The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)
When Jesus taught in parables, such a method of teaching was not totally foreign to the Jews of His day. Jewish rabbis had certain stock “picture words” that they used in their teaching (e.g. harvest represented judgment; marriage indicated the beginning of the Messianic age; birds often showed the presence of gentiles or evil spirits; the field was the world.). What was strange about Christ’s parables was their mysterious nature along with His use of new “picture words” which gave to His parables an apparent lack of clarity. This fulfilled what Jesus earlier explained, that He spoke in parables so that “…seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (13:13)” Christ’s parables were intended to be wrestled with. As it turns out, many sayings of Jesus gain clarity and focus when one sees them through the lens of His death and resurrection.
In the mini-parable quoted above, Jesus speaks of a treasure. What is this treasure? This treasure is “hidden in a field” and the man of the parable covers it up until he can buy the field. Unfolded in the writings of the Apostles, the treasure can be understood to be the people whom God foreknew and predestined to be saved. But the remarkable nature of this treasure was that God hid it; the Jewish people didn’t perceive that God treasured not just the descendants of Israel but also people who would come from every nation. Throughout the entire New Testament the Apostle Paul makes this truth abundantly clear—that Christ came also to save Gentiles predestined to eternal life. A reference that has bearing on this hidden treasure is recorded in Ephesians 3:4-6: “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known [It was hidden!] to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
Using a stock “picture word” of other rabbis, Jesus explains that the man in the parable did not merely buy the treasure, but he bought the entire field. Recall that “field” often represented the world, thus this was recognized as the purchase of the world! Indeed the man sold all that He had to make this unbelievable purchase. If the man is God the Father, then the “man” gave His greatest treasure, His Son. See John 3:16 in relation to this. Or consider 2 Corinthians 5:19, “…that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ.” If the man is the Son of God, then we can recognize the treasure to be His very life-blood, shed to purchase the world. Consider then verses like, “He died for all (2 Co 5:14),” or “He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 Jo 2:2).”
God bought the world! It then makes perfect sense that not just Jews but Gentiles are “fellow heirs” of the world-wide salvation purchased by Christ’s death and resurrection; Gentiles are eligible to hear the Gospel, the good news that Christ’s blood has purchased the world. With Christ’s death and resurrection at the center of the Christian faith, it makes sense that we can perceive meaning in this parable of Jesus by viewing it through the lens of His death and resurrection.