Title: Parables Bible Study 4: The Treasure, the Pearl, and the Dragnet
Subject: The Kingdom of Heaven
Age: 13+ years
Location: Matthew 13: 44-50
Handout for note taking: Bible Study Worksheet
Begin the bible study with a prayer. Read the passages, and then allow time for quiet reflection. Share the following notes on the parable.
Within the Chapter 13 of Matthew is a collection of short parables spoken in private to the disciples. In verse 34 we learn that the public discourse of Jesus on the Kingdom involved the use of parables. This continued in His private discourse with His disciples. Yet, the dialogue with His disciples was unique, "It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven but to them it is not given." Matthew 13:11.
A curious idea is that the first parable of the Sower is explained to the crowds but the second of the wheat and tares is not. These parables follow the public and well-known parables of the Sower and the Wheat and the Tares. Now in private, Jesus gives to the Disciples three more short parables: the Treasure, verse 44; the Pearl, verses 45-46; and the Dragnet, verses 47-50.
These parables get no explanation; after they have been given, the Lord asks if they understand and they respond that they do, v. 51.
Why are these parables delivered in private? At this point the Lord is being selective. The reality of the Kingdom and the hard facts and reality it calls one into, can only be handled by a few. Thus we could say that the Lord entrusts certain things only to those worthy and capable, bearing, or to use a scriptural reference point, He now will preach only to those capable of hearing His words and the truth that stands behind them.
The Parable of the Treasure
Like the parable that will follow, this parable stresses what will be required of a person who wishes to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
"They tell us that no mere passive acceptance or appreciation of the truth will be sufficient for salvation. Hard work and sacrifice will be necessary, and true followers of Christ must rid themselves of any preoccupation that could encumber their efforts to follow Him.*"
The parable tells us how we may come about finding the Kingdom and how we may enter it. On finding the Kingdom without searching: The man in the parable is not searching for the Kingdom. Yet when he encounters it, he recognizes the gift he has received. Why is he capable of recognizing the treasure he has found, the Truth? Here we must wonder a bit at the reality of why some come across the Gospel and accept it while others do not. Perhaps, this man was prepared in some way. The parable of the Sower comes to mind, for only the seed that falls on the good soil sprouts forth. So the question is what prepares a soul? Answers include purity, honesty, and sincerity. Can you think of others?
On entering the Kingdom: We may enter the Kingdom of Heaven by giving up everything to acquire it and by earnest effort. The man in the parable suffers no loss. Joyfully he gives up everything. Past attachments are now seen in a new light, and life gains meaning and purpose.
There are three ideas offered behind hiding the pearl until the field is purchased. The first is that dispossession precedes possession. The second is that the new reality of the Kingdom must be hidden until one can rid themselves of their past cares and concerns, and until a new way of life is fostered and developed. Finally, a life that lives in accord with the Gospel is the best witness and defense against the demons. A warning exists against the sharing of something out of pride, or the living of a certain life that earns us human praise. St. Gregory the Great said, "In all this, we should note that the treasure, once found, is hidden in order to preserve it; because desire of celestial happiness is not a sufficient shield against the evil spirits for him who does not hide it from human flattery." (On the Gospel of St. Matthew, Homily 11)
The Pearl of Great Price
In this parable, the merchant men are those that know that their understanding and philosophies fall short (of God, self, and world). Because of that knowledge, they earnestly seek the truth. Their reaction to discovering the pearl is the same as the one who found the treasure in the field. The lesson of the pearl and the treasure is that the cost of entering into the Kingdom and of possessing it is absolute, the person(s) in each case give up everything.
The Parable of the Dragnet
Preaching the Church's mission is the same as our Savior's: to draw all into the Kingdom. Matthew 4:19, "Then He said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.'" Christ offers forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.
Unlike the tares, the bad are members of the Church, according to St. John Chrysostom. They are bad because being in the Church they are negligent and fall short. They have not earnestly attempted to live as citizens of the Kingdom (On Matthew, Homily 47). However, the good are righteous: "At this point, after this last short parable and its partial explanation, the Lord asks the disciples whether they have understood these things: that separation and punishment are the consequence of either rejection of Christ and His way or of the unconverted life. They answer that they have."
At this time, read the passages once more and allow time for quiet reflection. If there is time, you may have a discussion about these parables.
End the bible study with a prayer.
*The notes for this lecture are based on the section of Archbishop Dimitry's book "The Parables" that covers these three parables.
**The Parables, Archbishop Dimitry, pp. 27-28.
Ibid, p. 31.
Prepared by Fr. Evan Armatas