Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52
Epistle: Romans 8:28-39
Lesson: Deuteronomy 7:6-9
Psalm: Psalm 125
CLB Commentary – Dr. David Veum
In this pericope our Lord asserts the immense value of being his disciple, i.e., believing the Gospel with its call to follow Him. He does this in order to encourage those discouraged by suffering to persevere. He assures them that at the end of the age those who are not true believers and all unbelievers will receive his judgment. He rather admonishes believers to know the scriptures and to speak the gospel treasure from both Testaments of scripture.
This pericope concludes this chapter of seven parables. Lenski notes that the first four parables show that God’s giving of his kingdom is like sowing seed; that the kingdom, though insignificant like a mustard seed, grows to be something great, that though the kingdom is hidden like leaven in dough, it permeates and affects everything. The second parable of the weeds compares to the final parable about the net. The final judgment will reveal that many adherents looked like members of the kingdom, and then will be separated from the righteous at the end of the age. Lenski adds, “Now Jesus shows how it is acquired.”
Although this statement has validity, it seems more appropriate given its context to view this section as an apologetic for the kingdom. It is addressed especially to those who are experiencing rejection because of their trust in Christ.
This is the context. In chapter 12 Jesus is persecuted by the Pharisees for his actions on the Sabbath. The Isaiah quote in verses 19-21 asserts that he is the chosen servant, loved by the Father and anointed with the Spirit, who does not cry out in defense of himself, but who rather sustains the “bruised reed” and “the smoldering wick.” These two phrases certainly can describe the one whose faith is giving out because of persecution.
After this quote the Pharisees again accuse Jesus of casting out demons through the power of Beelzebub. Then they demand to see a miraculous sign.(1) Jesus promises them only the sign of the prophet Jonah: his resurrection. While these narratives contain significant warning for the unbeliever, they also prepare for the apologetic coming in chapter 13.
Finally, the last narrative of chapter 12 assures that the one doing the will of the Father, i.e., believing the gospel, is included in the intimate family of Jesus.
Now consider the narratives immediately following chapter 13. Even Jesus is dismissed in unbelief by the residents of his own home town. As we will see in our pericope, many can be in the same field and not notice the treasure. But that does not eliminate the infinite value of the treasure even though it is hidden from those who don’t see it. Then Matthew reports the beheading of John the Baptist. Despite this severe persecution of the kingdom, the disciples do not throw away the pearl of great price. Instead they go and tell Jesus, and he simply continues his work healing the sick and feeding the masses.
Notes from Lenski’s Commentary
44 The man’s actions are dramatically described: he hid the treasure, and for the joy of it goes and sells all he has and buys that field. His whole action is directed toward securing the treasure and doing that in a legitimate way, because the kingdom can be secured in no other way. His heart being filled with joy because of his treasure find, he goes and buys the field, making the treasure legally and rightfully his.
The field was not so high in price but what the man, selling all that he had, could buy it.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.”
45 An εμπορος is a wholesale merchant, one who travels and imports. This wealthy merchant is out to acquire “excellent pearls.” One must know the esteem in which pearls were held by the ancients. Great skill was required to gauge the value of a pearl.
46 He is like the other man: he knew absolutely nothing of “the pearl of great price,” and the way in which he came upon it is again the same: he found it. It all seems accidental and yet is not.
Christ and his salvation are to be ranked with the very highest and best in this world, they are a pearl among pearls; but this pearl absolutely outranks all other pearls the world has ever seen. It is “one” and there is and can be no second.
“He bought”-completing everything and bringing it all to rest. The selling has the same force that it had in the other parable.
47 The last one of the seven parables is not the last link in this chain only but reaches back through all the previous parables and in one comprehensive sweep presents the kingdom from its beginning to its end.
The σαγνη is the largest kind of net, weighted below with corks on top, sweeping perhaps a half mile of water. This catching takes in the entire work of the gospel.
48 Note the success of this grand sweep of the net: “It was filled.” The gospel does its work. What now follows is an ordinary scene…the net hauled to the beach, the fishermen sitting down and picking out all the edible and salable fish, throwing them into vessels and throwing all the worthless fish “outside.” Σαπρος here means “worthless.”
49 The Lord’s exposition deals with what shall happen at the consummation. The net and its great catch are brought in as being necessary to understand what happens at the end. The gospel is preached by the church, and the separation of the godly from the wicked is made by the angels. The οι πονηροι lack the righteousness that avails before God. (Some may) confess and profess faith, but not all are true believers and thus pronounced “righteous” by the divine Judge. Some are hypocrites, sham Christians, mere adherents of the church. Church discipline cannot eliminate them, for we cannot judge men’s hearts. The demands of Donatistic (2) minds are failures of the worst kinds. The other extreme is the liberalism which discards the Scriptural church discipline.
50 The fate of only the wicked is here described, and this is done by repeating v. 42. This means that, in addition to the instruction which it conveys, the parable is intended chiefly as a mighty warning. “All you who are in contact with the gospel, what kind of fish are you? How will the judgment day find you? What if you should be thrown into that furnace?” Every proclamation of the kingdom of the heavens is a call to repent and to accept the righteousness by faith in Christ and thus to become righteous.
51 This group of parables had reached its end. The fact that there are seven seems to be intentional.
52 In effect Jesus says, “This is what makes each of you like a house lord who…” But he states it in the third person and thus objectively. The title, “scribe,” is here used in a broad sense to designate anyone who is versed in the Word, i.e., “trained as a disciple of the kingdom.”
Such a real disciple himself becomes a teacher. He is thus “like a house lord.” He brings forth out of his treasury things new and old. So the well-trained disciple has acquired a rich fund of all kinds of spiritual knowledge from the kingdom and its King, and puts it forth for use as it is needed.
Word Biblical Commentary
The kingdom of God is the greatest of treasures. Though its worth is immeasurable by any standard, it is now present only in veiled form and can be possessed by some without the knowledge of those near them. The kingdom is known only to its joyful possessors.
That good and evil could be located within the net of the kingdom seemed equally strange, no doubt. Yet at the time of eschatological judgment an unavoidable separation would take place. At that time only the righteous—those who have received the kingdom with appropriate response in the form of discipleship—would survive; the evil would go to their punishment.
The gospel of the kingdom is by its very nature a blend of continuity and discontinuity with the old. But for Matthew these “new things” presuppose and are fundamentally loyal to the “old things.” The Christian “scribe” is one trained in the mysteries of the kingdom who is able to maintain a balance between the continuity and discontinuity existing between the era inaugurated by Jesus and that of the past. If the Church carries on the work of the disciples, every Christian must bring out of his or her storeroom both old things and new things, i.e., must represent a Christianity encompassing both Testaments.
1Note the desire of the persecuted Christian wanting to see a sign in times of doubting that this is all real. Jesus shows them that the kingdom is like an insignificant mustard seed, like leaven hidden in flower, and like hidden treasure.
2Donatists refused to forgive those who had lapsed during persecution.