As the Lord’s ministry progressed, the hostility of the Jewish leaders intensified. Accordingly, at a certain point in time, Jesus began to teach in parables.
Christ’s parables were human stories with a heavenly meaning. Their design was two-fold. First, his parables effectively communicated divine truths to those who were honest of heart.
Second, the story form concealed those truths from those who would abuse them, and thus seek the Savior’s death prematurely (Matt. 13:13ff).
In Matthew 13, there is a collection of seven parables which are intended to emphasize certain important spiritual concepts which God’s people need to appreciate.
Among these parables are two which are strikingly similar; and yet, they have a significant difference as well. These are the parables of “the hidden treasure,” and that of “the pearl of great price.” These one-sentence parables read as follows:
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the field; which a man found, and hid; and in his joy he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls: and having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matt 13:44, 45).
Similarities Between the Two Parables
First, let us consider several similarities that are common to both of these narratives.
Initially we are struck with the fact that both of these parables deal with the kingdom of heaven. The term kingdom is employed in a variety of ways in the New Testament. It can refer to the reign of God over his people under the Mosaic system (Matt. 21:43). And it is used of the final abode of the saints, i.e., heaven itself (2 Tim. 4:18).
Frequently, however, “kingdom” simply denotes the church (Matt. 16:18-19; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:6,9). Clearly, it is this latter sense to which the Lord alludes in the collection of “kingdom” parables of Matthew 13.
Jesus is thus teaching some great truths relative to the church which he would presently establish (Matt. 16:18).
Second, the exceeding great value of the kingdom is seen in that it is compared to both a treasure and a pearl of great price.
The Kingdom: Its Value
Let us reflect upon some of the aspects of the marvelous value of the Master’s kingdom.
The Price of the Kingdom
The kingdom is of inestimable value because it cost the Son of God his very life. Jesus gave his blood to purchase the church (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25). In view of this, how could anyone ever minimize the Lord’s spiritual body? And yet it is done all the time by denominationalists who allege that the church is but one of those spiritual “options” in the divine scheme of things.
The Purpose of the Kingdom
The kingdom is a treasure because it represents the state of salvation. Observe the following line of argument. Salvation is to be found “in Christ” (2 Tim. 2:10).
Being “in” the Lord is equivalent to being “in [the] one body” (Eph. 2:15-16). But being in "the one body is the same as being in the church (Eph. 1:22-23), which, in fact, is the kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19). Those saved, therefore, constitute the kingdom (cf. Eph. 5:26), and those who reject citizenship in Christ’s kingdom are viewed as the Lord’s “enemies” (Luke 19:14, 27).
How very tragic it is that so many utterly disdain the kingdom, claiming that it bears no relationship to the matter of redemption.
The Peace of the Kingdom
The kingdom is a treasure because affords an environment wherein one may find peace with God and with himself.
There are those in our society who would give all their earthly possessions for one day’s sense of peace. It simply cannot be purchased. But justification, by means of Heaven’s “faith,” system can yield a profound sense of peace (Rom. 5:1; cf. John 16:33).
Note this word of consolation from Paul:
bq. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
True peace is not based upon superficial emotionalism; rather, it is grounded in a solid, biblically based relationship with the Lord.
The People of the Kingdom
There are thousands of people in our great cities who seem not to have a solitary kinsman or friend in all the realm of their associations.
I once conducted a funeral service wherein no one was present but himself, the deceased, and two others. So many lonely souls are utterly without companionship.
Consider, though, the precious blessing of all the kinsmen we have in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The Lord taught that those who follow him have “houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children...” (Mark 10:31). No one can put a price tag on this sort of companionship.
These things, and others too numerous to count, are a part of the treasures to be found in the kingdom of heaven. Let us never depreciate it.
The Kingdom: Worthy of Our Sacrifices
Another similarity between these two parables is the fact that both emphasize the deep sacrifice that one must be willing to make to obtain the blessings associated with the Lord’s kingdom.
In each case the man was willing to sell “all that he had” in order to embrace his treasure or pearl. Let us reflect upon some of the sacrifices that one must be willing to make on behalf of the Lord’s kingdom.
The Sacrifice of Self
The initial sacrifice that must be made in order to partake of the kingdom blessings is that of the sacrifice of oneself. Jesus taught that the person who would follow him must “deny himself” (Luke 9:23).
The hardest task that any of us will ever have is thrusting our own interests to the background and seeking the kingdom first (Matt. 6:33), but that is precisely what is required.
Paul left us a model for emulation: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I that liveth, but Christ liveth in me...” (Gal. 3:20).
There are far too many within the family of God who treat membership in the body of Christ as if it were a hobby, some sort of civic organization, or a mere weekend exercise.
Many years ago, a man approached me expressing an interest in being baptized. As we talked, he made it clear that he had no intention of ceasing some of his vile habits or even attending worship services. He felt that if he were simply immersed that would be sufficient to obtain his hope of heaven. Needless to say, I did not accommodate his lack of commitment.
The Sacrifice of Relationships
One must be willing, if necessary, to sacrifice even family and friends for the cause of Christ. Jesus demanded:
bq. “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37).
A young lady, seventeen years of age, was taught the gospel and happily embraced it. Her parents forbade her to attend worship. She would slip out of her upstairs window, climb down a tree, and make her way to services. Ultimately she won permission to serve God unrestricted; today, she is a faithful Christian grandmother!
The Sacrifice of Resources
A genuine Christian will sacrifice his time, talents, and money in the interests of the kingdom of God.
The parable of the talents (Matt. 25) is a somber warning of the consequences of failing to use what the Lord has placed at our disposal. Once one determines that he will truly give himself to God (2 Cor. 8:5), everything else will fall into place. As a favorite song has it, “heaven will be worth it all.”
We must all encourage one another to attempt to better catch the spirit of these two parables. Clearly they emphasize the value of the eternal, and the effort that must be expended in that interest.
A Difference Between the Two Parables
A significant difference between the parable of the hidden treasure, and that of the pearl of great price, would seem to be that in the former, the man accidentally “found” the treasure, whereas in the latter narrative, the merchant was “seeking” the goodly pearl. Perhaps this represents two classes of persons which are exposed to the gospel.
On the one hand, there are those who are pursuing their lives, busily engaged in daily activities, and who are wholly unaware of what they are missing by ignoring spiritual realities. They may be exposed to the truth by means of a neighbor, a tract, or some other method of evangelism, and thus be thrilled with their new discovery. They stumble over the Word of grace, recognize its value, and readily receive it.
The Samaritan woman in John 4 may be an example of such. When she went for water to Jacob’s well that day, little did she dream that she would find the treasure of spiritual water whereby her thirst could be quenched eternally.
Then, on the other hand, there are those who know their lives are disheveled. They are so very unhappy, and are looking for something to provide them with contentment of soul.
In their hunger and thirst for righteousness they discover, perhaps with the assistance of the unseen hand of Providence, the pure gospel and forsake all to possess it.
Nicodemas, who sought out the Savior by night (John 3), appears to have had this frame of mind.
What thrilling truths the Master’s parables contain. Let us explore them with great diligence.