Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven, part 1

In Matthew 13: 44 Jesus tells us about the kingdom of heaven:
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 that field.
In this verse we have Jesus giving a comparison for what the kingdom of heaven is like. I've found some scholarly debate about what exactly is meant here. I've even found some commentaries condemning the man in verse 44 because he was digging in somebody else’s field so therefore he was really a thief. I don’t think that’s what Jesus was saying. He knew his audience would get this. It was common practice to bury money in fields to keep it safe.

So, who is the man, what is the field, and what is the treasure? You may think that “the man” is us and the “treasure” is Jesus, but we don’t have to buy our salvation – it’s a free gift. I believe the man in the parable is Jesus, the field is the world (as explained in other parables), and the treasure refers to the Jews, to Israel. Here’s why:

Jesus’ audience would clearly remember the words of Exodus 19: 5:
"Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people:"
And they would remember the words of Psalm 135:4:
For the Lord hath chosen Jacob [another name for Israel] unto himself ... for his peculiar treasure.
You need only read the book of Deuteronomy to know that God set aside this people, the Jews, in order that they should be a showcase of theocracy to all the other nations of the world.
The phrase “he went and sold all he had” brings to mind the words of Philippians 2:8:
 "Though he was equal with God he did not count it a thing to be held on to But he emptied himself, disenfranchised himself, pauperized himself -- he gave all that he had -- and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross,"

Remember, the man (Jesus) bought the whole field so if the treasure is Israel, the Jews, we Gentiles are still in that field and Jesus bought us, too. I think we’re in the next parable, the one about the pearl, but I’ll get to that in part 2.