Summary: God’s gift of membership in his kingdom is a treasure that’s worth giving up everything else to possess. His gift of his revealed word is a treasure that we can bring out of our storerooms over and over again to apply to each new situation we find ourselv
Can you imagine this man? Perhaps he’s ploughing a field, just a paid worker, but he suddenly comes across a great treasure, just below the surface. He can’t believe his luck! But what’s he to do? He knows he can’t just take it. The field doesn’t belong to him. Perhaps it’s too big to dig up and take away in any case. But he’s filled with joy at the thought of owning this treasure.
So he covers it up again, goes home and sells up absolutely everything he owns, so he can get enough cash together to buy the field. You can imagine the champagne flowing as he celebrates his good fortune with his family. He’s set up for life.
Then there’s the merchant, a trader in precious pearls. He really knows his stuff! One day he comes across a superb pearl. It’s huge; its sheen is almost translucent and he realises that this specimen could make his fortune in the right market. And again he’s overjoyed at this discovery. He too is so overjoyed that he quickly goes home and sells absolutely everything he can lay his hands on so he can afford this perfect pearl.
Now can you see that the major theme in these two parables is joy? The joy of discovery, the joy of owning something that’s priceless, a joy that makes everything else fade into insignificance. This is a joy that’s life changing. These men have found a treasure that’s so great they’re willing to give up everything to get their hands on it.
Joy is an interesting thing isn’t it? Some people go searching for joy and never find it, while others find it in the simplest thing. And one of the most interesting thing about joy is that you can’t actually find it by looking for it. You won’t make someone joyful by just telling them to be joyful. You have to first point them to something that’ll be a source of joy for them.
C. S. Lewis in his book "Surprised by Joy" describes his pilgrimage towards a knowledge of God, which he describes as a search for Joy. At one stage of his description he talks about discovering that he’d been looking for the wrong thing. He says "I perceived that … I had been … wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself. Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring."
His problem was that he was looking for something that he noticed other people had: this joy. The problem was, he hoped to find it outside of Christianity, which he could only think of, at that stage, as mere mythology. He tells how one day as he travelled alone on a bus he was presented with a choice. He suddenly became aware that he was holding something at bay or shutting something out. He says it was as though he was wearing some sort of stiff clothing like a corset, or even a suit of armour, as though he were a lobster. He felt himself at that moment being given a choice, to unbuckle the armour or to keep it on; to open the door or shut it. It was a completely free choice, without threat or promise.
Well, he chose to open up, to remove the armour. But still that wasn’t it. He still hadn’t found the source of joy. All he’d done was take a step in the right direction. He still had to encounter Jesus Christ, God incarnate. It was when that happened, he says, that his life was changed around. And ironically, from that point on, joy itself became unimportant. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer.
So what is it in this parable that gives these men such joy? What is this great treasure that Jesus is referring to? Well, he says, it’s the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s a start. But we can say more about it than that. Paul takes up this idea of treasure in Colossians 2, our first reading today. He says: "I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." You see, the treasure of the Kingdom of heaven is tied to Jesus himself. With a knowledge of Jesus comes a knowledge of God, and hence all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. But there’s more to it than even that. Let me remind you of a passage from Isaiah 55: 1Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. … 6Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD."