When I met the gal who would become my wife, we were living over 1,000 miles away from each other. Although she was pretty interesting in those first few hours together, I shrugged off any possibility of a relationship, because the distance between us was just too great. Still, we got to know each other better from afar after that initial meeting, and I eventually uprooted my life – and the place I’d called home for over 10 years – and moved to be closer to her. The relationship progressed, and — long story short — we’ve been happily married for over 10 years now.
At the time, I didn’t think I would ever do something as crazy as move cross-country for a relationship, let alone a nascent one. I literally didn’t think it was possible to nearly single-handedly move my bachelor-stocked apartment in a huge rented truck, especially since I’d only learned to drive a few years earlier. But, in the end, it was worth it. I love my wife, and I’m thrilled to be with her.
This blast from my past came to mind when I considered today’s Gospel selection from Matthew. There, Jesus tells his disciples: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
It’s worthwhile to take a moment and look at Jesus’ life, teachings, and ministry as a whole. So much of how Jesus lived, acted, and taught was designed to shake the preconceptions of those at the time (and, of course, even our present mindsets). Rather than coming to Earth as a pillar of fire or riding a chariot with a coronation of trumpeting angels, Jesus came into our world as a humble child. Rather than deliver unto the people of Israel the mighty kingdom they were expecting, instead he gave them entry into the greatest Kingdom of all: Heaven. Rather than smiting enemies and raining destruction upon the wicked, he preached love and forgiveness as available to all.
Yes, there is still majesty for our Lord in Heaven, and the unjust will still need to face judgment if they do not repent before it’s too late. But the underlying message of Christ was so different from what people were expecting, folks couldn’t help but take notice.
This tendency to shake up the preconceived notions of those who would open their ears, hearts, and minds to Christ spread to Jesus’ parables as well. For example, Jesus makes a comparison to the coming of the Lord as a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43). It’s a great analogy for being prepared, but also a fairly shocking one to liken the epitome of Good – our Lord – with a burglar!
And thus in today’s readings, we have two analogies that mean roughly the same thing, but one of them feels a bit more shocking to me. The second one is the more relatable parable, where Jesus says, “the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” Sure, sell all you have to gain this great gift. The meaning is clear; the Kingdom of Heaven is the ultimate gift, and we need to be prepared to sacrifice everything to make sure we achieve that.
But that first analogy, where Jesus suggests that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure in a field, where the person hides the treasure and then buys the field . . . doesn’t that mean the one who found the treasure was basically cheating the person whose field it was? (Why was he even rooting around someone else’s field in the first place?) Wouldn’t it be more Christian to inform the person whose field it was, “Hey, you’ve got this amazing treasure back there”?
But the fact that Jesus is even inspiring such questions shows how important the Kingdom of Heaven is. Does following Jesus really mean leaving your family behind (Luke 14:25-27)? Does Christ expect you to sell all your belongings to be his disciple (Matthew 19:21)? Is the Lord really like a thief?
All of these questions were designed to get you to think – I mean, really think – about what it means to be a follower of Christ, to turn your life over to him, to trust in God, to think about your ultimate future and salvation. Although the message of Jesus is reaffirming and full of love, it is not just mindless platitudes designed solely to make people feel better. It’s a cry for action, a wake-up call to reevaluate your life and your view of the world.
When I moved across the country to be with the person who I would eventually marry, it was the culmination of a series of things I thought I would never do, but in so doing them, I gained immeasurable “treasure”: a wife, our son, a loving home, and a life of faith. What greater treasures await those who do what they “never” thought possible, trusting in Jesus and listening for ways his words can shake us out of the rut of our comfortable world? The rewards for doing so are no less than the Kingdom of Heaven itself.