The Kingdom Of Heaven Is A Hidden Treasure
September 6, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
The Treasure Greater Than Life
1. Mr Tomihiro Yoshino's pictorial poetry collection has this poem.
I was thinking
Life is the greatest treasure
I was suffering
But one day I discovered
There is a treasure greater than life
I was happy
To be alive
2. As you may know, Mr Tomihiro Yoshino used to be a physical education teacher. At the age of twenty-four, while coaching a group, he made a mistake performing a demonstration, and as a result, he broke a bone in his neck. He lost his ability to move his limbs. While hospitalized, he began to draw pictures by holding a paint brush in his mouth and he began to add his poems to them. It was also while Mr Yoshino was in the hospital that he had met Christ and was baptized. [The above] is one of the poems that Mr Yoshino wrote.
3. Life -- Life in this passing world. We could say in a certain sense that [life] is a thing in which the days are whittled and worn away, and lost. It is not just the life span I'm talking about. [Our] temporary lives are worn away and lost in different ways. During the span [of life] that Mr Yoshino has had, when he became paralyzed, when he found out in the hospital room that he could not move at all, that must have been an experience in which a huge part of his life was whittled down. Probably worse, I would think that for Mr Yoshino, it was the same as having lost practically the most significant segment of his life.
4. In various ways, like his, life in this passing world is worn away and lost. Some will experience their lives being worn away by illness. Some will experience their lives being worn away by separation from loved ones or a loved one. Some will experience their lives being worn away by frustrations, having lost their dreams. Some will experience their lives being worn away by their own deterioration due to ageing. [Our] lives in this passing world are being worn away. They are being lost. It is impossible for us to hold on to them in perfect shape unchanging.
5. Whenever we think "Life is the greatest treasure," then because that "greatest treasure" is being worn away and taken away from us, then it must be [grounds for] suffering. When we are healthy, when everything is going well, when we don't notice we are being worn away, [life] probably is such that we don't notice the suffering. But, soon the time comes when we notice that "the greatest treasure" has been whittled down and worn away some more and is becoming increasingly smaller. It will come about at a certain moment in time that we will also lose in one blow the biggest part [of our lives]. When we notice it and feel it in our bones, living will become suffering. I think that is reality.
6. Therefore, we could say that it is absolutely imperative for a person to discover "the treasure greater than life." We must know that there is this treasure greater than "life" and this thing that is being lost. "The treasure greater than life" -- Jesus says that there certainly "is" [such a treasure]. He clearly showed it to us by his walk to the cross and upon the cross. By that walk of his whereby his life was whittled and reduced down in a huge way, and then totally robbed from him, no wait, put more accurately, by the walk whereby he gave it all up, he has shown us that [he] has "the treasure greater than life."
The Kingdom Of Heaven Is A Hidden Treasure
7. In today's passage of scripture Jesus taught "the treasure greater than life" by putting it into parables, that of a treasure hidden in a field and that of a precious pearl which a merchant was pursuing. Let's listen to the words of Jesus once more.
8. "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto the following. A treasure is hidden in a field. The person who found it left it hidden, and happily returned home, and then sold off all his property and bought that field," (verse forty-four).
9. "The treasure greater than life." According to the words of Jesus, it is "the kingdom of heaven." Even though he calls it "the kingdom of heaven," that is, "heaven," it is not a message about "the world after death." "Heaven" is another way of saying "God." Thus, in the other gospels it is "the kingdom of God." The reference to "the kingdom" is not about a place. It is about God's rule. Therefore, "the kingdom of heaven" means "the rule of God," "God's reign," "God's control over all."
10. The rule of God is like a treasure hidden in a field. Since it is hidden it is invisible. That's how it is in reality. When one looks normally at the reality in which one's life is being whittled away, or at the reality, in which other people's lives are being whittled away, or at what happens to one's life and what happens to this world, the rule of God [seems] invisible in those places. Instead there are times it gets really hard not to wonder, "If there's a God, why [did this happen]?" So, at times people will say, "It's enough to make the angels weep!"
11. Yet though, some do find treasure in this world the way it is. They get to see what has so far been invisible. They know that God does have it under control. They know that God loves them, that they are completely under God's rule, that God has a plan for them in his reign, and that he will lead them with hands of love. They know this, that he will lead them into the perfect world of salvation by those hands of love, that they will be led into the land of promise just like Israel as once led by Moses.
12. Furthermore, those who have discovered this will begin to want to live with God. They will want to live in God's love. They will get to where they desire and take pleasure in living under the rule of God's love. They will get to where they desire not to live grieving over the fact that life is just whittling away, and not to live jealously that it has been worn down by someone, but that they want to live turning their eyes on "the treasure greater than life." At that moment, a person can surely live like the protagonist in this parable, the man who filled with joy had cheerfully sold his possessions. He got rid of his possessions for cash. But, in his head, he [already seemed to] have the treasure that was hidden in the field. Whenever he thought of the hidden treasure, more important than his possessions, he couldn't help being so happy, so happy he couldn't stand it.
