The Kingdom of Heaven is a Treasure

The Kingdom of Heaven is a Treasure

Jesus teaches via two parables that much more valuable than any earthly treasure is our ability to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven. Like treasure hunters, when we realize the immense value of the Kingdom of Heaven, we should be willing to give all that we have to make sure we are a part of the kingdom.


Continuing our series on “Treasure,” we’ll focus today on the pursuit of treasure – the HUNT. It’s one thing to HAVE treasure, but movies have shown us it’s way more exciting to be on the hunt for it.

Rarely does a movie show a rich guy sitting in a chair spending money frivolously because he already has all the money he needs. No, the best movies take us on the journey of going to find the treasure, with all the twists and turns involved, and typically a few bad guys who want to get there first.

The book Treasure Island was written in 1883, and in 1934 it was made into a movie. The movie was remade in 1950 and again in 1990. Later the Muppets came out with their own movie version of Treasure Island. Still later there was a twist on the pirate treasure hunt when the movie The Goonies came out. A more modern pirate treasure hunt appeared as Pirates of the Caribbean.

Many of these searches begin with a map – with an “X” on it, of course. If only the people who have the map can decipher it and find the treasure! By the end of the movie, after risking life and limb, the main characters always make perfect decisions at critical junctures so they can grasp the treasure they set out to find.

Because of all these movies and my beloved Ducktails television show (which I mentioned last week), I thought buried treasure was common. Then I grew up and realized it was all fiction.

Then this past week I read some commentaries on our scripture passage for today, and I discovered it actually WAS common to bury treasure in the time of Jesus. Think about it. In a society without banks or Brinks safes or Schlage locks, if you had something of value you couldn’t LOCK it away safely. You had to HIDE it away safely. However, the problem with hiding something is that if you die without telling someone where it is – or if they forget – then your valuables are lost until a lucky discovery sometimes years or even generations later.

I have this fear about me dying and Michelle having no idea where any of our money is kept. So, rather than a treasure map, I gave her dad a list of all my bank account information and had him put it in his security box at his bank. This is basically the same thing as a treasure map. It shows where to find the valuable things I have stored away.

Occasionally we hear about a situation in which someone dies, their bank accounts go unclaimed, and the bank has to find the next of kin. That’s just a modern twist on what happened in Jesus’s day except that instead of money being lost in bank accounts it was lost in the ground, buried for safekeeping.

With that as our backdrop, let’s look at what Jesus teaches His disciples about a different treasure – the Kingdom of Heaven.

By the way, the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are the same thing. Matthew always writes about the Kingdom of Heaven, probably because he didn’t like to write the word for God – Yahweh – even though that is likely what Jesus spoke of. This Kingdom is the promise of the future hope for Israel. It is the promise that one day God will establish peace and prosperity for all his people and that His eternal King will sit on a throne and rule with righteousness, justice, mercy and grace. This is the treasure that Jesus’s disciples would be very interested to hear about.

Treasure in a Field

Matthew 13:44The 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.

Imagine minding your own business, walking along a path, when you stop by a tree to rest in the heat of the day. As you sit down you see the corner of something poking out of the ground. It looks almost shiny. When you reach down to pick it up, you find that it’s part of something much bigger – something buried!

You quickly grab a rock and scrape the dirt around, pulling back the earth to uncover a box the size of one of our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Imagine all the thoughts that would run through your mind as you struggle to free the box from the ground. What could this be? Was it recently hidden or has it been here a long time? Is this going to be an ancient find?

Finally the box starts to break free from the dirt and you realize how HEAVY it is! As you break the top off the box you find it is filled with coins. You don’t recognize the emblem on the coins, but can tell they are OLD – and you know they’re GOLD!

So what do you do? A thief would grab the box, hide it under his coat and walk away hoping no one saw. Would you do that, or would you try to find the owner of the property and return the treasure to them?

