The Parables of Jesus
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira
We are going to turn to one of the shortest parables that Jesus ever spoke, Matthew 13:44. It is just one verse, but it is loaded with meaning:
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.
It is a short parable. This parable, along with the next one, which is verses 45 and 46, are extremely important for us, especially for those of us who are living in this materialistic world. In these two parables, the parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of the pearl of great price, Jesus is trying to show His disciples and through them, to show us how God estimates the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. This is something we need to ponder, because our response to that gift is in proportion to our estimate of it.
First of all, may I make it clear that this is not a far-fetched story. Jesus was not making up this story because the Jewish folklore is full of such stories. In the Bible days there were no banks; there were no security places where you could keep your money. The house was the worst place to keep your money because there were always invasions and these invaders would come into the house, ransack it, and take everything they could get hold of.
I remember when the house of one of our missionaries was ransacked in Ethiopia, they turned everything upside down. They tore even the mattresses to see if any money was hidden in the mattresses. They took their big flowerpot they had a white carpet; can you imagine a white carpet in Africa! and they emptied it on the carpet thinking there might be some jewelry at the bottom of the flowerpot. They emptied everything. It was quite common in the days of Christ for that to happen.
There is a Rabbinical saying and it reads like this, There is only one safe repository for money the earth. So it was quite common for people to sometimes put their valuables and their gold coins in a metal or wood chest and they would hide it in the middle of the garden so that it would be safe there.
I remember some years ago there was a couple who bought a house. They were just married and they couldnt afford a very big house so this was a small little house. It was run down, old, in great need of repair. It was selling for almost nothing so they bought it. The husband was a carpenter and they were planning to fix the house. One of the first things they discovered was that the septic tank was blocked. They had to break a hole, dig up the casing and the pipes and when they broke the pipes they were full of coins, American coins, silver coins that were dated way back. They were extremely valuable so they discovered that this simple, run-down house had in its grounds a treasure that was worth more than the value of what they paid for the house.
This is how it was in the days of Christ. This man obviously was a peasant farmer. The land was owned by rich land owners and they would parcel out their land to these peasant farmers. These peasant farmers would pay a rent and they would use the land for farming. Apparently this man was plowing this land which he had rented and his plow hit this chest in the ground. It was probably metal and he realized that it was something that was obstructing the plow. He dug it out and he found this chest full of coins and probably jewelry.
The first thing was that he realized the value of that treasure chest. He recognized that the chest containing coins and jewels was so expensive, so fabulous that it was worth more than all that he possessed. Now you may ask, why didnt he hide it back in the earth and come there at night and get it and he would have had the chest plus all his belongings?
It wasnt as simple as that because what would he do with those coins? The moment he tried to get rid of them he would have been found out. Where did you get it from? He was a poor peasant farmer. Or if his wife tried to wear the jewels, immediately there would be a question. So the best, safest, the most legal thing for him to do was to sell everything that he had, buy the land, and that would be legally his. Nobody could touch it.
Now it took some time selling the things. Can you imagine the people say, Whats wrong with this fellow? Why is he selling everything he possessed? Well, they may not have understood, but he knew what he was doing. He knew that what he was doing was the best thing because that chest was far more valuable than his personal belongings.
This is the story that Jesus told. Remember, a parable is an earthly story that has a spiritual meaning. What was Jesus trying to get across? First of all, we must ask the question, What does the field represent and what does the treasure that this man discovered represent? I have a quotation which sums up in a nutshell what this is all about. It says, In the parable the field containing the treasure represents the Holy Scriptures. And the gospel [the truth as it is in Christ] is the treasure. (Christs Object Lessons, page 104.) Those who desire to find the treasures of truth must dig for them as the miner digs for the treasure hidden in the earth. (Christs Object Lessons, page 111.)
