14 October 2016

Matthew 13:44-53

“‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’” (v. 51)

Psalm: Psalm 29


Here are four short parables, the last of which seems to be a brief reflection on all that has gone before it. The first three all begin 'The kingdom of heaven is like ...' and the first two seem at first glance to be making the same point. However, the details provide us with much food for thought.

In the first (verse 44) a man ploughing a field that is not his own discovers treasure. He therefore sells everything to buy the field knowing the riches that are hidden. This would appear to be an invitation to sacrifice everything one has for the sake of the gospel (the good news of Jesus) and to do so gladly. The second parable (verses 45-46) tells a similar story of a merchant dealing in pearls. The difference, however, is that the merchant's search for riches is intentional. The invitation here seems to be to keep searching for that which will cost you everything.

The third story (verses 47-48) seems to echo the weeds in the field (Matthew 13:24-30) with a fishing rather than farming metaphor. Jesus explains that this is a picture of the final judgement when that which is not good enough for the kingdom will be destroyed.

The final parable is offered in summary. We presume that the crowd (Matthew 13:36) is still absent and it is the disciples who claim that they have understood what Jesus has been saying to them. Jesus' picture of an householder with a varied collection of treasure points to the mixture of metaphors and ideas that have been contained in this section of teaching. At the point where those who are studying the things of God think that they have understood they may still have much to discover.

To Ponder

  • Having read Jesus' teaching in Matthew 13 would you be as quick to answer the question 'Have you understood all this?' in the affirmative? What stories in this section of the Gospel do you want to return to, in order to try to learn more?
  • It is not clear that the actions of the ploughman in the first parable were entirely legal and even if they were we might feel that the landowner had been cheated. Can an immoral act still reveal something of the kingdom? Why?
  • Having two parables making much the same point reinforces the call to make sacrifices for the sake of the kingdom. Have you had to give up a great deal in order to be a disciple? If so, what? And did you do so joyfully?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler

Having been a Methodist circuit minister and a theological college tutor, Jonathan is now Ministerial Coordinator for Oversight of Ordained Ministries in the Connexional Team..