13. With the second parable, the fundamental message is the same. A merchant found a good pearl. It is the story of a man who found a pearl, the kind he would never again stumble upon twice. He may have been traveling all over searching for a good pearl. Since it is a story from olden times, making a trip exactly as one wished was not always [possible]. When we read the tales of Paul's own evangelistic travels, we can clearly see that. Hardships come up. There were also times he was under house arrest, anchored down, for long intervals. Likewise, the travels of the merchant were accompanied by unscheduled things. But that merchant happened across the pearl that made him say this is the one. Every trouble looked like it was meant for him to stumble upon this pearl. Naturally then, he sold all that he had. He held nothing back. He had not a single regret. He felt great joy. When he thought of the pearl, he was so happy he could barely stand it. That's the story.
To Live Mindful Of The Treasure Hidden In The Field
14. This is a practice of the faith life which the scriptures are giving. Please consider it. In fact, the Christians in an age of persecution considered it a blessing to be dispossessed of both possessions and even their lives in literally an unjust manner. Why [did they think that way]? Because they could see the treasure. Because they could see the pearl. Indeed, they not only considered being dispossessed of [possessions and lives] to be a good thing. Much rather, they lived offering them up positively as a sacrifice. They lived offering up their [physical] lives and their human lives. They lived offering up their time, talents, possessions, money, and even literally their "lives" in order to love someone, for someone's salvation. And no matter the sacrifice they paid, they still were not of the mindset that "I am paying a sacrifice like this." Why [did they not feel the sacrifice]? Because they knew the treasure. Because they knew the pearl. For them, no matter the sacrifice, since they were always mindful of this thing called the treasure, the pearl, they were cheerful in selling off their possessions. There were people exactly like that. For exactly that reason then, there's us now. It's because there were people that way that the church is being built in this place here.
15. In this way, [we the church] live mindful of the treasure that is hidden in the field. [We] live with [our] minds on the pearl that [we've] stumbled upon at long last. In this way, [we the church] live with [our] minds on "the treasure greater than life." That's the faith life [we are to] practice. When we've discovered "the treasure greater than life," in a certain sense, we can expend our lives in this passing world without regrets. We can expend them without being afraid. Being in God's plan, being under God's leadership, for God's purposes, we can expend them. The main thing is that we know that the treasure is hidden in the field and that we are to discover the treasure in the field. We are to discover the precious pearl.
16. And Jesus came for that purpose. Speaking in regard to the first parable, it starts out about this man finding a treasure by accident and good luck; however, that's not all that is being said. Don't you think our situations are just a bit different from that? How do you see it if we take the stories of our own worlds into consideration? If we cultivate a field the best we can and then somebody comes and tells us, "Dig right here. A treasure is actually hidden [here]." In a way to me. I think this story sounds like that.
17. Thus, Jesus has pointed to the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God with his own person, and he has shown us the kingdom of God with his own figure. "Even [my] suffering on the cross comes under the rule of God. It is within the plan of God's love. It is not happening outside God's hands and power. And you too are within God's love." He loved this passing world so much that God unsparingly gave his only son for it, and so much that [his son] was crucified as the atoning sacrifice for [the world's] sin. He loves you as well and is leading you to this perfect world of salvation. Jesus taught that "The treasure is certainly there though it is hidden and invisible," but he has made it so that with the eyes of faith you can find it.
18. Finally, a word about the third parable. It is the parable of the net cast into the lake. What might be the reason this story comes next? We can understand it when we consider "At which times the kingdom of heaven seems the most impossible to see." It may be the hour when the power of evil seems to be in control of this world. And it may be the hour when something is unjustly taken away from us, by [some] evil thing in this passing world, or through somebody's evil deed. At those times, it seems hard to see that we are under the reign and the control of God's love, and it is hard to have faith. Why is that, actually? Our minds stop looking to "the treasure greater than life" and our awareness is on just "the evil doer" who took something unjustly from us. Ending up under the control of anger and hatred, we stop [letting ourselves] be used in the areas where we should really be spending our lives in the truest sense worth spending them. In this world where evil does have a real and concrete presence, even though there are things that we must truly do, we stop doing them. Stuff like that happens.
19. Jesus is teaching us, such as we are, that "The kingdom of heaven will not stop being hidden until the end." The time is coming when the kingdom of heaven will be completely revealed. The rule of God will be completely revealed. The righteousness of God will also be completely revealed. Therefore, the scripture is declaring [to us] to "Trust God with the last judgment!" You must not consume your life with anger and jealousy. The treasured and most important thing for us to do is to be ever mindful of the treasure. And while filled with joy over it, we are to offer up [our] lives for what is worth offering them up, and we are to live using up [our] lives for what is worth using [them] for.