1 Kings 3.5-12, Psalm 119.129-136 , Matthew 13.31-33, 44-52
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, yeast, treasure, a merchant, a net.
Which one stands out to you? Which connects with your idea of heaven?
And when you hear the words of Jesus, do you feel that it is a challenge to your heart or to your head? By which I mean, do his words present to you a challenge about your motives or your imagination?
Today I’m going to focus on two of these parables – the hidden treasure and the fine pearl.
The surface meaning is abundantly clear. Jesus is telling us that the kingdom of heaven is a prize of great worth, beyond measure.
So far, so obvious.
But having been told this by Jesus, and understood its meaning, it returns to us to ask ‘Well, how have I responded to that promise of a great prize? Have I acted like the merchant or the person who buys the field?’
And this is where the straightforward parable begins to challenge us, either in our heart or our head.
If you are a pragmatic person, you might hear this parable and being to imagine how this might play out in reality.
What would it be like to trust in Jesus so completely that we sell everything we own in order to follow him, for the promise of this treasure? Realistically we may think – what would we live on? Where would we live? How would we survive?
Very few followers of Jesus take this challenge literally, and the ones that do are extraordinary people. We call such people saints, and they are outstanding examples of trust and of faith in action.
One such person was St Francis of Assisi, a wealthy young man, who renounced his family’s money to serve God.
Another example is St Maximilian Kolbe, interestingly a Franciscan friar. He had been arrested by the Nazis for sheltering Jews and was sent to Auschwitz. Following the disappearance of 10 prisoners, the camp commander ordered 10 men to be starved to death. One of the ten men chosen cried out ‘My wife, my children’, and Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take his place. He literally gave everything to follow Jesus, to obey his commandments, ultimately for that prize of the kingdom of God.
So, if we don’t do those sorts of things, what does that mean?
Are my motives lacking?
Or is my imagination just not big enough? Because my mind cannot grasp just how awesome this prize is, that it is worth giving everything up for.
Is this one of those moments when doubt and fear creeps in and shrinks what we think God is offering? If only I could glimpse this pearl, this treasure in a field, so that I could get a feeling of what it is – then, would I become more like Francis, like Maximilian Kolbe, like the merchant?
How do I pursue a treasure I simply cannot imagine?
These questions are not asked negatively, but because sometimes we need to hear the parables on more than one level, and by re-framing the story it might bring us fresh insight into our faith. There is nothing wrong with taking time to think through our motives or how we imagine God, and to check whether we have let our doubts or fears prevent us from following Jesus in an even greater manner.
I imagine that neither Francis nor Maximilian Kolbe knew how they were going to respond until the moment was upon them. Their response came out of grace, touched by the words of Jesus, and we, like them, may find that when our moment comes, we too will give everything for the kingdom of heaven.
(Artwork: ‘The Parable of the Hidden Treasure’ by Rembrandt’)