Jesus tells us that a wise person neither steals this treasure nor gives it away. The person re-hides the treasure to keep it safe from the bad guys, and goes and sells all he has. Then, with money in hand, he purchases the field from the owner. Now, as the rightful owner of the field he is the rightful owner of the treasure. Yes, it cost everything to buy it, but that amount pales in comparison to the value that was discovered. It’s like in the movies – when you know how valuable the treasure you are seeking really is, you are willing to DO anything or GIVE anything to get it.

Pearl of Great Price

Then Jesus shares another, similar parable-lesson about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 13:45-46Again, 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.

In the time of Jesus, pearls were known for their beauty, value, and permanence. They do not rust, corrode, or lose value. Because they are extremely hard and can’t be broken or damaged, they were a sign of wealth and prosperity. That’s why, in the book of Revelation, the gates of the City of God are described as being enormous pearls with the opening to go through being a hole in the center of the larger-than-life pearl.

In this parable Jesus tells about a trader of pearls, whose job was to sail the seas looking for pearls to bring home to sell for a profit. Apparently he came across one pearl unlike any other he had seen before – one of great value. Knowing how rare and special this pearl was, he did as the man in the first parable had done. He liquidated all he had, including all the lesser pearls in his collection, because he had to be the owner of this special treasure.

The Difference Between the Parables

Why did Jesus tell two nearly identical parables here? You might wonder if there is any difference at all. However, we see a difference between the two as they describe the hunt – the pursuit of these valuable treasures: one man stumbles on the treasure; the other spends his career hunting for treasures.

The same is true of many of us today: Some stumble upon Jesus while others spend their lives seeking the truth found in Him.

Stumbling on the Treasure

In the first parable, the man found the treasure. Jesus doesn’t tell us he was a treasure hunter. He didn’t have a map or a metal detector. He stumbled upon it; and in his incredible good fortune, he knew he had to make it legally his!

In our world today this happens when a person just going about their life is rather unexpectedly surprised to hear about who Jesus is and what He did on the cross. Some of you can point to a moment in your life when, quite out of nowhere, God got your attention and showed you Jesus.

My moment took place in a church foyer while I waited for my wife to finish helping with the children’s ministry. We were newly married, and I was dutifully going to church each week with Michelle – and getting nothing out of it. But in the frustrating moments while I sat around waiting, God sent a person to have a conversation with me that changed my trajectory. I was reminded of the treasure Jesus is.

Maybe today is your moment. Perhaps you came for the potluck that will follow this service, but right now God is using this moment to show you the immense value that is Jesus. The fact that you aren’t actively seeking a relationship with God doesn’t mean He can’t show up out of nowhere and change the direction of your life! It’s just like stumbling on a buried treasure.

A Life Spent Seeking Treasures

In the second parable, the man’s business is to seek out pearls. He buys and sells. However, when he lays eyes on this one, he knows it is more valuable than all the rest of his pearls combined. This one is special!

Some people are more like this parable. They are spiritual seekers to trying to find what’s true and reliable and what fits with their experience. Perhaps they have looked into Hinduism or New Age Meditation. Maybe they claim to be Atheist and believe everything can be rationalized. Often these people have “tried on the clothes” of many different belief systems, but in their spiritual journey they are looking for one truth that makes all the others look tiny and insignificant by comparison.

If this describes you, this parable is for you. Jesus says that if you are seeking the transcendent, if you are seeking to know Truth, then when you finally come to face with the authentic Truth of God, you will know it when you see it. You will recognize the value it holds and how it surpasses everything else you have ever evaluated.

The Unsurpassable Value of the Kingdom

Regardless of the differences in the parables, the similarities are obvious: the incredible value of the treasure and the pearl cause both men to sell everything they have so they can secure the treasure for themselves.

