jar. Perhaps he dug it up with a shovel, we don’t know.
What is the treasure? But if there is one detail in the story that demands our attention, that demands an explanation it is this: what did Jesus mean to be signified by the treasure? What is the treasure? Tell me what is so valuable that I should sell everything I have to obtain it? Answer: 2 Corinthians 4:6 “that God who said ‘Let light shine out of the darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Simply stated: the majestic God in His splendor and majesty, who calls worlds into existence with a word, whose holiness destroys evil as fire destroys paper, whom angels adore: this God has revealed His glory in the face of Jesus Christ.