Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and Pearl

Matthew 13:44-46 (ESV)
"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.
[45] "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, [46] who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
So the question here is, is Christ the pearl, or is Christ the man who sold all and bought it.
Perhaps it is the last bit of our own self loathing that gets us to interpret this parable so wrongly. How could we be the treasure? I have to ask myself that often enough. When I stare into the mirror of the law, I do not see a white pearl glistening. I do not see a treasure worth dying for. I just don’t. I suspect most of us are the same way.
But then if Christ is the treasure what do we have to sell that would allow us to buy this pearl, to even get into bartering range of this pearl? What do we have that would be worth the field in which he is hidden?
I suspect people think they can buy this pearl by giving up Friday night pub crawls. I suspect they think they can buy this pearl by “selling all they have” giving up on the pleasures of the world. I don’t think it is going to work out that way. Not that I think we should stay and participate in the sinful pleasures of the world, of which a Friday night pub crawl may or may not be one, depending on how you go about it.
But I don’t think we can get into bartering range by giving up on a few of our pet sins. If the Pearl is going to be interpreted in this manner, we are all screwed. Sinners that we are all attempts to earn our way into the kingdom are doomed from the start. We could sell our house and everything we own to go and help poor people in the gutters of Calcutta and really it isn’t going to do us a thing. It may help our neighbor, it may just make us one more burden they have to carry. There is something to be said for staying where you are and shining as a gospel light where God has placed you, as a mother or father, son, daughter, employer and employee, and through it all a faithful Christian living in the forgiveness of Christ. There is a lot to be said for that.
And that is what Christ wants. That is why he sold everything he had to buy you, because you are that treasure whether you see it or not. You are the object of his love. It is for this reason that the angels rejoice with the repentance of one sinner. We don’t see it in ourselves. But Christ does not see us for what we are in this world, but what he makes us with his death and resurrection. In him, we are a treasure, in him we are a pearl of great worth.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Perhaps this is Law or Gospel? I’m not saying that in an absolute sense, that’s what was meant, ultimately it’s Gospel, Christ sells all…”

But in my experience with the sacraments, particularly baptism, NOTHING is worse Law than turning a Gospel into Law. When in the understanding of baptism being more or less Law, i.e. believers baptism, whereby I had to basically make sure I had faith, etc…it was most nightmarish time of my life. Baptism was a bane to me, although I would have never said that of it but lied and said, “I love and treasure it” (but as Law). But when I came upon it being God’s work to me for me, etc… it was like a complete 180 degree turn around and it was as Luther put it, ‘as if heaven itself opened to me’.

Of course that was Luther’s experience too with the “righteousness of God” phrase, a truly Gospel phrase, but he had an understanding of it as more or less “law” and as he confessed ‘hated it’ secretly. Yet, when upon his tower experience this phrase opened up heaven to him.

The same with the verse as you’ve well pointed out. If we read and believe this to mean we are looking for the pearl (heaven) and WE must sell all to buy it, we get on the treadmill of the Law which WILL eventually beat you and leave you into despair. But when that flips, 180 degrees, and CHRIST is the one who sells all to buy us (the pearl), the gates of paradise itself open up.

When we attempt to buy heaven, merit it, prove we are faithful, etc…Gospel manna often rots and is not just inedible but down right poisonous to us. But when heaven purchases us, the most unworthy, that food gives life and life eternal.

I may be wrong, but this sort of Law / Gospel “flip” (my cheap term for it), seems to occur a lot in the Scriptures. Maybe “cheap” hermeneutic would be to read a passage the way we’d normally read it, we need to do something, isolate that, then “flip” it to Christ doing it for us.