The kingdom of heaven is like…buried treasure

treasureWithout so much as taking a breath after His explanation of the parable of the weeds, Jesus launches rapid-fire-style into three more parables.  The three parables in Matthew 13:44-50 are literally part of the same quotation as the explanation of the parable of the weeds – perhaps they should be read as part of this explanation as well as for what they can illuminate about the kingdom of heaven on their own.  The phrase “that someone took and…” should be familiar to us by now: the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted; the kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and worked into dough; now, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field that someone found and hid” (Matthew 13:51).  The kingdom of God requires engagement on behalf of those who seek and want it.

Once again, the kingdom of heaven is buried in a field – this time, as treasure rather than a seed.  We’ve seen in parables past that the field is the world: one reason this is important is that in saying that the kingdom of heaven is planted in the world, we are implicitly making a distinction between the kingdom and the world.  As in, the kingdom of heaven is not the world; we are still waiting for the final culmination of all things where God’s reconciliation of all things – stream, bird, human – to God’s self will be complete.  This is not yet that time; but the kingdom of heaven is growing, however silently and small it appears, in the world.

So the parable continues that this hidden treasure of the kingdom of heaven is discovered and then re-hidden by the one who finds it so that he can sell all his possession with joy in order to buy this field.  It’s curious that the person who finds the treasure covers it over again until he can buy the field.  Why doesn’t the person simply take the treasure once he finds it?  The fact that the person goes to buy the field implies that it belongs to someone else – you can only come by the kingdom of heaven honestly.  But who did the kingdom of heaven belong to before the person who found it bought the field?  And why would the person re-hide the kingdom of heaven, effectively keeping it secret from anyone else – aren’t we not to hide our light under a basket?

In His explanation of the parable of the weeds, Jesus says that the field is “the world” (Matthew 13:38).  The Greek word (kosmos) has a few different uses in the Bible.  In summary, this word could be the whole of the earth or the universe, order or government, ornament or adornment, the ungodly multitude or earthly affairs/things of this world.  A typical use of the word “world” is as in the unholy trinity of “the world, the flesh and the devil” – in other words, an enemy.  In 1 John 5:19, this same word, kosmos, is used: “we know that we are of God and that the whole world is in the power of the evil one.”  So if this field is the world in that sense, then it would make sense both to keep the kingdom of God a secret and to be stealthy in how one goes about obtaining it.  It might be similar to the various instances to Jesus commands His disciples to secrecy in the book of Mark: how and to whom the news that the kingdom of heaven has drawn near are important considerations in the very survival of the message.

Ultimately, the emphasis in this parable is on not only the willingness to give up anything for the kingdom of heaven (for that is how valuable it is) but to do so joyfully.  I don’t think this word was selected accidentally.  Remember the context: this parable immediately follows Jesus pointed words of warning.  Perhaps this parable serves to remind that seeking the kingdom of heaven is to be done not out of fear or anxiety but out of zeal and joy at having found what leads to life.

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