One of Jesus’s most powerful parables is also one of his shortest:
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).
Fifteen minutes before this man’s discovery in the field, the thought of selling all that he owned to buy it wouldn’t have crossed his mind. Even if it had, it would have seemed ludicrous. But fifteen minutes after finding the treasure, he was off to do it with joy. What made the difference?
This man suddenly found something that transformed his whole outlook on life. The treasure restructured his values and priorities. It altered his goals. The treasure revolutionized the man.
The treasure in this parable is the resurrection to eternal life. It was the same “treasure in heaven” that Jesus promised the rich young man if he would sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Jesus (Matthew 19:21). The rich young man, blinded by short-term worldly wealth, could not see the treasure, but the man in the parable did, and he jumped at it.
Now, there was a cost to obtaining the treasure. Viewed one way, the cost seemed high — it cost him everything he owned. But viewed another way, the cost was very small. Standing in the field, the man did a quick cost-benefit analysis. It didn’t take him long to realize that selling all his possessions was going to make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. He would have been a fool not to do whatever was necessary to buy that field.
The Treasure of Treasures
Now, when the man bought the field and obtained the treasure of eternal life, what specifically did he get? This is an important question, because the Bible makes eternal life a central focus for the Christian, yet provides few descriptions about what it will be like. When the Bible does describe eternal life, it often uses similes, metaphors, and symbols. Why?
One reason is that we simply are not yet equipped to comprehend the reality we will experience in the new age, for “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Through figurative language, God helps us transpose the glories we now see and understand into glimpses of future greater glories.
But I believe there is a more important reason God doesn’t give us more details: Eternal life is more about a Person than a place. What will make the kingdom of heaven so heavenly to us will not be the glorious phenomena of the new creation or the rich rewards we will receive, as inexpressibly wonderful as they will be. The heaven of the age to come, the Treasure of treasures, will be God himself — knowing and being with the One from whom all blessings flow.
Jesus himself said, “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). And Paul expressed his deepest longings like this: “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:8, 10). What we will enjoy most about the resurrection is having the dim mirror of this age removed and finally seeing Jesus face to face, finally knowing the triune God fully as we have been fully known by him (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Remember Why You Sold Everything
The resurrection from the dead is the single greatest hope of the Christian. It is the only prize that ultimately matters, and we make it our one great life goal to obtain it (Philippians 3:14). It is the culmination of the gospel (1 Peter 3:18). The whole reason Jesus came into the world was to give us eternal life (John 3:16). He died for us, that we might live with him (1 Thessalonians 5:10). Jesus did not come to give us our best life now. He came to “deliver us from the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4) and bring us safely into his heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).
Jesus is longing for this day with all his heart. He expressed this yearning to his Father when he prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
Jesus’s great longing is that you will be with him. And when you are finally with him, “he will wipe away every tear from [your] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Never again will you know any kind of separation from him (Romans 8:39), for you will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
That is the treasure you have discovered in the field of this fallen world. Jesus has paid for it all, and it costs you everything you own in this age to have it. Yet it is such a small payment for such an everlasting, never-ending treasure that only a fool would pass it up.
The treasure makes all the difference.
More on treasuring Jesus:
Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (book by John Piper)
Seeing and Savoring the Supremacy of Jesus Christ Above All Things (message by John Piper)
The Kingdom of Heaven Is a Treasure (sermon by John Piper)