Hidden Treasure

September 25, 2017

 It is a
serendipitous story, which is a story about serendipity.  Serendipity, isn’t that a great word?  It is probably one of my favourite
words.  You know what serendipity means
right?  Serendipity means an unexpected
discovery.  You know when you are looking
for something and you find something else. 
You know you drop the remote between the cushions on the coach and when
you are digging around looking for it you discover a twenty-dollar bill
instead.  Whoa, that is serendipity.  If you find an old pizza crust that isn’t
serendipity it simply means you have kids.
It sometimes
happens to me when I am reading; I will be enjoying a novel, kind of zoned out,
I read fiction for the same reason most people watch TV, for entertainment not
enlightenment. 
And then all
of a sudden I will come across the most incredible phrase or an idea for a
message.  And that wasn’t what I was
looking for.  It is serendipity, which is
not to be confused with fortuitous.
And this is a
serendipitous story.  The hero of the
story is working in a field that he does not own, we don’t know if he was hired
to do whatever he was doing or if he was helping someone out as a favour.  All we know is that in the process of doing
something he unexpectedly found something and the something that he found was
of greater value than the something he was doing or even of the field he was
doing something in.
We are told
that he immediately covered the treasure up, went and liquidated all of his
assets and bought the field, and presumably the treasure as well.  I don’t know how he explained his sudden
affinity for the field to the previous owner but it is just a story. 
This is one
of the eight times in the New Testament that Jesus begins a parable with the
words “The Kingdom of Heaven” or “The Kingdom of God” is like a . . .  A parable is simply a story with a
meaning.   Kind of like a fable but
parable sounds more spiritual.  Aesop
told fables, Jesus told parables.  They
could also be called allegories, but they aren’t they are called parables.
And so,  we begin our journey to discover what the
Kingdom of Heaven is like.  And Jesus
begins to draw a variety of pictures which describe his Kingdom.  Matthew
13:44
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure
that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and
sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.
And you might be smarter than me, and this
might make perfect sense to you but these thirty-six words make me ask a whole
pile of questions. 
What was the man doing in the field?  How did he find the treasure?  What type of treasure was it?  Was what he did entirely on the up and up?  What is actually buried on Oak Island? 
Well the last question didn’t come out of the
scripture but it had to do with treasure and the scripture made me think of the
Oak Island Treasure.  I personally am
torn between it being Captain Kidd’s treasure and the lost treasure of the
Knights Templar.  The Oak Island
Treasure, not the treasure in the field, but I regress.
The answer to most of those questions,
including the Oak Island one is that we don’t know.  And it obviously wasn’t important or Christ
would have told us, it’s just a parable. 
The important part of the story is that the man found something he
wasn’t necessarily looking for and was willing to give all he had in order to
obtain it. 
Upon first reading and without putting it in
a historical context it is easy to question the ethics of the man in the
story.  He finds this treasure that
doesn’t belong to him and he doesn’t tell the owner of the land about it,
instead he reburies the treasure and negotiates the purchase of the land, which
apparently would have been worth more if the treasure had of been figured into
it.
So here is the question, who owned the treasure?  The simplest answer would be: Whoever hid the
treasure in first place.  But apparently,
they were no longer in the equation, it couldn’t have been the land owner
because he was willing to sell the land with the treasure still buried, so it
can be assumed that he didn’t even know the treasure was there. 
So, if the original owner was no longer
present than the short answer is: whoever owned the land owned the
treasure.  But here is the caveat, only
if he knew about it. 
Let’s put it in a modern setting.  Next Saturday as you are driving out of
whatever estate you live in you notice a yard sale and so you stop and as you
go through the treasures that the home owner is selling you come across a
really ugly painting that has $8.00 marked on it, you ask the person if that is
the best they will do and they agree to drop their price to $5.00 and you
purchase the painting.  
Now if the painting had been done by Bob
Smith it would be worth $5.00 and the seller would have received what he wanted
and all would be well with the universe. 
But what if the painting was a Jackson Pollock and was worth $200,000,000.00?   The seller still got the $5.00 he wanted
from the painting.
But, shouldn’t he get some of the $200,000,000.00?  What about the person he got the painting
from? And perhaps the person that person got the painting from?  And what if it was a painting that Jackson
Pollock had sold in 1948 for $5.00 because he wasn’t famous yet and sold it for
the price of the canvas.
