“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. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46)
Years ago, I let myself get talked into playing one of the thieves on the crosses next to Jesus in a church Easter drama. I was cast as the unredeemed thief, the one who mocked the Savior and demanded He prove Himself by coming down off His Cross and rescuing me in the process.
I was, at that point, a selfish and too-smart-for-his-own-good teenager with wild mood swings and a religious bent. That is to say I fit the part.
Today I understand better than ever just what Jesus did at Calvary and what happened on the third day. The Lamb who came to take away the sin of the world, the One who bore my curse upon His sinless self, gave up everything to save me. And then He came out of the grave to display His absolute triumph over death.
Humility and Authority
Coming down from the Cross was an option for Jesus. The Son possessed all power and authority on earth as He did in Heaven. He spoke this truth in Gethsemane, the scene of His arrest. There, Peter played the fool and swung his sword in a vain show of human strength.
This brash disciple severed an ear from a soldier’s head (an ear, by the way, that Jesus reattached in His one exercise of divine power in the moment—even there mercy rejoiced against judgment toward one set against the Lord). “Put the blade away!” Jesus chided Peter. “I could call 12 legions of angels to destroy these who are against me just now.” (See Matthew 26:53).
Jesus’ restraint represented true power, real authority. People of this age greatly misunderstand the wealth and victory that is found in humility and weakness.
Most major action movies follow a tried and true pattern. The villains take charge. All seems lost. The bad guys are set to close their deal. The scenes play out and we watch as the story brings the hero to the absolute breaking point. And then comes the twist, an impossible turn, a fortuitous blow is struck, and the protagonist snatches triumph and secures a happy ending—a closing moment that mostly serves to set up story lines for the sequels to follow, as we know all too well.
Into the Depths
The Jesus story follows a different path. He gives Himself to all evil. He reaches the breaking point and commits Himself to being broken. The way of the Lamb was the quiet way, the silent way. He chose to carry the weight of our curse—the curse of all humanity—to the end and beyond. He descended to the depths of our depravity.
The couplet of parables toward the end of Matthew 13 work together as one, just as the dreams of pharaoh in Genesis were one about the famine as interpreted by Joseph. The parables about the treasure and the pearl tell us about the nature of the Kingdom of God.
“He sold all …” This is a key, interpretative phrase in each of these parables. It points to just how much Jesus gave of Himself in order to save us.
Yes, the Son could have powered up and ordered an overwhelming angelic invasion to blow away His enemies. Instead, He surrendered His humanity to the full measure of the sting of death in order to defeat it.He surrendered His humanity to the full measure of the sting of death in order to defeat it. Click To Tweet
It’s clear from the telling of the warfare Christ faced in His Gethsemane prayer that the cup He was to drink was of unimaginable, unfathomable pain; there was a fire of suffering that stirred dread in the Son’s human consciousness.
The hours that encompassed Christ’s way to the Cross and His time upon it revealed the extent of His tasting and swallowing all human misery. The sweating of great drops of blood indicated the magnitude of stress He endured. The heavy, thick darkness that shrouded Golgotha sank Him into the pit of human alienation.
Every bit of our lost-ness was felt by Jesus when He cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” The Savior spoke Psalm 22 as He reached the end of all perfection. He who knew no sin was at that moment made sin for us, for every human being actually (see 1 John 2:2).
For a space of time, the Son was alone and unknown by the Father and the Spirit. The Lamb became truly slain, as He experienced the absolute separation from the presence of God. He was not unlike Cain, then and there. He chose to cast Himself into outer darkness, into the place of wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Never had the Godhead experienced even the slightest breach or division. On Calvary, the break was total. The Lord submitted to the Word of His testimony. He gave Himself to the mercilessness of judgment once and for all.
Every one of us has felt left behind and broken-hearted to some degree. Do we realize just how far Jesus went in total identification with us? He allowed death to touch Him on every level—physically, psychically, and psychologically.
Jesus gave Himself to space and time, but He also gave Himself to the brutality and devastation that man brought upon his race and the earth that was given to him to dominate. The Savior’s mind and heart were trampled, pulled into the distant, diabolical mode of discouragement and depression.
Only by the Word of God was the Son kept through to the moment of His Finish.
And why did He do this?
He did it because we are the Lord’s treasure and His pearls. In the midst of the field of His Creation, He saw value. He saw His “great congregation” hidden in the midst of a cosmic system ruled by the prince of darkness and the father of lies.
Bought at Great Price
It is His joy to see us, and it was the joy of resurrection that He kept His mind upon as He suffered, being tempted in every point of human temptation.
The Church, also known as His Body and His Bride, is His treasure, and He gave His all to gain her, to redeem her, and to pay the ransom to bring her out from the lost world she moves through. The treasure is comprised of a variety and diverse collection of valuables.
The first parable points to the whole of His Church treasure, while the second parable shows the value of each of us. Each of us is pearl purchased at an amazing cost; each of us is a pearl of great price. Pearls are formed in the deeps. They are found inside shellfish that rest in sea beds in bays and harbors and riversides.
A pearl’s formation begins when a bit of sand, or grit, or parasite gets inside the shell and into the soft tissue. Time and rest allow layer upon layer of nacre to cover something very, very common at its core and the process turns this something into gems that are worn as a symbol of elegance.
Jesus gave all to purchase our pardon. He paid the great price for me and for you.
Together, we are strung together, each of us sought out and bought to be members in particular—pearls added into His precious treasure.
We enjoy the reality of resurrection life. Our old lives are dead and we are hid with Christ in God. The separation suffered by the Son is no more. We are beloved and cherished, made alive by the Holy Spirit, and sealed unto the great Day of His Full Redemption.