What Joy Is

The kingdom of heaven is like a 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


I remember my grandfather owning a metal detector. As a kid, I'd go out in the yard with him and walk slowly, waving the detector back and forth with each step as if I was vacuuming the grass. I never found anything, but who's going to find any treasures in the back yard of a suburban neighborhood? They found all the good stuff when they developed the land, I’m sure.

But I kept at it, not because I thought I'd find a pot of treasure just beneath the oak tree out back, but because the mere thought of the possibility was worth the time and effort. The anticipation kept me going.

From time to time we'd take that old thing out to the country where my grandfather grew up. I think his goal was to find some old Indian artifacts - arrowheads, maybe, or some old Civil War musket balls. But I never saw him find anything out there either. Even if he had, he would have hardly moved out of his house and bought the field where he found an arrowhead. It's just not worth that much.

No one sells everything they have unless they’ve found something better than everything they have. And even then we weigh the cost heavily. Sometimes the life we know, as dull and joyless as it may be, is better than the life we don't know, with all the risks involved, even if that new life gives hope of greater joy. As much as we are joy-seekers, we are also risk-avoiders, deeply held by the life we've come to accept.

Jesus's parable in Matthew 13:44 is one of his shortest, but its length is not a measure of its insight.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. We know this is true, don't we -that the treasure is hidden? Because all of us have been searching for the joy that never fades since we were able to breathe. Babies cry out when they need the smallest amount of comfort. Then we grow up and buy things, or cling to people, or attach ourselves to substances to give us the high our everyday lives can't provide. Joy is hidden. It's hard to find.

But when this man finds it he knows what he's found. He goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.

He's crazy. Unless he's right.

The parable is about the gospel. It's about Jesus. If Jesus is who he says he is, and the gospel is the news of his coming, and dying, and rising, and living, then that treasure is worth more than the entire world. It's worthy of another world - the true world, hidden from view, but as real as the chair you're sitting on.

If Jesus has conquered sin, Satan, and death, and he's offering freedom to come to God through his finished work, we would be crazy to shrug our shoulders and walk away to find another arrowhead in the soil. We should react the way this man does. Jesus is worth everything.

Christians know this. It's one of the amazing things about the Bible: verses like this become reality for the reader. We understand this. Jesus has become our treasure, and we're not giving him up. Or, more appropriately, he's not giving us up.

The real joy of this parable is not that we find Jesus in a field and leave all to follow him, but that he came down to the field and found us, and somehow, considered us joy worthy of having. He entered our world, and lived our life, and died our death, and rose for our justification. He found us, laying in the field, in our own blood, and rose up, followed the Father to the cross, and gave himself up.

Jesus sold all he had and bought the field. Aren't you glad you live in it?


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