Matthew 13 - IVP New Testament Commentaries
The Kingdom Costs True Disciples Everything
True, the kingdom is available to us only by grace through faith; but genuine faith means genuinely embracing and yielding to God's reign, not simply acknowledging it and then passing it by as if it did not exist. The kingdom is a treasure, and those who really believe it will sacrifice everything else in their lives for its agendas (compare Ladd 1974b:99; Fenton 1977:227; Gundry 1982:276). Professed Christians who desire worldly wealth and status but are far less consumed with the furtherance of God's kingdom must reconsider the true state of their souls. When we preach that people who simply pray a prayer will automatically be saved from hell regardless of whether they truly commit their lives to Christ in trust that he is saving them from sin (from selfishness, from going their way instead of his), we preach a message other than the one our Lord has taught us.
Treasure Hidden in a Field (13:44)
People in Palestine often hid treasures, and a treasure might remain concealed if the hider died before he could retrieve it. Probably the central character of this parable is a peasant working a wealthy landowner's field who when plowing turns up a strongbox or jar containing coins. Once he buys the field, the field's contents legally belongs to him (compare m. Baba Batra 4:8-9), freeing him to later "rediscover" the treasure. Whereas most discovered-treasure stories emphasized the finder's extravagant lifestyle afterward or some compromise between the field's seller and buyer (Gen. Rab. 33:1; Jeremias 1972:200), Jesus lays the entire emphasis on the price the man is ready to pay to invest in this treasure far greater than any he already owns. Although this treasure, like the kingdom, is hidden to most of the world, not only does the man recognize that its value outweighs all he has, but (unlike most of us today) he acts accordingly.
A Prosperous Merchant Seeks Pearls (13:44-45)
In contrast to the tenant worker, the central figure of this story is a merchant, a man with capital, hence of greater means. Ancient reports tell of pearls worth tens of millions of dollars in modern currency (Jeremias 1972:199). This merchant, uniquely sensitive to the value of the pearl, wisely invests all he has to purchase it. Other Jewish accounts of finding expensive pearls typically emphasized the finder's piety; thus a Jewish tailor pays an outrageous price for a fish because he needs it to keep the sabbath, yet finds in it a pearl that supplies his needs the rest of his life (Pes. Rab. 23:6). Jesus, however, emphasizes only the value of the pearl and the joy of finding it (Jeremias 1972:199).