Monday, November 03, 2008

Uh, Duh -- Mt 13.44-52

I read this argument in a conference paper posted on the web a few months ago, but I don't remember whose paper it was.

In any event, the argument concerned who Jesus was talking about in Mt 13.44-52 in saying:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon find one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

"And, again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind . . . So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous . . ."

Now the question concerns the who Jesus speaks of when describing the man who finds the hidden treasure in the field and buys it, the merchant who finds the pearl of great value, and the fisherman.

I've been wont to take the field-buyer and the merchant as speaking of the believer, in a "count-the-cost" sort of admonition.

But the scholar argued that this didn't make sense. After all, start with the last of the kingdom parables, about the fisherman and the fish. In that case, it's clear that the fish are the believers (and unbelievers) and the fisherman is Jesus at the end of the age.

But the fish parable is just providing a different take on the same theme from the earlier two parables.

So the argument was that all of these parables concern Jesus -- i.e., the joy he has over the kingdom, and his willingness to suffer loss of all things in order to establish it.

So these parables, rather than being about "us," are about Jesus. And provide us illustrations of how it is that Jesus "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb 12.2).

The point being that Jesus takes joy in saving us. We are his treasure; we are his pearl of great price.


Blogger Wayne said...

I hadn't thought of it that way, but it makes perfect sense.

November 03, 2008 3:14 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Yeah, I hadn't at all thought about it that way. But it seems to be a pretty convincing take on it to me.

It's also pretty overwhelming, that Jesus takes that much joy in saving us. To be sure, it just places a little illustrative meat on what we already know from passages like Heb 12, but there's something about the concreteness that's still incredibly moving.

November 03, 2008 5:19 PM  

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