What is your most treasured possession? What would you most like to own, and what would you have to do to get it?
The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl
44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
The parable of the net
47 ‘Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 ‘Have you understood all these things?’ Jesus asked.
‘Yes,’ they replied.
52 He said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’
Have you ever held a precious stone or a piece of glass up to the light to see it reflect and refract as it’s turned? Or looked carefully at a shell, or a flower, or leaf to see its shape and colour from all sides? This series of mini-parables seems to be doing something similar with the kingdom of God: helping us understand and appreciate its true beauty as we view it from different angles.
Where previous parables have focused on the gradual unfolding of the kingdom and varying reactions to it, in these verses Jesus’ focus is on its infinite worth and value. He profiles a poor man who had to sell all he had to buy the field (v 44), a merchant (vs 45,46), fishermen (vs 47,48), and a house owner as he explores the value of finding and receiving the kingdom of God – being accepted by Jesus (v 52). He brings new revelation which fulfils old prophecies.
Which parable resonates most with you? Do you sometimes feel you are diligently seeking, searching and unearthing treasure as you follow Jesus? Have you stumbled across any powerfully illuminating spiritual truths recently?
What questions do you have about Jesus? What do you find easy to comprehend, and what is more challenging to grasp? As you pray, ask for help with any barrier that is preventing you from hearing God’s voice.
Deeper Bible study
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’1
Missionary Jim Elliot recorded in his journal on 28 October, 1949, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ Murdered in the rainforests of Ecuador six years later by those he was seeking to reach with the gospel, aged just 28, Elliot in his life and death embodied the sentiment of this oft-repeated quote. The parables of the treasure and the pearl reveal the unparalleled value of the kingdom, for which we will do whatever is within our control. What are you holding on to too dearly?
Jesus concludes this mini-series of parables taught on the shores of Galilee by picturing a familiar scene. Reminiscent of the story of wheat and weeds, Jesus reiterates the separation to come between good and bad. Some scholars see the net as the church; others consider that the net represents the world. Either way, there is a note of caution, given the clear message that being present in the net by no means guarantees safety within the basket. Where have you placed your security?
Before moving on, Jesus clarifies the disciples’ understanding. Given that Matthew’s Gospel was written primarily for a Jewish audience, we should not be surprised that he (in contrast to the other Gospel writers) includes reference to old and new. Indeed, verse 52, at the midpoint of his Gospel, may be seen as a summary of the complete book he is writing. As Tom Wright reflects on this verse, ‘How can we be sure … that we are both rooted in the old and also bearing the new, fresh fruit of the kingdom of heaven?’2 Are you searching the treasury of the Old Testament and allowing what you discover to be illuminated by the new treasures brought about by Christ?
‘I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.’3
1 Matt 6:21 2 Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, SPCK, 2002, p178 3 Martin Luther, in Ray Comfort, Luther Gold, Bridge-Logos, 2010, p50
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Isaiah 43,44; Hebrews 6
Pray for Scripture Union
The new supporter relations system will be going live very soon. Many people have been involved; pray especially for the core staff team of Mark Green, Ian Gooding, Gill Russell, Meri Suokas and Stephen Vis, asking that things will go smoothly and that there will be no adverse impact on our supporters.