The truth as it is in Christ is hidden treasure. It does involve spade digging. No half-hearted, indifferent work will avail. It is essential for old and young, not only to read Gods word, but to study it with wholehearted earnestness, praying and searching for truth as for hidden treasure. Those who do this will be rewarded, for Christ will quicken the understanding. (Ibid., p. 111.) It is for this very reason that I am a very strong believer in expository preaching because in expository preaching you are required to dig. Topical preaching you can just take a group of texts and put them together but in expository preaching, Im dealing with one verse. How can I spend 35 to 40 minutes on one verse? It involves digging.
Lets look at the treasure first. As we saw, it is the truth as it is in Christ. Turn to Ephesians 2, because it is not enough for us to find the treasure, it is important that we realize the value of the treasure. Ephesians 2:2-7 puts in a nutshell what the treasure means to each one of us. Verse 5 says,
[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved.
I like that God did not wait until I became good, but saved me even when I was a wretched sinner incapable of doing anything good.
Now let me explain what Paul meant here by the words dead in transgressions or dead in sins. The life that you and I were born with is a life that legally has no right to exist; it has to die. We inherited from Adam a condemned life, a life that stands legally condemned to death. Therefore, we are, in a sense, born in death row, every one of us. There is no escape from that. Christ did not come to change the death sentence. If He did, He would be breaking His own law. He came to give us His life in exchange for our life. That is the treasure. The treasure is the life of Christ.
You are familiar with John 3:16. What does it say?
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.
Now what exactly did He give us? If you turn to 1 John 5:11-12, you will discover what that gift involves:
And this is the testimony [these are the facts]: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
We are born dead in trespasses and sin but, while we were dead, God made us alive in Christ. That is the gift; thats why in brackets in Ephesians 2:5 it says by grace you have been saved. Not only has He given us life but He (verse 6):
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....
Do you know what that means? Do you know how valuable the treasure is that, in Christ, He has made us to sit together with Christ?
Now you say, No, I am not sitting with Christ. I am sitting here on Earth. But do you know what it means to sit in Christ or sit together with Christ? Who is Christ? He is the King of kings and, if we sit with Him, then we are the kings of whom He is the King. What a privilege we have. But you say, We are not sitting with Him right now. No, but you are sitting in Him right now.
Look at Ephesians 2:7:
...in order that in the coming ages [and that is around the corner] he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
When this man found this treasure chest, he recognized that it was exceedingly rich but he had to buy that land. He had no money for it so what did he have to do? He had to sell everything he possessed. Have you ever tried selling everything in your garage, not everything you possess but everything in your garage? You have to have more than one garage sale. Obviously, if he was a poor peasant farmer, his things were not very desirable so I can imagine it took him a long time to sell all that he had.
I can imagine that he was patiently waiting until the last thing was sold so that he had enough money to buy the land. So we have to wait patiently before that gift becomes a tangible reality. In the meantime, we patiently wait for it, says Paul.
But the question is, have you realized that, in Christ, we have received the riches of Gods grace? The truth of this is hidden treasure. Why is it hidden treasure? Because people, when they read this parable that we just heard about, think that God doesnt want us to know the truth. Why is it described as hidden treasure? If you look at 1 Corinthians 2:9-14 you will discover that it is hidden, not because God has hidden it so we cant see it but because the natural mind cannot understand the truth of the Bible:
However, as it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the mans spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
That is why we need to dig prayerfully; we need to dig earnestly with the help of the Holy Spirit so that we may find it.
Im going to give you a statement that was made by Jesus Christ to the Jews. Turn to John 5:39, because this statement is important for us, too. Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and to the Jews and Gentiles:
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me....
Why does He say that you think that you have eternal life? The Jews did read the scriptures but they misread them. They did not dig deeply enough and, because they were shallow readers, they went the wrong direction. Because they were superficial readers, they thought that eternal life comes to you by doing something good.
How do I know? Because in Matthew 19:16 a young lawyer and the word lawyer means somebody who reads and knows the scriptures says to Jesus,
Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?
He had misread the scriptures, a problem that many of us face. So Jesus is saying, Search the scriptures. You think that you have eternal life. You are right. But heres the answer:
These are the Scriptures that testify about me....
