The Parables of Jesus - Lesson 12
Parables of the Hidden Treasure
and Valuable Pearl (Matthew 13:44—46)
Objectives: By the end of this lesson the learner will be able to:
- Describe important background information that will improve the readers' understanding of the parables of the Hidden Treasure and Pearl of Great Price.
- List the major lessons conveyed by both parables.
- Make applications of the major lessons to contemporary situations. O/H 1
Teaching Aids and Materials:
- Easy to understand Bibles for every student (CEV, RSV, NAV, NIV, NRSV, etc.)
- A chalkboard, marker board, or overhead projector.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Introduction: (about 8-10 minutes)
- Begin class by welcoming members and any visitors; make all necessary class announcements; songs.
- Lead the class in a prayer that will include asking God to lead us into the joy of discovering his kingdom.
- Q: Who would like to share?
- Q: What does the phrase "totally committed" mean? Can you give some examples of people or groups of people that we would say were "totally committed"? (Allow about 3 learners to respond)
- Share with the learners the lesson objectives. O/H 1
- Have someone first read Matthew 13:44. Matthew 13:45-46 the parable of the valuable pearl, will be read later.
Learning Experiences: (about 20-25 minutes)
Part I: Background information for the parable of the Hidden Treasure
This parable (more precisely a similitude) is found only in Matthew. Explain to the learners that in an earlier parable (The Talents), it was mentioned that in the first century burying valuables or money in the ground was a common practice. In fact, one of the scrolls from the Dead Sea (Copper Scroll ? 3Q15) actually contains a list of valuables that were buried by the members of the community. Q: What was the man doing in the field in the first place? A: Some commentators assume that the man must have been a day laborer and was in the field plowing it. For others, this is an unlikely scenario since a day laborer would normally not have the means to buy the field. These commentators suggest that the man was simply walking through the field when he happened to observe something in the ground that had not been noticed before. Q: Whether he was traveling through the field or was working it, did he act ethically? A: It seems that he did not. Upon discovering it, he should have notified the owner of the field. But the man's morality is not an issue for the story. Jesus' focus is completely on the extent to which the man will go to in order to obtain what is truly valuable. His questionable actions are part of Jesus' style to tell stories with exaggerated figures and provocative acting characters. Now have someone read Matthew 13:45-46. This parable is also only found in the Gospel of Matthew. Explain to the learners that the Greek word that is translated "merchant" in most Bibles points to a wholesale dealer, one that goes from city to city, rather than a retail dealer that operates a shop in the market place. Pearls were considered one of the most precious goods during this period. Some individuals even valued them higher than gold. They mainly originated from the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. Q: How is the merchant's discovery different from the discovery of the hidden treasure? A:
1. In the first parable the man accidentally finds a treasure while in this parable the merchant is at least looking for fine pearls.
2. There is also no specific reference to the merchant experiencing joy, though his actions suggest he might have.
3. Another difference is that the merchant bought something that was equivalent to all that he owned, in the hopes that when he sells it he will make enough of a profit to make up his loss. The man buys a field that is worth equivalent to all that he owns. But he does so knowing that the treasure in the field will increase his wealth. The response of the merchant to such a valuable pearl is overwhelming. He went and sold all his possessions (and by this Matthew does not mean just his stock of pearls).
Part I: Lessons from both parables
Q: Who is Jesus addressing in both parables according to Matthew? A: It is addressed to the disciples (13:36), people who have already discovered the kingdom. Q: What are the main symbols? A: The main symbols are one man who discovers a hidden treasure and another who discovers a valuable pearl. The actual treasure and pearl are merely incidental. You may want to remind the learners of a point that was made in a previous lesson. The introductory formula "The kingdom of heaven is like" is not always setting up direct comparisons between God's kingdom and some earth object but rather the entire experience that is described. Jesus' point is not that the kingdom of God is like a hidden treasure or that it is like a valuable pearl. His point is that discovery of the kingdom is similar to a person's discovery of something valuable (no matter what it is). The parable doesn't directly point us to a truth about how God behaves within his kingdom but how a person who values the kingdom does. Q: What main lesson do both parables convey? A: Commentators have offered several suggestions:
- Since both men sell all that they have to obtain what is valuable, Jesus is calling for a commitment that will risk losing everything without hesitation.
- We should experience joy when we discover the salvation God offers.
- For the parable of the hidden treasure - one can only gain the kingdom of God as a gift, not intentionally and with strategy. For the parable of the valuable pearl - one discovers it unexpectedly (since all the man was looking for was fine pearls, not just a single extraordinary one). O/H 2
The most likely answer is the one that connects the two parables to what is explicitly stated in both. We should be willing to sacrifice anything to gain the kingdom of God. Depending upon your time you may want to lead the learners into a discussion at this time around the question, "What, if any, difference is there between happiness and joy?" (Allow 2-3 learners to respond.). It should be brought out that happiness is a feeling of euphoria which is often sought while biblical joy is experienced even during moments of suffering and hardship (Heb. 12:2; Jam. 1:2).
Part II: Contemporary applications of the main lesson
Q: In what areas of our lives is the struggle for total commitment to God's kingdom most evident? (Allow 2-3 learners to respond.) A: A variety of answers could be given. Here are some: courage to stand up for our beliefs in front of hostile people; the use of money; the need to stay humble.
Application: (about 5-10 minutes)
Q: Distribute to the class handout 1 "Who Knows What its Worth?". Ask them to examine the three scenarios and then identify which individual is most like the two characters in these parables and why. A: The situation described in scenario 3 is most like the characters in the parables because he is willing to sacrifice peace with his father. The college student is not willing to sacrifice her college experience and the man once in real estate is driven by public affection rather than the value of God's reign in his life.
Assignment: (about 2 minutes)
Ask the learners to identify 2-4 areas in their lives in which they struggle with a lack of commitment to the kingdom.
Review the lesson objectives. Let them know the title of next weeks lesson: The Ten Bridesmaids
- Describe important background information that will improve the readers' understanding of this parable.
- Identify the major lessons conveyed allegorically by the main characters.
- Make applications of the major lessons to contemporary situations.
Suggested main lessons
Since both men sell all that they have to obtain what is valuable, Jesus is calling for a commitment that will risk losing everything without hesitation. We should experience joy when we discover the salvation God offers. For the parable of the hidden treasure - one can only gain the kingdom of God as a gift, not intentionally and with strategy. For the parable of the valuable pearl - one discovers it unexpectedly (since all the man was looking for was fine pearls, not just a single extraordinary one).
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