In a careful study of the Gospels, we find about fifty parabolic saying, similitudes, and stories.
Some of the most well-known parables are the stories that Jesus told. The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). These are memorable stories, each with a powerful application.
Jesus also used similitudes, word-pictures comparing one thing with another. For example, “He presented another parable to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it’s taller than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches’ ” (Matthew 13:31–32). Jesus and His band of disciples were a meager few, but like Abraham’s offspring, the church has grown to number like the sands on the seashore and the stars in the sky.
And Jesus used sayings, often dripping with hyperbole. “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye”(Matthew 7:3–5). Can you see the ridiculous image of someone with a log in his eye attempting to extract a tiny speck from a friend’s eye? That’s hyperbole.
Each of Jesus’ parables, whether story, similitude, or saying, conveyed important images and implications, usually with a particular and singular message.
Today, let’s consider one of my favorite parables, a short similitude.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).
While strolling down a pathway, a traveler discovers a buried treasure. Maybe he spies the partially exposed corner of the burlap bag containing gold coins, or maybe he catches his toe on the edge of a buried chest containing jewels. Regardless, the lucky fellow found a treasure. What does he do? He joyfully gives up everything to purchase the field and own the treasure!
There are two possible interpretations. First, and most obvious, this parable pictures an individual who is confronted with the Gospel message. Like Saul on the road to Damascus, he sees the Light! Hallelujah! He repents, turns from death to life, from sin and shame to salvation and sanctification. He gives up the old to miraculously be made new.
But I like another possible interpretation. I’m not the traveler who finds a treasure. God is. Having found me, and you, he “sells everything he has and buys that field.” Our Great and Gracious Heavenly Father, joyfully gave up His One and Only Beloved Son, to purchase something He treasures. Me and you! “God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).