3. No Holding Back
Matthew 13: 44 - 46
This morning we’re going on a treasure hunt. We’re given some clues how to find this fortune by Jesus Christ Himself. Comparing hidden treasure and precious pearls to the kingdom of heaven, we’ll discover that if we truly crave the coveted grand prize, then we can’t hold anything back. As we continue in our series called, “Parables Alive,” we’re going to look at 2 very short and simple stories. The word “parable” comes from 2 words – para meaning “with” and ballo “to throw.” A parable then means to “throw things together” by using a story that illustrates a truth. The main message is this: True treasure is found only in the kingdom of Christ. (Read) Our outline is simple – we’ll begin with the parables and end with some principles.
1. A Hidden Treasure v. 44
While most of us don’t bury our treasures in fields, it was very common to do so at that time. They didn’t have banks and they didn’t have mattresses to hide their money under so most made their deposits in the dirt. Achan hid spoils of war in the ground in Joshua 7. In Matthew 25 we read of 3 servants who were entrusted with their master’s money. The first 2 guys invested theirs and made some interest while the 3rd guy just wanted the shekels to be safe so he “dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.”
The word “treasure” in this first parable refers to treasure chest or storehouse where a great treasure was kept. In other words, this not just a coin found in the dirt (or on the carpet) but a huge treasure chest. Over time, either because the owner died or was forced from his land by war, this buried treasure was unclaimed. One day a man was out in one of these fields when he inadvertently came across this cache of cash. The idea is that he found it unexpectedly. Not wanting anyone to see what he discovered, he reburied the loot and was so ecstatic that he went and liquidated all of his possessions and purchased the field. When it says that he sold “all” that he owned it means all. He held nothing back.
While something about this doesn’t seem ethical to us, it was quite acceptable back then. According to Jewish Rabbinic law, “If a man finds scattered fruit or money, it belongs to the finder.” It’s kind of like, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” Let’s not lose sight of the primary point of this parable: A man found something so valuable that he immediately, and joyfully, sold all he had in order to make the field his own.
Have you ever seen the “Antique Road Show” on TV? I like watching how people bring their item to the appraisers to find out how much it’s worth. Many times those who have lavish items come on the show thinking that they have a huge treasure. These people seem really sure of themselves and hold their heads up high. More often than not, they find out their fortune is a forgery or a duplicate and worth very little. Their shoulders slump and they shuffle off the show. Then there are those who bring a small trinket or a painting that was up in their dusty attic. They’re just happy to be on the show. Many times, these people discover that their item is worth far more than they thought. Their faces show their unbelief and they almost always start smiling. This guy is so joyful that he can barely contain himself because he knows he has just stumbled upon a huge treasure. He doesn’t want to lose it so he does something drastic. His all-consuming passion is to get hold of the treasure so he sells everything he has in order to obtain it.
2. A Priceless Pearl v. 45, 46
This man is a merchant who bought pearls at wholesale and sold them to retailers. Pearls back then were the most valuable gems available, much like diamonds or gold today. [Hold up pearls] Pearls were not easy to come by. Pearl divers would search for oysters in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. They didn’t have any of our modern techniques or equipment so they would find a rock and tie it to their body with a rope in order to sink quickly to the bottom. Since pearl oysters thrived at an average depth of about 15 – 20m, it was hard work to find just one of them. As they went down they hoped they didn’t go too deep or stay underwater too long while they scoured through the murky mud looking for an opulent oyster. On top of all this, an average of only 1 oyster in 1000 contained a pearl. That’s why pearls are so precious.
The Egyptians actually worshipped the pearl and when women wanted to show their wealth they put pearls in their hair. When a Roman emperor wanted to show off he would dissolve pearls in vinegar and then drink them in his wine, in much the same way a rich man might light his cigar with a hundred-dollar bill. Jesus also stresses the value of pearls, when He contrasts them with pigs in Matthew 7 “…do not cast your pearls before swine…” By the way, if you’re a Christian and seeking what the world offers or just caught up with the thrills of life, you are throwing that which is exceedingly precious and priceless into the pigpen.
Let’s go back to the parable. This merchant is on a mission to find the biggest and brightest pearl. When he finally finds it, he can barely contain himself. This man is so eager to obtain this priceless pearl that he doesn’t even care what it costs. He too liquidates all that he has so he can possess the pearl. Now that we understand the parables let’s turn our attention to some kingdom principles.
Principles of the Parables
1. Knowing Christ is priceless.
The pearl is a great picture of the kingdom because it is the only gem that cannot be improved by humans. All other jewels have to be cut and polished but a pearl is perfect when it is found. Of all the things that clamor for our attention there is nothing more precious than knowing Christ. Friend, do you prize the kingdom more than you value anything else? 2 Corinthians 4: 7 says that our bodies are like clay pots, but what we have inside is a priceless treasure. Colossians 2: 3 says this about Christ: “In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 1 Peter 1: 7 says that our faith is “much more precious than gold.”
