In Matthew 13 we encounter a number of parables often referred to as the “Kingdom Parables” so named because they each are representative of the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus beginning each parable with “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” or similar. Two often paired and discussed parables from Matthew 13 are the relatively short parables of the Hidden Treasure (Mat 13:44) and of the Pearl (Mat 13:45-6), each parable being a succinct two sentences each (see below). The first sentence for both parables introduces the scene and key elements/characters. In the second sentence we hit play and a transaction occurs as the scene unfolds.
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. (Mat 13:44-46 NIV)
Both parables are often presented with the same meaning – essentially that the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e. salvation through Jesus is so valuable (treasure/pearl) we should sell/give up/surrender everything we have for it. However, if we step through both parables a bit slower, a broader, deeper, and more complimentary meaning emerges.
In the first parable our above mentioned meaning becomes clear, the Kingdom of heaven is likened to treasure hidden in a field. Nothing more needs to be said, we see treasure representing the Kingdom of heaven, treasure is by definition valuable, likewise we should consider the kingdom of heaven valuable. Secondly, we see a man (who can be interpreted to represent ourselves) who upon finding the treasure, sells all he has to obtain it. This parable speaks of man’s responsibility – when we encounter the kingdom of heaven, the message of salvation, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ our response must be to release everything we hold dear in order to receive, in order to obtain the essence of the message. Jesus becomes our Lord and Saviour, we leave everything to follow Him.
The second parable is where things get interesting. In the second parable the Kingdom of heaven is likened to a Merchant looking for fine pearls, when he finds one of great value sells everything and buys it. Note the subtle change, in the first parable the kingdom was likened to the object of great value – the treasure, and mankind was represented by the man who found it. However, in the second parable the kingdom is likened not to the object of great value (the pearl) but instead to the one seeking – the merchant, and it is the Merchant (the Kingdom of heaven) who finds a pearl of great value and gives all to obtain it.
So what’s going on here? The answer is simply that the second parable is the compliment to the first. While the parable of the hidden treasure speaks of man’s responsibility in salvation, the second parable speaks of God’s role, the part God has played to make our part possible. The Merchant (Jesus) gave up everything He had (His life) for the sake of that which He loved (the whole world) and purchased it (with His blood). With this first parable we learn very clearly that we must value God above all else, that we must lose all we have for His name, that we must love Him first and foremost. But with the second parable we learn very clearly that God valued us above all else in His creation, that He gave Himself so we could be called by His name, that He loved us first and gave Himself for us.
So as we look again, we see the second parable of the Merchant revealing God’s heart for us, for the lost. While it is similar in structure to the preceding parable of the hidden treasure, it is not the same in meaning, it is the compliment. It instead reflects the parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep. It speaks the truth of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)
Finally, the song Resurrecting by Elevation Worship captures the essence of the complimentary nature of these parables – our life is only made possible by His, our love is only made possible by His, “…the resurrected King is resurrecting me…”.