 If you
knew it was a Pollock would you have a moral obligation to tell the seller what
you knew?  Or would you be within your
rights to simple give him what he wanted for the painting?
Sources tell us that 2000 years ago it was
very common for people to bury items of value. 
There were no banks or investments companies
as we know them, no safety deposit boxes and the area was constantly being
conquered and re-conquered.  There had
been the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, and the Greeks and now the Romans. 
And so if it appeared that the occupiers were
going to take your valuables you might bury them, or if you were going on a
trip and wanted to make sure that your valuables were safe while you were gone you
would bury them. 
Remember the story of the man who gave the
money to his servants to invest, two of them did exactly that and saw the money
increase but do you remember what the remaining servant did with the money he
was given? 
Sure you do, Matthew 25:18 But the servant who received the one bag
of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
The downside of course was if something
happened to you and nobody else knew where you hid your money, oh well. 
In the Daily Study Bible William Barclay
tells us “Jewish Rabbinic law was quite clear: “What finds belong to the
finder, and what finds must one cause to be proclaimed? These finds belong to
the finder–if a man finds scattered fruit, scattered money…these belong to
the finder.” In point of fact this man had a prior right to what he had
found.”   Or roughly translated
“Finders Keepers.” 
So, if the man was ploughing or digging or
whatever he was doing and found the treasure and the owner of the land did not
know it was there than it belonged to the person who found it, that was the
common law at the time, and we wouldn’t even have been having this discussion
because everyone would have understood the concept.  When people heard the story, their reaction
would have been “dude that is so cool, wish I found a treasure.”
I think it’s interesting that instead of just
taking the treasure, which apparently he was entitled to do that instead he
purchased the land before he claimed the treasure. 
And so as I worked on this message I was
thinking about what the treasure was. 
Was it God’s love?  Was it God’s
Grace?  Was it Salvation?  The answer is: Yes. 
Because the treasure is: The Kingdom of
Heaven.  The question that Jesus is
answering here is not: what is the treasure? 
That is the answer not the question. 
The question is: what is the Kingdom of Heaven?  And the answer is Matthew 13:44 “The
Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field.
In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough
money to buy the field.  And we all know what a treasure is right?  It’s a treasure.  It’s not ordinary and every day, it’s special
and it’s valuable.  In this case it was
worth more than everything else the man owned. 
The Treasure Was There for
Whoever Found it
the scripture
doesn’t say that he was a special man, just that he was a man.  He didn’t find the treasure because he was
special, he was special because he found the treasure.
I think it’s interesting that the man wasn’t even
looking for treasure, he was just going about his life.   We
talk about those who are on a spiritual quest, looking for answers and seeking
a higher meaning. And that is wonderful because the word of God promises us in Hebrews 11:6 And it is impossible to please God
without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and
that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
 But
it’s not always like that, most times God simply interrupts our lives, but too
often we ignore him.
The night I met God, that wasn’t the plan, it
wasn’t on my agenda, my day planer didn’t say: get up, putter around the house,
go for a long drive with the roof down, have supper, go to church as a favour
to a friend, become a Christ Follower and feel called to the ministry.”
I was just a fisherman home from the Gaspe
for a few days; I wasn’t on a spiritual journey or on a quest, certainly wasn’t
looking for a treasure. 
And yet I found it, or maybe it found me. In
this story, the Kingdom of God was hidden but it could be found, and it could
be found by whoever was open to finding it. 
We don’t know if others had come close or perhaps it had even been
stumbled on before but those who found it either hadn’t recognized it for the
treasure it was, or perhaps they didn’t know what it was they had found.
What I love most about the Gospels is the
calling of the individual apostles.  Some
like Andrew came looking for Jesus, but for many of them they were just
ordinary people going about their ordinary lives when they discovered the
Kingdom of Heaven.  They were fisherman
and government employees and accountants and people trying to overthrow the
government, in other words they were just people.
Seven years ago I received an envelope that
had for a return address “The Protocol Office” 
It was an invitation to a reception being held in the presence of Queen
Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh here in Halifax.   Just Angela and I , Liz and Philip, and
10,0000 other people, but that is beside the point.  It was a very classy invitation.  I later discovered that I was put on the list
because I am considered to be a community leader.  Cool. 