2. Spiritual truth is often hidden.
The treasure of the kingdom is unrecognized, unknown, and walked over by millions of people. People can be standing right over it and not know it’s there. God hides spiritual treasures in unexpected places. While those who follow Christ know how valuable a relationship with Him is, most of the world has no clue. The bulk of unbelievers are caught up in other pursuits, oblivious to the true treasure that could be theirs. Friend, if you’re serious about spiritual matters, you must be willing to go below the surface and start searching.
3. Salvation must be personally appropriated.
These parables show that individuals must respond in order to receive the kingdom. In both cases a decision was made, a transaction was entered into. It was the chance of a lifetime and they had to act immediately and personally. The first man was not satisfied until he took the treasure and the other was not content until he possessed the pearl. Salvation doesn’t happen automatically just because you’ve been raised in a Christian home or you’ve been in church all your life. The call to conversion is personal and individualistic. Unless you are personally and individually born again, you cannot enter God’s kingdom.
Let me ask you a very personal question. Have you ever been converted? If not, it’s time to exchange all that you are for all that He is. Once you see the incomparable value of knowing Christ you should have an extravagant response to Him. We don’t add Jesus to our collection of other pearls? Jesus is not an add-on or a free get-into-heaven app. He doesn’t want us to make him prominent in our lives; He is to be preeminent.
4. Jesus is the only way but people are drawn to Him in different ways.
Different people discover the truth about Jesus in different ways. • Some seem to stumble upon Christ. The man in the field was looking for nothing but found everything. Some of you had no intention of ever following Christ and you stumbled unexpectedly upon Him. The woman at the well came looking for water and had her thirst quenched by Christ. Saul was not searching for Christ when he was on the road to Damascus and was knocked off his high horse and onto the ground where he discovered the treasure of Christ • Some seem to seek out Christ. Actually, God moves within a person for this to happen – it’s not so much that they find Christ but that He finds them. The pearl-pursuer is dissatisfied with what he has and searches with determination, knowing that there’s only one pearl among many that can satisfy him. When he finds what he is looking for, he makes a decision to commit himself completely to acquiring it. Maybe you weren’t looking for God but in the ordinary course of life God came looking for you. Perhaps there’s a combination of both stumbling and seeking going on right now. Whatever the case, it’s time to make a personal decision to turn from how you’ve been living and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.
5. Knowing Jesus should lead to joy.
The man who stumbled upon this tremendous treasure went “in his joy” and sold everything in order to gain even more. Joy comes to those who know Jesus. For each of these men nothing else mattered. The same is true for us. What we gain in Christ is worth far more than what we ever had. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.
6. Salvation is free but costly.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Every time I hear of what Christians go through in other parts of the world, I’m reminded of the cost that comes when we follow Christ. Salvation is free but it will cost you the price of commitment. After hearing a man say that he would follow Jesus wherever He went, Jesus said in Luke 9: 58: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” In essence Jesus is saying to each of us: “You give up your comfort and I’ll give you my kingdom.” Let’s be honest. Most of us on a daily basis value other things more than we treasure Christ. Will you evaluate everything you are and everything you have and weigh it against the worth of knowing Christ? It’s time to say, “I’m all in. I’m not holding back.” Our churches need more people like Jim Elliot who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Don’t think about what you might give up; instead rejoice in the unfathomable treasure you will receive.
In contrast to these 2 guys in our parables stands the rich young ruler who walked away from Christ because he didn’t want to give up what he held most dear. I can’t get over Mark 10: 21: “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Isn’t that amazing? This man loved his money more than anything else and yet Jesus still lavished him with love. He could have told the man he was wrong or judged him or rolled His eyes at him. Instead, He loved him. He does the same for you and me. He sees all of our efforts that fall short. He sees our sins that pile up before Him. Yet, He looks at us with love. Out of this abundance of love, Jesus says, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Friend, what one thing is keeping you from full faith in Christ? What’s holding you back from complete surrender? Is it money? A relationship that is not honouring Christ? Your reputation or popularity? Is it your time? Could it be a bad habit that you secretly enjoy? Is it your own sense of goodness? Could it be your pride?
Just as Jesus pinpointed the root problem for this man, He looks at you with love this morning and says, “This one thing you lack. Let it go, come and follow me.” Jesus put it strongly in Luke 14: 33: “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Whatever it costs to come to Christ it’s worth whatever you give up. Jesus can have no rivals or idols. No competition. Let’s not hold back. It’s time to be all in for Him.
True treasure is found only in the kingdom of Christ. Are you ready to liquidate your life and submit to Jesus as your Lord? There’s a treasure map with an X on it that marks the spot of the greatest treasure ever – it’s the cross of Christ. Guess what? The kingdom has a King. True treasure is found only in Christ. It’s time to be all in for Him. Are you in?