The scriptures point to Me as the Way of life. You have misread the scriptures.
The result is in John 5:40:
...Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
Did they find the treasure? No. They were superficial readers. They read the law on the surface. They forgot to read that the law points to Christ. They forgot to realize, they forgot to see, they did not discover that the law is our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith.
But now we go back to this man. He has found the treasure. He recognizes that it is very valuable, but he also realizes he cant have the treasure and his possessions at the same time. He has to give up one for the other. That is what the parable tells us. As he went out selling these things that he owned, that were his, was he reluctant or was he happy? Well, if you go back to the parable in Matthew 13:44, we read these words:
...And then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
We have the Ministerial Association and every month we have it in a different place. Ones time we had it at a place where they had a new manager. He was trying to sell the pastors of the city that this was the place where the retirees should come. But he said when he tried to sell it to the retired people in the city, he came across a problem. He said, We offer excellent service; we offer wonderful treatment, good surroundings; everything is good; the rooms are wonderful but there is one problem. The people that we encourage to come to our retirement home have in their garages, in their rooms, piles and piles of 30 or 40 years collection of treasure that they will not part with. We have to tell them that they have to move from a three-bedroom house to a one-room apartment and they cannot bring these valuable things that they have collected. I have a word for it but I dont dare say it because ... well, let me say it. I call it junk. But to some people it is very valuable.
When we were deported from Uganda, we lost everything. We had to say good-bye and one of the things we could not take with us were all our possessions. My wife said, What shall I take? We could only take one suitcase.
Ill tell you what I took. I took all my old manuscripts that I could not replace and my wife took all her family photos when the children were little tiny tots that could not be replaced. Thats all we could take. Our furniture, our bank account was frozen, we could take nothing but we could take our lives with us. Those people, the nationals could take nothing out; they could not even live and many of them died. Three of those folks lived in our home and one of them was a driver. I said to him, Would you like to see what they are discovering?
I gave him a pile of photographs of skeletons, skulls, bones of children, women, men that they are finding everywhere. Are you willing to give up everything you possess even your life for the gift of Jesus Christ? Let me put it this way. Salvation is free; there is no problem there. Salvation is a gift but what is the gift? It isnt a toy; it isnt some gadget you like; it isnt a train set; it isnt one of those airplanes that you fly. It is the life of Christ; thats the gift. But the problem is you cant cling to your life and receive the life of Christ. You have to give up your life in exchange for the life of Christ.
Is it a sacrifice? Was it a sacrifice for that man to sell everything he possessed? If you said, Yes, then you have not understood what he understood. He went with joy. Why? Because what he had was junk. What he discovered was valuable. So our lives are junk. It can last only 70, 80, if you are lucky maybe 100 years. We do have a member who is 102. But every time I go to a nursing home I say to myself, Lord, dont you ever let me get to that stage. I have given my life up long ago. Please bring it to an end when I finish my job here. I dont want to end up in a place like this. I have another life that will be given to me that is the most wonderful life. It never dies and it makes me sit with Christ Jesus.
But here is the problem. These people were not willing to give up their righteousness. The Jews were not willing to give up their life. That is why I want to take you to the next passage. I would like to encourage you to go to the bookstore or go to the library and get Deitrich Bonhoefers book Cost of Discipleship. He was one theologian who was willing to stand alone for the truth during the Second World War. There were other famous theologians Walhauser, Kittle who were anti-Semitic; they took sides with Hitler. But Bonhoefer said, I am willing to die for the truth of the gospel. He did die, at the age of 39.
Here it is, Romans 6:8, the cost of discipleship:
Now if we died wiwth Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
You cant hold on to both lives because not only is the life we were born with sinful but it is a life that belongs to the camp of Satan. It belongs to the kingdom of this world which will one day be destroyed. The life that Christ gives you is not only eternal life, it is a life that belongs to the kingdom of heaven.