In both stories, they know they have come across something life-changing. Everything they have accomplished or accumulated up to this point cannot compare to the value of this new discovery. They must have it! They must possess it! They must give all they have to claim this treasure. That is the point Jesus is making to His disciples and, by extension, to all of us today.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a treasure to which nothing else compares

When I was in seminary, there was an annual scholarship available to the person who submitted the best sermon on the topic given for the year. My first year, the topic was “Why Be a Christian?” I remember realizing I was in big trouble because when I thought about how I might preach that sermon, I realized none of my thoughts at the time were very compelling. A message all about how you need Jesus so you can escape the fiery flames of hell isn’t very compelling to young people today! At that moment I realized my view of Jesus was still too limited.

But that was over a decade ago. I have lived some life since then. I have walked through some highs and lows with people, my own family included. And I can confidently tell you that my view of Jesus is more beautiful, valuable, and foundational to me than any other person, idea, or earthly treasure.

In Jesus I have Acceptance and Love. When I feel like a failure – like I don’t measure up – like everyone is mad at me or disappointed in me, I know Jesus loves me for exactly who I am, warts and all. I don’t have to try to make myself feel worthy of His love or do a bunch of good stuff so I know He’s happy with me. In fact, even when I fail Him and make choices I know don’t line up with what He taught, I know He is still motioning for me to come toward Him. He never turns His back to me. While my self-esteem can look like a roller-coaster, Jesus’s love for me is constant; and that gives me incredible assurance.

In Jesus I find Truth and Guidance. In a world where truth has become relative and everyone thinks their opinion is as true as that of any other person, Jesus is the foundation on which we can base our wisdom, reasoning, and values. Jesus tells us what is right, what is wrong, and how we should live. What He tells us isn’t just a test of our loyalty to him, but instructions for what He knows will give us the most satisfied life. Following His Truth doesn’t shrink the world I live in, but expands it into something filled with greater joy, passion, and freedom. Not only did He give us a book to guide us, but He gives us His Spirit, who speaks to me every day to help guide how I live my life.

In Jesus I have Hope. While this world is one chaotic mess, I know that everything is moving toward a dramatic and already established conclusion. When news events are depressing, I remember that nothing is outside the hands of my God. He can work all things together for good. Also, I don’t have to worry about what happens when I die. When other people pass away unexpectedly, I don’t have to worry about what happens. Death is nothing I fear. It is simply a doorway from this life to one infinitely better. Because my God is good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, I trust all my life to His capable hands and know that on the other side I will be amazed by how he brought every moment of every person’s life together to weave a beautiful story.

I could go on and on. In Jesus I have peace and I find meaning in my life. In Jesus I am blown away by the natural beauty of this world and all He created. In Jesus I am challenged to be better, to love the unlovable, to be generous to everyone, and to humbly carry others’ burdens.

Why am I a Christian? Because following Jesus changes every part of my life for the better – both in the here and now and in the next life.

What are you willing to give for the Kingdom?

So yes, I believe the Kingdom of Heaven is a treasure to which nothing else compares. However, today isn’t about me; it’s about you.

If you agree that the Kingdom of Heaven is an exceptional and unsurpassed treasure, it can completely change the way you live your life.

You will give what you have. You will re-orient your life and your schedule, your rhythms and your routines to make time to connect with God – to pray, to learn more about Jesus, and to connect with a church family. In doing those things you will experience peace, joy, love, acceptance, and hope like never before.

If you see Jesus as just another good moral lesson, a pearl like any other pearl, nothing spectacular or unique, then you will continue living your life as you always have.

Do you want to experience all that comes with being a part of the Kingdom of Heaven? Do you see the surpassing value of the Kingdom, and are you willing to give Him your life to receive it?

Some of you have made this decision before, and today I ask you to reaffirm that decision. I hope I have reminded you why you chose to become a follower of Jesus, to put your trust and hope in Him.

For others of you, I hope you choose to make this decision for the first time. I hope that today you recognized a treasure unlike anything you have ever heard about. I hope I made Jesus seem more real and life-changing than perhaps you have ever heard Him described.

If that’s you, I invite you to pray to receive Jesus Christ right now.


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