June 25, 2010

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Jesus parables: Buried treasure, pearls and nets

John F. Fink(Fourth in a series of columns)

After Jesus told parables about the sowing of seeds that I wrote about the past two weeks, the Gospel of Matthew includes three other parables (Mt 13:44-49). They are parables found only in Matthew’s Gospel: the buried treasure, the pearl of great price, and the net thrown into the sea.

The first two make the same point. The person who finds a buried treasure and the merchant hunting for fine pearls sell all that they have to possess these finds. That’s what the kingdom of God is like, Jesus says. The supreme value of the kingdom is so important that we must give up everything else to obtain it.

When Jesus lived on Earth in a peasant society, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to bury valuables in the ground in order to guard them rather than to trust them to a bank. In the parable, the person who finds the treasure doesn’t just take the treasure; he sells all he has and buys the field in order to own the treasure legally.

Similarly, when Jesus lived on earth, pearls were considered extremely valuable. The merchant considered the perfect pearl he found to be worth selling all he had in order to own it.

That’s what we should be doing when it comes to the kingdom of God, Jesus says. It’s the greatest treasure we could possible possess—eternal life with God. We should, therefore, not only be willing but anxious to do everything necessary to possess it. That might mean reforming our lifestyle, changing the way we use our free time, or spending more time in prayer—whatever it takes.

The third parable told the story about the fishermen who threw a net into the sea and caught fish of every kind. Then they sat down along the shore and put the good fish into buckets and threw away whatever they didn’t want.

Once again, Jesus began with something his hearers were familiar with. The most common method of fishing in Jesus’ time was the drag-net or trawl that fishermen cast into the water from a boat. As the boat moved through the water, the nets caught whatever was in the water. Once the net was taken to shore, the good fish had to be separated from the other stuff, which would be thrown away or burned.

This, Jesus said, is what will happen at the end of the world when the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous and throw the wicked into a fiery furnace.

This parable, obviously, makes the same point as the parable about the weeds that were mixed in with wheat that I wrote about last week. Just as the net did, the Church takes in everyone who will come, the sinners as well as the saints. God’s kingdom is open to all. But when the day of judgment comes at the end of time, the angels will separate the good from the bad and God will reward the good with eternal happiness. †

Local site Links: