“The Kingdom of Heaven is Like Unto …”

Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world …” (Jn. 18:36). Because Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, Jesus sought to prepare His disciples to understand its nature and the nature of those who are part of it. One way He helped was to give His “Magna Carta of Christianity” — the immortal Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). He began that sermon, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). The eighth beatitude reads, “Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). In between these two are six other wonderful blessings. Blessed are those that mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers (Matt. 5:4-9). Each of these describe the nature of those who comprise the kingdom of God and to whom the kingdom belongs.

Jesus not only gave this sermon to teach about the nature of His kingdom. He revealed its character in another way: through His parables. He was a masterful storyteller and sometimes the story He told was very brief, and on other occasions it was lengthy. Most of these stories we call “parables” and many often begin with these words: “The kingdom of heaven (or God) is likened unto …” A dozen or more are prefaced in this manner.

Jesus began His parable teaching with the parable of the sower. While the parable does not begin with the expression, “The kingdom of heaven is likened …,” it is all about the kingdom. When He explained the parable to His disciples He said, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and understands it not …” (Matt. 13:19). Furthermore, when He had spoken the parable and His disciples asked, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” (Matt. 13:10), His response was, “Unto you is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. 13:11). Jesus’ parables were given to explain the nature of the kingdom: its worth, its growth, and the character of those who embrace its message. To earnest, honest truth seekers were revealed the mysteries of the kingdom. To those who were not seeking the truth about the kingdom, the parables was given “so that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand” (Lk. 8:10).

Jesus’ nation rejected Him (Jn. 1:11). They did not like the nature of His mission: they did not want the kingdom He offered. It is to man’s everlasting sorrow and destruction that he does not perceive the worth of the kingdom. James and John wanted places of eminence in His kingdom (Matt. 20:21). Peter directly asked what reward he and the other apostles would receive for the sacrifices they made to follow Jesus: “Lo, we have left all and followed thee; what then shall we have?” (Matt. 19:27). Jesus gave two very short parables that assures man that His kingdom provides great riches, but one has to see its worth to appreciate it.

The two parables are found in Matthew 13:44-46. It reads, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the field; which a man found, and hid and in his joy he goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls. And having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he hath and bought it.” Notice the similarities in these two parables. In both, the value of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price each equaled everything the man possessed. In both, each man recognized the treasure’s worth. In both, each man was willing to dispose of everything else he had to secure that treasure. There is one possible difference. In the parable of the pearl merchant, the parable emphasizes the pearl merchant was searching for such a pearl. In the parable of the hidden treasure no such emphasis is made. Perhaps he too was on a “treasure hunt,” but if so that point is not emphasized.

In the world there are some who have a sense of emptiness and need. They have a hunger for something they do not have. One day they become exposed to the gospel of the kingdom and know immediately they have found that for which they have been searching. On the other hand, there are some who are content with their lives, but they also are exposed to the word of the kingdom and although they have not been searching, they know what a treasure it is they have found, and a craving for the treasure is not satisfied until they possess it. There are both kinds of people in our world. We must continually set forth the worth of the kingdom to men so that its worth can be plainly seen by honest, sincere folks who are willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to have that treasure. Let us never tire of preaching the word and the worth of the kingdom!

Jim McDonald

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