Comparing and Contrasting Parables


The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
- Matthew 13:44-46

In this week’s passage, Jesus tells two parables in rapid-fire succession. Jewish teachers often used this rhythm: sharing an idea and then repeating/remixing the idea to help listeners gain deeper understanding of the original idea. This practices is seen most clearly in the Psalms and in Proverbs.

What do these two parables have in common?

They are both about the kingdom of heaven. They both contain something that’s of great value (a hidden treasure, a pearl). In both parables the main character has enough wealth to acquire the thing that’s of great value but must sell everything. Both characters experience joy or satisfaction.

The kingdom of heaven is valuable, costly, and worth it.

How do these two parables differ from each other?

In one the kingdom is compared to an object (the hidden treasure) and in the other the kingdom is compared to a man (the pearl-seeking merchant). In one the man is actively seeking the object of great value and in the other the man just seems to stumble across it. In one the man gets a great (albeit sneaky) deal while in the other there’s no implication of there being a bargain.

Perhaps the kingdom of heaven is too complex to be pinned down by one simile, one metaphor, or one parable. It involves both people and stuff. It’s available to both seekers and stumblers. It comes crashing into our real world of shady deals and costly transactions.

Great engagement with the scriptures begins with good observation of the text. As you read these parables, what stands out to you?

1 Comment

So I re-read Mt. 13 and see that the main player in each parable (the sower, the wheat and tares, the mustard seed, the leaven, the net) is Jesus.
So could a way to look at these 2 parables be with Jesus as the main player? Because didn't Jesus endure the Cross for the joy set before Him? (Heb.12:2) Didn't He "sell" all that He had (Phil.2:7-8) to come to earth and to die for the cross to buy us? (I are God's field), (Li.17:21...the kingdom of God is within you.)
So He came to His own--the Jews--but since they didn't receive Him He went, sold all He had (died) and thereby bought them.
Then the merchant could also be representing Jesus. The same train of thought could apply except now we're talking about a pearl rather than a field. (This next part is not original with me...) Pearls are produced in oysters. Oysters are not kosher. So could pearls represent Gentiles?
To then the reason for the rapid fire of these parables could be the making of the point that Jesus came to seek and to save precious people whose worth was buried from sight--both Jews and Gentiles.
Jesus was the original Seeker. So because He seeks us, there comes a time we hear His footsteps, turn around, and seek Him.
I think about my propensity to seek my glasses or cell phone only to discover they had been on my head/in my pocket all along. I think that's how it is with Jesus--and, therefore, the Kingdom. We seek Him and He has been right with us the whole time.

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