Parable of the Hidden Treasure

Summary: The traditional interpretation of the parable of the Parable of the Hidden Treasure describes the value of the kingdom of heaven (treasure) and the process by which one acquires that kingdom (sell everything). But there is more to this short parable, when placed in context and in light of all teachings of Jesus the interpretation gets turned on its head. Jesus sold everything and bought us (the treasure).

1. Kingdom of Heaven (God)

  • Defined as the “Kingdom of God” everywhere but Matthew.  Mark uses many of the same parables to describe the “Kingdom of God”  the the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are synonymous.
  • The Kingdom of God is described by scholars as “already here but not yet”
  • The Kingdom of God/Heaven is defines as anywhere God reigns as King, such as His current reign the church (already here) and soon in a new heaven and a new earth (not yet).
  • Additional study: Defining the Kingdom of Heaven (God)

2. Context.

  • The build up to Matthew 13

The central theme of the First Gospel is the proclamation of Jesus as the only Christ, fulfiller of Old Testament prophecy and founder of the New Israel. Against this backdrop, the motif of conflict in Matthew is highly visible, and more forcefully presented than in Mark or Luke. The parables of Matthew 13 stand as a sort of miniclimax within the overall context of the gospel. In an emphatic way, Matthew presents the truth that Jesus’ rising conflict with the establishment of Israel has led to the beginning of a new Israel. This motif of contrast between “old” and “new,” false disciple and true, clearly can be demonstrated. Jeffrey A. Gibbs

  • Before Matthew records this series of parables the Pharisees had just accused Jesus of being a demon. Bordering on, if not blatant, blasphemy it serves as a literary springboard into a series of parables describing the kingdom of God.

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:24, NIV ©2011)

  • The Kingdom of God parables in Matthew 13 all deal with the growth of the new kingdom.  The Sower “Good seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understand it (yields a crop 100, 60, 30 times what was sown)

23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:23, NIV ©2011)

  • Weeds “good seed stands for the people of heaven”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one,39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (Matthew 13:37-39, NIV ©2011)

  • Mustard Seed and yeast: both about the growth of the kingdom.
  • Parable of the net where good fish are collected in baskets.

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. (Matthew 13:48, NIV ©2011)

3. The key to understanding this parable is in the six words “sold all he had and bought”

  • There is no scripture that indicates we can buy salvation no matter how valuable the treasure,  it is in direct opposition to the message of the gospel.   Jesus himself asks in Matthew 16:26, “Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  The only reference to a disciple having everything sold to repay a debt is in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  The processing of selling and buying is in the context of discipline not salvation.  Salvation comes when the master “cancels the debt.”

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him.25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. (Matthew 18:23-25, NIV ©2011)

  • Jesus “not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
  • The preponderance of scriptures show that we were bought with a price.

You are not your own; you were bought at a price.1 Corinthians 6:20 (NIV)

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 1 Corinthians 7:23

(They Sang a New Song) …and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. Revelation 5:9

…even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.  2 Peter 2:1

[The redeemed] were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. Revelation 14:3-4

  • Christ redeemed us.

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:13-14, NIV ©2011)

4.  The elements.  Within this short parable there are three main elements that require interpretation.  The man, the field, and the treasure.  The parable was a literary form well know to the Jews as it was often employed in rabbinical teachings.  Throughout the teachings many elements of parables were standard images for something else.  For example a King in a parable always refers to God,  the vineyard to Israel, and harvest the second coming and judgement.  In this parable the elements come pre-defined by Jesus just a few verses earlier in Matthew 13.

  • The elements

“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.

  • The man (or the one in the field)

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.” v37

  • the field

The field is the world v38

  • the treasure (the thing found in the field)

the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom v38

5.  Conclusion.   The problem with the traditional interpretation of this parable is that is places the burden of sacrifice on us.   The problem is that we can never be good enough to buy salvation.  Like the rich young ruler who went away sad when he realized he could not do everything he needed to do to be perfect ON HIS OWN.  Even the disciples wondered who could be saved.  The answer  Only through God.

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”   27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:26-27, New International Version, ©2011)

There is a treasure hidden right among us and we don’t even realize it.  The treasure is us…the church, the ones bought and paid for the redeemed.  We are the treasure and only one person could sell everything and buy us, Jesus Christ the Messiah.  Mark records the price that was paid for us right after the story of the rich young ruler:

33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:33-34, NIV ©2011)

Jesus sold everything and bought us.  Thats why we celebrate his death burial and resurrection through our baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and every day of our life.  Jesus bought us as a treasure through his death and resurrection.  We are his treasure.


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