‘New treasures as well as old…’
Five Parables from Matthew’s Gospel (4)
Among the 38 parables of Jesus gathered by the Evangelists we find some of the most memorable tales of all time, with striking characters and endings that pack a punch. The Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Pharisee and the Tax Collector — just recalling their titles reminds us how meaningful and beloved these stories are.
There are others, however, that we might call with all due respect ‘one-liners.’ These are simple sayings in which the Kingdom of God ‘is like’ a certain easily perceived earthly reality. Or the Kingdom of God is ‘as if’ it were a perceivable condition. These one-liners are called ‘similitudes’ because the Kingdom of God is said to be ‘similar’ to what we can understand from our daily lives.
There are three such similitudes in Matthew’s chapter on the parables. The first likens the Kingdom of God to yeast — a tiny amount of yeast, in fact, mixed into a enormous quantity of kneaded dough (Matthew 13: 33). The bread seemed to rise by imperceptible and mysterious means. Likewise, the Kingdom works its greatest miracles gradually and internally, in the human heart, as the yeast works within the dough.
The dough has no power to change itself. It takes the leavening power of Christ in our lives. Yet the results are as certain as the process is inconspicuous, not only in ourselves but in our world. Some have even said that the entire world is leavened by the lives of a few saints in each generation whose lives are pleasing to God.
The hallmark of these saints throughout the ages is the joy they experienced in having found the Kingdom of God. Perhaps this occurred by accident, like the digger in the field who comes upon a hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44). He knew enough to seize the opportunity when it presented itself. Life is filled with regrets, but there is one opportunity we cannot afford to miss.
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! (II Corinthians 6:2)
Then there are the saints who were ardent in their search for God. They can be likened to the merchant in our final parable, who hunted for a pearl of great price (Mt. 13:45-46). Upon finding it, however, he did not hedge or quibble, but sold everything he had to purchase it. Those who earnestly seek the meaning of life, and not just ways to make a living, are often blessed with the joy of finding the riches of the Kingdom, as much as the digger who found them by accident.
Such a seeker was St. Paul. He found the pearl of great price, the Lord Jesus Christ, and gave up all for him, with joy.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)