But that isn’t what I was trying for, I am just doing my job.
There is a great statement that closes the
Bible, in Revelation
22:17
we read “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say,
“Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely
from the water of life.  In the King James Version it says whosoever will”. 
   The Kingdom of Heaven is not
limited by our nationality, or our skin colour, or our gender, it is open to
whosoever will.   The invitation 2000
years ago was Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let
anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. And the invitation is there for you today,
maybe not the invitation to the reception for the Queen of England, but the
opportunity to meet the King of the Universe, and that trumps the House of
Windsor.
The Treasure was Free: It was not
Cheap
We
understand that the Grace of God is free and it is there for whosoever will,
but it is not cheap.  Several times in
the Gospels Jesus is asked by people what they needed to do to follow him, or
to have eternal life and his answer was “Go sell all you have and give it away.”
But that wasn’t a requirement of everyone. 
How come?  Because it wasn’t about
what they possessed it was about what possessed them. And the fact that Jesus
didn’t require it from everyone only brings comfort to those he would require
it from. 
But it’s not our possessions Jesus wants,
it’s our loyalty.  He wants to be number
1 in our lives, not number 37 or 25 or 4 or even 2 he wants to be number 1. He
wants to be the priority.  Luke 16:13 “No one can serve two masters. For you
will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the
other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 
You may think you can serve two masters but
there will come a time in your life that you will have to decide: where do my
loyalties lie?  What is my priority in
this situation?  Where will I give my
time?  Where will I give my money? 
One of the stories that I was talking about
is found in Matthew 19, a young man comes to Jesus and asks “what must I do to
have eternal life?”  Good question.  And Jesus tells him to keep the commandments
and we pick up the story in  Matthew 19:20-22 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the
young man replied. “What else must I do?” Jesus told him, “If you want to be
perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and
you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man
heard this, he went away very sad, for he had many possessions.
He discovered what he owned and what owned
him. 
Jim Elliot was a missionary who was working with
Wycliffe  Bible Translators to bring the
gospel to a remote South American tribe in the late 50s, and he was killed in
the process.   And just days before he
was killed he wrote in his journal, “He is no fool – who gives up what he cannot keep,
to gain what he cannot lose.”  In
a very real way the hero of our story gave up what he could not keep to gain
that which he could not lose.
Whatever the treasure was that the man
discovered, it was worth everything the man had.  And that is the lesson that Jesus is
teaching.  The Kingdom of Heaven is worth
everything we have.  We might think we
have it “all”, but “all” will pale in comparison to what God has to offer.  The offer of a past that is forgiven, and of
a future that is assured.
Because the secret of the Kingdom is that in
giving up you get more.  You say “But
Denn, my family has to come first” or “My career is a priority” or or or.  But remember the words of Jesus when he said Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else,
and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.   When the Kingdom is your priority and you live the way that Jesus
wants you to live then you become a better parent and you become a better spouse
and you become a better employee and you become a better employer and you
become a better person and ultimately you gain what you were seeking all along.
And if there is a conflict between the
Kingdom and what you want, it may appear that in the short term your way is the
most advantageous but it won’t prove that way in the long term. 
You probably all remember the WWJD
phase that the church went through.  What
would Jesus do?  But that isn’t the
question, because we aren’t Jesus.  The
question is WWJHMD “What would Jesus Have Me Do?”  And it’s only when we are focused on his
Kingdom that we are able to ask that and answer it.  
Jesus reminds us
in Matthew
6:21
Wherever
your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.   So if you have determined in your life that your treasure is the
Kingdom of Heaven then our hearts follow. 
But don’t expect everyone to see the value of the Kingdom, it was Wesley who
said “The kingdom of God within us is a treasure indeed, but a treasure hid
from the world”  and Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18 The
message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we
who are being saved know it is the very power of God.
Here is the confusing thing: Even though the
man found the treasure The Treasure is
Still There
.  It wasn’t that the man
didn’t find all the treasure, it is the mystery of faith that the same treasure
that was found by Peter and James and Paul, the same treasure found by
Augustine and Wesley and Calvin, the same treasure found by Mother Theresa and
Billy Graham is still there for us today. 
The Bible promises us in Hebrews
13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday,
today, and forever.
And the Kingdom of Heaven is still waiting to
be discovered by you.