These two kingdoms are at war. There is a great controversy between Satan, the prince of this world, and Christ, the Lord of heaven. These two kingdoms can never be reconciled. You cannot have dual citizenship. You have to give up one for the other. Anyone who does not see the value of the gift of Christ is a fool. But the moment you realize how valuable Christ is to you, you will be willing to give up everything.
What does it mean, giving up this life? We have seen Romans 6:8; let us turn now to Matthew 10 to show what giving up your life might include, because, in the future, you may face it. These Ugandans have faced it already and many of them were willing to give up everything for Christ. Read the whole of Matthew 10 some time but I would like to read verses 37-39. Its a very costly price:
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me [I think you will have to admit this is tough]; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
When the gospel is preached in its clarity, when men and women discover the hidden treasure, you and I will have to make a choice. In that choice, you and I may have to give up some loved ones. Christ spoke these words to the Jews. Do you know even to this day what it means for a Jew to become a Christian? It means that he loses his citizenship. A Jew who becomes a Christian in Israel is deprived of his citizenship. The family of a Jew who becomes a Christian have a funeral service because to them their child has died. That is what it costs to be a Christian in Israel today. Can you imagine what it was in Christs day? Today only about four percent are genuine Orthodox Jews but in the days of Christ almost everyone went to the synagogue.
Can you imagine what it meant for the disciples to become Christians? They had to give up everything and the time will come when you and your parents will disagree with the truth and you will have to part company. Are you willing to give up everything? Are you willing to give up your relationship to those who hate the gospel? Are you willing to give up your life? Are you willing to give up your righteousness?
Let me give you an example here. There was a Jew who had great value for his righteousness. His name was Saul, and this is how he described himself before he discovered the treasure. Philippians 3:4b-7:
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribue of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Paul was willing to give up his self-righteousness for Christ because he discovered that the righteousness of Christ is the only righteousness which will stand the test in the judgment and that his righteousness was filthy rags. He says in verse 8:
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ....
The moment he discovered the treasure, he was willing to give up his righteousness. Verse 9:
...and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
Let me give you another example. Turn to Geneses 21. God promised Abraham a son and, after waiting for a long period of 25 years, He gave him that son. Unfortunately, 13 years earlier, Abraham had already produced a son called Ishmael. One day Ishmael was mocking his half-brother, Isaac. The word mocking is much stronger than our English word. He was actually poking his finger into him and saying, You rascal; why were you born? Dont you realize I have lost my birthright through you?
Sarah saw this so she came to Abraham. Genesis 21:8-10:
The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave womans son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.
Imagine how Abraham felt about this. Genesis 21:11:
The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.
Yes, Sarah, he is not your son. It is easy for you to say, Get rid of him, but he happens to be my son.
Here is a husband and wife disagreement. Do you know how they solved the problem? They took it to God. I wish Sarah had taken it to God when she advised him to go to Hagar. That was her opinion.
Now Genesis 21:12, they go to God:
But God said to him, Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.
Did Abraham obey or did he disobey? Was it easy; was it hard? It was hard, but he obeyed.
Paul takes this story and he gives us the spiritual meaning of it in Galatians 4:21-23:
Tell me, you who want to be under the law [you who want to cling to your self-righteousness], are you not aware of what the law [the Book of Moses] says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the lsave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way [human effort, human righteousness]; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise [the gift of God].
Then in verse 24 he says that these two represent the two covenants: the Old Covenant, which is salvation by works, and the New Covenant, which is salvation by faith in the promise of God Jesus Christ. Galatians 4:24-26:
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.
Now look at verse 28. Addressing the believers, Paul says,
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
But it doesnt stop there. Galatians 4:30-31:
But what does the Scripture say? Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave womans son will never share in the inheritance with the free womans son. Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
You cant have both. You have to give up one for the other. This man was willing to crucify the flesh and all that it possesses for Jesus Christ. Thats the parable.
I want to close by turning to two passages. One is John 12:25:
The man who loves his life [the life that you were born with] will lose it [its condemned already], while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
There are two lives that are before you. There is your earthly possession, your righteousness, all your ambitions that you have in this world, or you have Christ.
