Message of the Week: Kingdom serendipity
In the kingdom parables of Matthew 13, Jesus teaches us what it means to pray "Your kingdom come" in the Lord's Prayer. Two of the very shortest of Jesus' parables are found in this chapter; they are the parables of the hidden treasure and of the pearl. Together they teach a powerful lesson about the value of the kingdom Jesus has come to establish and invites us to enter:
"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 the field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:44-46 NIV)
In the ancient world, the safest place for one's treasure was a good hiding place. The man who unexpectedly finds a buried treasure was likely a day laborer, plowing or digging in a field while working for the property owner. For the laborer to take the treasure would be theft. But the purchase of the field, and with it the buried treasure, was both legal and brilliant. (And the owner would never have sold the property with the treasure for the value of the property only had he known of the treasure's existence.)
The merchant likely traveled to the Far East to purchase pearls directly from pearl divers at wholesale prices and resell them in the Mediterranean area for a substantial profit. Pearls were in the ancient world as diamonds are today, an expensive yet widely available symbol of affluence.
What, then, do these two brief yet provocative parables teach us about the kingdom Jesus offers to all who welcome and receive him?
The first discovery is that the kingdom Jesus brings in his coming is a great and unexpected surprise in our lives. Neither the day laborer nor the merchant was expecting such good fortune. For both its discovery was the opportunity of their life to be seized in the utter serendipity of the moment. We have no idea how loved we are by the Heavenly Father, and to what extraordinary measure the Father goes so that he can demonstrate his love for us through his one and only son: "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." (John 3:16 NIV)
The second discovery these parables teach us is that the kingdom Jesus brings and offers us is a treasure of ultimate value. It was a "treasure" the laborer uncovered, and the merchant discovered a pearl "of great value." Each was of such surpassing value that both were moved to decisive and life-changing decisions. Both transactions were highly risky in first appearance. They sold all they owned in order to obtain the far more valuable object unexpectedly available to them.
Thirdly, the kingdom Jesus brings and offers us is the source of true joy. The laborer who finds the buried treasure "in his joy" sells everything he has to acquire the treasure. A main point of both parables is the joy of the good news of Jesus: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11 NIV)
However, joy alone in discovering the unexpected value of the treasure is not sufficient. The joy of discovering the life of God present for us in Jesus Christ must move us into large and life-changing decisions, just as it did for the laborer and the merchant. The kingdom Jesus brings and offers us requires decisive action on our part to acquire it. If we truly want to possess the kingdom, to be included in the life of the Heavenly Father that Jesus invites us to receive and enter, we must take the required action to acquire it, to receive Him: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25 NIV)