Treasure and pearls

Because you’re worth it

Matthew 13:44–46

Parables: The King’s secrets Parables 5 and 6

40 Blogs of Lent: Day 32

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:44–46 ESVUK

A metal detectorist in a field of short grass.

This is another of those isn’t it great when theologians disagree passages of the Bible. I love them because I can now write what I like and there will be someone somewhere who has said that before me. This time I am really going for the minority view. If you have read any of the other blogs of mine, that will not surprise you.

The traditional interpretation of this is that Jesus is the treasure hidden in the field, Jesus is the pearl of great price and the man who buys the field is the person who sells all he has for Jesus. If you read it through and pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to you then I’m fine by that. Many have come to that conclusion before.

But, I have a  couple of problems with this interpretation.

The first problem is this: Pearls are unclean, shellfish are forbidden to Jews. The occupying Romans wore pearl jewellery, but not the Jews to whom Jesus was speaking. Leviticus 11:12 shows shellfish to be unclean.

My second problem is one of context: Jesus is the protagonist in the other parables compiled here by Matthew, why should this one be different? The commentaries I have read on this take each parable as a stand-alone story when Matthew’s Gospel gathers things together thematically, at this point in the Gospel Matthew is still establishing who Jesus is.

In the two parables with an explanation, Jesus is identifiable as the protagonist, I can see no reason why that should not also be so here. The man and the merchant is Jesus as in all the other parables.

So who did the field belong to? Who is it that the treasure needs hiding from? John said this in one of his letters:

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 1 John 5:19

The treasure are humans who Jesus came to save and pay the ransom for, and the field is the world. In case the Jews thought that the Messiah was just for them that the man buys the whole field points to Jesus coming for all the world, not just those who see themselves as God’s people. Jesus gave all for everyone, not just select few.

Pearls were precious to the Gentiles but unclean to the Jews. Jesus makes it emphatic that he came for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. We are all the expensive things that Jesus paid for.

You are the treasure, you are the pearl, you are very precious to God. Yes, you.

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2 thoughts on “Treasure and pearls

    1. The only one who can pay is the only one rich enough to pay. We tend to undervalue ourselves, but the Bible very clearly says we are very precious.

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