When you accept Christ, you are to give up everything in your heart. Between this world and between the kingdom of God stands the cross of Christ and the cross of Christ will not allow anything of the world to pass into the kingdom of God. It is a tragedy today that the Christian church, including our own, is borrowing ideas from the world. We are depending on worldly resources. It is a terrible thing that we have to depend on human philosophy even to search the scriptures. Nothing can go over. We must give up all.
This brings me to a very sensitive point. The North American division reports today that 30 percent of Seventh-day Adventists in this division pay no tithe whatsoever, neither to the local church nor to the Conference nor to Independent Ministries. They do not pay tithe, period. Now God doesnt want your money but He wants you and this tells me that 30 percent of my members are not willing to give up what they have for Christ.
Today it is 10 percent, tomorrow it may be 50 percent, and the day after tomorrow it may be 100 percent. Remember the words of Jesus (Luke 17:32):
Remember Lots wife.
What did He mean by that? You see, Lot and his wife had become rich in cattle, in gold, in silver and they used their wealth to rise up in the country where they were living, in Sodom. He was sitting at the gate, which in Hebrew means that he had reached a high position. He was an official in the city of Sodom and God comes to him through Abraham and says to him, This city is going to be destroyed. Im sending two angels to help you out.
They could take nothing with them, just flee for their lives. But Lots wife could not bear the thought of saying good-bye to her beautiful home in Sodom and she turned around and turned into a pillar of salt. She was not willing to give up all. Cling to nothing; its not worth it because if you cling, if you say, I want to pay tithe but I cant afford it; I have bills to pay, please read Matthew 6:33:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [clothing, food, a roof, protection] will be given to you as well.
Do you believe that? Its a part of the gift. Do you believe that God is able to supply all your needs?
The next text is Matthew 6. The man who hid the treasure never enjoyed it because he died. He clung to his life which didnt last very long and obviously he never told his family that he had hidden this treasure there because this peasant farmer found it. Matthew 6:19-21. Here is Jesus talking in the Sermon on the Mount:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal [a common problem in those days and today]. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The moment this man found this treasure, no longer was his heart in his possessions. The moment you discover Christ, the things of this world become meaningless. When I look back, I hear my friends telling me, Youre a fool. When I was entering the ministry, some of my own Adventist friends said, Youre a fool because I was an architect earning at that time 25, maybe 30 years ago now more than Im earning today as a minister. Ten percent of the cost of building was in the pockets of the architect. My friends today have houses, cars. One of them has a car that talks to him: You have forgotten to put your seat belt on. You are speeding. Wonderful car! Your oil is running low, please check. Same monotone voice but it talks to him.
I have a Saviour that I talk to and, Ill tell you, that car of my friend will disintegrate. My Saviour will come some day and give me everything that the world can never give me. So please do not think that it is a sacrifice to give up all for Christ. It isnt. I am much happier now than I ever was in architecture with all the money I had.
Jesus Christ is the most valuable thing you have. Where is He? In heaven. So I close with these words. I will repeat this and I will keep repeating it: The righteousness that qualifies you for heaven now and in the judgment and when Christ comes is never in you. It is always in Christ. We have this treasure in Christ. The value is in Christ. The faith that makes that righteousness yours is not in heaven; it is in you.
Satan can destroy your faith. In our Sabbath School study one day, there were two groups of people: those who were not willing to wait for the Second Coming of Christ, who said His coming is delayed, but there were others who said, We are going to wait until the treasure comes. They held on to their faith. Jesus said (Matthew 10:22):
All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Please, dont let the trinkets of this world keep you from Christ. I realize America is a wonderful place; theres an answer for everything; there is a hope for everything but all the blessings of this country cannot be compared to the wealth of Jesus Christ. Be willing to give up everything because if you dont, you may find that you have given up everything indeed for nothing.
So may God bless you that you will not only discover the treasure but you will be willing to sell all and follow Jesus Christ is my prayer. Amen.