Blasted (Blessed?) Parables…

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field.”                 — Matthew 13:44, CEB

“Oh, he’s not stopping,” I’m sure the disciples thought as Jesus entered into the sixth parable of the day, found in chapter 13 of Matthew’s rendition of the Gospel. Truly, parables can be frustrating speech today in the 21st Century, let alone today, in the 21st Century, after being written in a foreign, ancient language in the 1st Century. However, this tends to be Jesus’ preferred method of teaching, and the rewards waiting to be discovered, I have found, are well worth any frustrations the excavation might temporarily cause us. So let’s dig in!

The focus for today is on Matthew 13:44-46. Use the link to open the Bible app and follow along! These are actually some of the less troubling parables that Jesus puts out there to be deciphered, so let’s all be thankful for that (the troubling ones will be addressed later, mwahaha!). These are, however, very loaded parables, full of wisdom for those of us who care to take a look. They don’t look like much, two simple paragraphs of text talking about the kingdom of heaven being like treasure. Okay, sure, that makes sense, but the implications of the text can be quite lovely and powerful if we stop and think about them.

Starting with the first parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field” (13:44). When you think of heaven, you normally think of a realm, right? The place we all go after we die, assuming we are on the list? It should be interesting, then, that the kingdom of heaven is discussed as though it is something to be discovered, actively, here and now as we live. Indeed, this almost feels like Luke’s quote of Jesus, when he says, “God’s kingdom is already among you” (Luke 17:20-21). The kingdom of heaven, then, is hidden in the midst of what we assume to be perfectly ordinary life. Situations that we write off as mere “fields,” places that we simply must survive until we get to that blessed kingdom could actually places in which we discover God’s kingdom already at work.

What if our jobs, family life, sporting events, relationships, struggles, successes, bus rides, delayed flights, arguments, and all the other seemingly simple and mundane aspects of our lives were places in which the kingdom of heaven is effectively hidden, waiting for us to look with new eyes? What if we acted like this was the case?

Looking at the second parable, we are told “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls” (13:45). Spot a difference? All too often, this text is preached or discussed as if the kingdom of heaven is described as being the pearl that is bought, making it consistent with the “treasure in a field” parable. That’s not what it says, is it? The kingdom is compared to the merchant, not the pearl. Interesting, no? The kingdom is making purchases… let’s take a look.

In Matthew, three chapters previous to our text, Jesus sends the disciples out to cure and preach and teach and proclaim one very important message, “The kingdom of heaven has come near!” (10:7). So the kingdom of heaven is: 1) mobile, and 2) present wherever Jesus or his teachings are present and taking effect. When people are experiencing healing or good news or comfort in the name of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of heaven makes an appearance. Jesus is the embodiment of the kingdom of heaven, which brings our parable of the merchant into focus (I hope).

The merchant “found one very precious pearl” and “went and sold all that he owned and bought it” (13:46). Seeing that Jesus, the kingdom of heaven in the flesh, has given (literally) all that he has to purchase this precious pearl, I now submit to you my estimation of what this pearl symbolizes: humanity, specifically, YOU. As Paul teaches the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You have been bought and paid for, so honor God with your body.” Granted, this is a quote from a larger conversation about the way the Corinthians were still trying to cling to the practices of their lives before Christ, but still it says the same thing this parable seems to indicate. The kingdom of God seeks us out just as we should be trying to seek it out. Further, the kingdom of God, in Christ Jesus, has paid for us already, for in God’s eyes, you and I are precious pearls worth everything.

The question that these parables pose to you and I today, then, is whether or not we are putting the same amount of effort into finding the kingdom and giving our all so that others might experience it. Are you and I walking through life with eyes, ears, arms, and hearts open, ready to share the love of God with others in our most mundane, inglorious moments? Or are we constantly passing by the treasure that is hidden right under our nose?

As we go out into the day, I hope that this conversation about the parables of Jesus, and the price he paid for us encourages you to think about what is most valuable to you. I hope it encourages you, like it does me, to look past the dull exterior of your daily moments so that you will instead see that you are not only called to accept the kingdom of God that stands before you, arms open wide, but you are also called to share that kingdom through your kindness, your love, and your compassion. Peace be with you!

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