Of unsurpassable value

The Standard August 20, 2020

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a person found it, they hid it again, and then in their joy went and sold all they had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When they found one of great value, they went away and sold everything they had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46) From a boat on a lake, Jesus is speaking in parables to the people, describing this thing which is so valuable that a person gladly would give up everything else to obtain it. What is this overwhelmingly precious treasure which surpasses the worth of all else?

The gospel writer of Matthew uses the term “kingdom of heaven” close to thirty times while Mark and Luke use “kingdom of God” instead. Both have the same meaning and describe one of the core teachings of Jesus. The kingdom of heaven, ushered in by Christ coming to earth as God incarnate, is God’s messianic kingdom. It is ruled by the long-promised Messiah who is both King and Redeemer. God’s reign on this earth and the fulfillment of God’s will includes us, The Church, as active participants.  God’s kingship has been a reality forever, but  the birth of Christ reordered the world around this demonstration of God’s love and grace.  Perhaps the term “kingdom of heaven” helped Matthew’s Jewish audience to understand the spiritual nature of God’s reign as opposed to the expectation of a conquering king and messiah who would have gained power by force.

Back to our parables, the person who stumbles upon the treasure hidden in the field is not looking for it but suddenly finds something they did not know they could not live without. In utter joy and a drastic move, they sell everything to buy the field. Giving up all other gain is worth it, without question. On the other hand, the merchant is searching high and low for that special pearl and finally finds it. Like the treasure, no cost is too high to attain it. For us as well, no sacrifice is too great to be a part of the kingdom of heaven. It is worth everything we ever could give.

Hopefully, we can relate to the joy expressed in Matthew 13:44 and in George Frideric Handel’s triumphant Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and of his Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever.”

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