Seeking His Kingdom: Matthew 13:44-52

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Jumping ahead in Matthew’s gospel, we come to a series of parables Jesus shares while He was alone with His disciples that together show us a powerful picture of God’s character and love for us. While often we might think of the first two parables in this set as referring to us doing the majority of the work, when we look at this set as a whole, we get a completely different picture.

Let’s read what Jesus shared and what we can learn from this set of parables. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will read it from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 44, Jesus continued sharing with the disciples, saying:

44 “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field. He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and then goes back and buys that field.

45 “Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man is looking for fine pearls, 46 and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that pearl.

47 “Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Some fishermen throw their net out in the lake and catch all kinds of fish. 48 When the net is full, they pull it to shore and sit down to divide the fish: the good ones go into the buckets, the worthless ones are thrown away. 49 It will be like this at the end of the age: the angels will go out and gather up the evil people from among the good 50 and will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.

51 “Do you understand these things?” Jesus asked them.

“Yes,” they answered.

52 So he replied, “This means, then, that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of heaven is like a homeowner who takes new and old things out of his storage room.”

In our passage, we find a set of three parables, with a bonus, one-verse, fourth parable right at the end. In the bonus parable, we find Jesus making room for those who are teachers of the Law to become disciples in the Kingdom of heaven. From this bonus parable, it seems that the teachers of the law who become disciples have an advantage over the teachers who don’t become disciples, and over the disciples who were not teachers, because only the teachers of the law who become disciples can bring out and blend both old and new truths.

However, the real focus of our passage is the first three parables that together make a neat set. What is unfortunate is that too often the parables are split apart and shared separately, or the first two parables are shared without the third.

I can understand why the first two parables get more attention and while the third parable is a little more concerning. The third parable focuses on the judgment and it includes people being thrown away. The third parable calls those who were thrown away as worthless fish.

However, Jesus shares these three parables in a set, and all three of these parables build on each other to give us a picture of what God’s Kingdom of heaven is like. In the first parable, the Kingdom of heaven is described as a treasure hidden in a field. This treasure is so valuable that when a man finds this treasure, He sells everything so that He can buy the field that contains this treasure.

While the first parable is often shared with the focus placed on you and me finding the Kingdom of heaven and valuing it like a treasure, since this is a parable about the Kingdom of heaven, God is present in it. In this parable, God could be the treasure, or He could be the man who sold everything.

The context of this parable allows for either interpretation. God gave up everything to purchase the field called the earth, and this is because this field had treasure in it. Also, we are called to give up everything for God, because God’s treasure is more valuable than anything we currently own or have.

The second parable is similar, however, this time, the Kingdom of heaven is compared with a merchant, who finds a pearl of great value, and he sells everything he owns to buy this pearl. Again, since this is a Kingdom of heaven parable, we should look for God represented in this parable, and again, this parable only gives us two options. God is either the merchant, or the pearl of great value.

Similar to the first parable, both interpretations work. God as the merchant sold everything He had to purchase the pearl of great value, which He did through Jesus. God valued us so much that He gave everything He had to redeem us from sin. God is also a pearl of great value and we are called to give up everything we think is valuable in order to gain God and His unusually fine pearl-treasure.

Before jumping into the third parable, it is interesting that these two parables are similar but also opposites. The first parable of the treasure in the field has the Kingdom of heaven being represented as the treasure while the second parable of the pearl has the Kingdom of heaven being represented as the merchant. I think both the interpretations for both parables work because each parable has a slightly different focus. The first parable is likely focused on us seeking God as our treasure, while the second parable is likely focused on God seeking us as His pearl of great value.

The third parable seems different, but it shares the same theme of looking for things of value. However, Jesus shares the interpretation of the third parable and He attributes this third parable to the end of the age. When Jesus returns at the end of the age, the angels will separate the evil people from the good and they will throw the evil people away – specifically into the fiery furnace.

As a side note: reading this reminds me of Daniel’s three friends facing the fiery furnace because they chose to only bow and worship God, not the king’s statue. In an interesting twist, those who are evil, who have chosen anything and everything but God will ultimately face God’s “fiery furnace”.

However, the big focus of this third parable is God collecting His people at the end of the age and saving them from this sinful world. This third parable leaves no vagueness because Jesus clearly shares what the parable means.

All three of these parables together form a big truth that we are to seek and give up everything for God’s treasure, God gave up everything for us because we are His treasure, and at the end of the age, God is going to return and rescue His treasure from this world of sin.

This is one of the only places in the gospels where the disciples respond saying they understand Jesus, and I really believe they did. After Jesus returned to heaven, every one of the remaining disciples gave up everything, including their lives, for the gospel message. The disciples’ lives are an example for us what it means to see God’s kingdom as our treasure!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and value God like the man valued the treasure in the field. Understand that what God offers us is more valuable than anything we could ever hope to earn or acquire on our own, but we must give up ourselves in order to gain what God has promised us.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn how much God values you and me. God gave up more than we possibly could imagine purchasing us out of sin because He values us like the merchant valued the pearl of great value. Praying and studying the Bible helps us discover just how much God really loves us and how much He gave to redeem us!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or be discouraged away from walking with God to where He wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 23: In a set of three short parables, Jesus expands our view of God’s Kingdom of heaven, how valuable God’s kingdom is compared to this world, and how valuable we are in God’s eyes that prompt Him to do something incredible for each of us!

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