I have. Despite my efforts to employ some sort of system to remind me where I’ve filed or stored things, it happens so often that choosing which story to tell is almost as overwhelming as having to put my hands on a mislaid piece of paper. But perhaps most frustrating of all for me are the times (note the use of the plural there) when I’ve hidden away gifts to give and can’t remember where my hiding places are -- or worse forget altogether that there are gifts squirreled away in clever spots out of sight just waiting to make somebody’s day.
But what if there was a gift that had been hidden away that was so valuable you would do anything to possess it? And what if you had the opportunity to purchase it and in doing so make such great gain that the cost to you wouldn’t even be worthy counting against the great value of the treasure?
Jesus has been using many agricultural illustrations during this time of his ministry. Not long before he pointed out that a “tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33), and then this chapter of Kingdom Parables begins with the story of the sower of the seeds. The comparison between the heart of good soil that is ready to receive the seed of faith from the Sower (God) and the hearts hardened or distracted or given over to Satan, seed that will never bear fruit, teaches unmistakably that faith grows according to the condition of the heart, and the heart is made able to bear fruit according to God’s good pleasure.
In our parable, the man who buys the field does so knowing that there is a great treasure beneath the layers of soil, waiting to be discovered and claimed. How does he know this? Because the Sower has planted faith in his heart, he also has eyes to see what is not obvious to the rest of the world. “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) For non-believers, being able to “see” the treasure buried in that plain-looking field is as absurd as a landlubber “seeing” the fish darting around below the surface of the water. The non-believer would walk right on by that field and never consider that there is anything worth the cost of purchasing it.
But for the believer, of whom Jesus has said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matthew 11:25-26), yes, the believer, who has experienced the new birth and has been given faith to see the kingdom and to know its worth, nothing will stop him from acquiring that land. Nothing! He knows that no sacrifice is too great, because the prize won is the greatest prize of all, the kingdom of heaven. In fact, see what it says in the parable: “in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has.” There is no joy on this earth like the joy that comes from forgiveness of sins, redemption through salvation, and the hope of the resurrection!
All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this
Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord
Now my heart's desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness
Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die
("Knowing You Jesus", Graham Kendrick)
Do you see the kingdom of heaven as a treasure so precious no sacrifice is too great, no cost is too high, to obtain it? Is it with great joy that you give up all you have to possess it? Consider what it is that we gain:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
Jim Elliot, martyred missionary whose wife Elisabeth recently joined him in heaven and whose story of personal sacrifice is told in many of her remembrances and accounts, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
The parable of the hidden treasure sets the theme for our messages to the children who will be attending Three Rivers Grace Vacation Bible School later this month. It is important to remember that the Kingdom Parables were told by Jesus to his disciples, believers who needed to be exhorted to consider how valuable they saw the pursuit of the kingdom. Many of the children who will be attending VBS -- perhaps most -- are not already disciples of Jesus, so how can this message apply to them?
The lessons provided by Children Desiring God ministries in the Things Hidden curriculum diligently present, among other parables, the parable of the sower and the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) to present the children with the biblical truth about how some may hear the message of the kingdom and some may not (and some may be pretending to hear but do not). It is our responsibility and service to the Sower to set down the Scripture lesson to the children He brings to VBS each night -- it is our joy to share the loveliness of this glorious Redeemer -- who could be theirs as well. And it is the work of the Holy Spirit to prepare any hearts that find joy in sacrificing all to gain the kingdom of heaven. May he be pleased to do so during the week of July 19.