The Saddle Ridge Hoard
In 2013 on a February morning John and Mary took their dog for a walk on their Northern California acreage. They had walked the path many times before but this was the first time Mary noticed a bit of rusty metal rising up out of the soil. John bent down to investigate and eventually dug an old can out of the ground. They took the can with them, figuring that the heavy container was filled with lead paint. On the way to the house the lid cracked open and the couple saw the gleam of a gold coin. They stashed the can in their house and went back to dig around, finding another can about a foot away from the first. It too held gold coins. After several trips of searching and digging and eventually the aid of a metal detector May and John found 6 more cans. The eight they found contained a total of 1,427 coins. They hid the coins in an ice chest and buried it under a pile of wood and began to do some research. They contacted a firm specializing in old currency, which in turn enlisted the 2nd opinion of a professional coin grading service. The two firms agreed in a valuation of the collection, the coins which had a face value of $27,980 in near mint condition in 2013 were worth roughly $10 million dollars. One coin alone, an 1866 double eagle, no motto was valued at $1 million dollars.
Can you imagine the fun?
When I was young my Dad brought home a metal detector. He hid some pennies around the backyard and sent us out on a treasure hunt. Our imaginations ran wild for weeks as we roamed the neighborhood, searching for a treasure we knew was out there somewhere. The closest thing I found was a cheap chain necklace with a catholic saint on it. I was sure it was hundreds of years old, left behind by Spanish conquistadors and worth millions.
It was exhilarating.
But can you imagine actually stumbling onto a treasure like this? The initial curiosity of seeing the exposed metal. The thrill of the first gleam of gold. The realization that there’s probably more out there. The frantic search, the dirty fingernails and the urge to hide and protect the find. That would be something wouldn’t it?
Let’s turn to Matthew Chapter 13. I want to pray before we start this morning:
Let’s pray and as we do I want to remind us all of what Jesus taught us last week. We must be careful how we hear. “he or she, who has an ear, let them hear.”
Father we thank you for the truly extraordinary privilege this morning of listening to the Words of Christ. Help us listen this morning. Help us be all here in this moment. Let your words find good soil this morning. Amen.
“The kingdom of heaven is like 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.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
The Jewish historian Josephus, writing after the destruction of his homeland in 70AD, described the joy of the occupying Roman forces who found a great deal of treasure buried throughout the properties of the exiled citizens of Jerusalem.
At that time there were no banks or high security storage facilities. Wealth had to be stored privately and burial was a common solution. From time to time a lucky soul would stumble upon such buried wealth, left behind by a departed owner. Every region had its John and Mary. Everyone heard the stories. Just like us, those who heard felt a sense of the thrill of discovery.
That, Jesus says is what the kingdom of God is like.
You want to know what it’s like to experience the breaking of God’s heaven into our earth? It’s like this.
A man walking across a field, sees the edge of a container sticking out of the ground, digs around and sees the gleam of precious metals. Overwhelmed with joy he hides the treasure, happily sells every last thing he owns and returns to claim his prize.
That’s what it’s like.
It’s an unexpected encounter. It’s the adrenaline thrill of recognition, it’s the surge of desire, the urgent determination of attainment, it’s the inexpressible joy of possession. And a total reorientation of perspective.
What’s it like to participate in the kingdom Jesus came out of eternity to usher into our space and time?
It’s like this.
It’s like a man who was a dealer in pearls, the diamond of the ancient world. The precious gem the ancient historian Pliny referred to as the “topmost rank of all things of price.” So valuable that the emperor Vitellius financed an entire military campaign through the sale of just one of his mother’s pearl earrings. The kingdom is like a man in the very lucrative business of finding, bartering, attaining, storing and selling that topmost gem, the pearl. One ordinary day of work he found something extraordinary – a pearl so exceedingly beautiful, that just the sight of it caused a great shuffling and reorienting of his whole outlook on life. He lost all thought of potential buyers, of resale value. He lost sight of everything but that pearl. He frantically returned home to sell his possessions, the language seems to imply liquidating his stock. Emptying the storehouse.
Once every last bit was gone he returned to purchase the gem, the wealthiest man in the world. The merchant returned home flush with the triumph of the ultimate purchase. But what exactly was the merchant now?
It’s an interesting story isn’t it? What would you do once you had the pearl? He didn’t exactly buy it to use as capital, did he? What is a merchant to do with no merchandise? And no disposable currency to buy merchandise?
It seems a little like madness doesn’t it? Where’s the line between wisdom and folly?
What did his wife think while he was selling her jewels? What did the kids think as they saw him emptying the shelves of the family business?
Can you imagine if the merchant of exquisite gems, hiring himself out as a day laborer, maybe working a field on a hot day. He arches his back and wipes the sweat from his brow and for a brief moment wonders, “What have I done?” and then he smiles as he pulls a pouch from his pocket and slides out the most glorious thing he has ever seen.
That’s what the kingdom of God is like.
One man not searching for anything just happens to stumble on a treasure kids with metal detectors spend summer months daydreaming about.
Another man who makes a living searching happens upon the one thing he was searching for all along without realizing it.
The kingdom of God is like that. A treasure finding, life reorienting, new chapter starting thing.
The small group of men and women in the crowd who had suddenly and unexpectedly left everything to follow Him after experiencing Jesus may have understood what he was talking about. They might have known something of stumbling upon a treasure.
The parables are short. There’s no interpretation, no application. Just enough words to send a jolt of desire. Just enough to create a vicarious experience of surprise and urgency and joy.
That’s the kingdom, Jesus says.
Maybe some of us this morning have forgotten what the kingdom is like.
Some would think we haven’t quite got to the point yet.
When you listen to the other parables Jesus is telling in this chapter, you see that the man or the woman who starts each of the stories is God. The man who sows the seed on the four types of soil, the man who sows a field in which an enemy also comes along to sow, the woman who hides a little leaven which multiplies throughout the flour, the man who casts a net into the sea to gather the fish. It’s always God.
As those who followed Jesus learned to look back to the Old Testament and find whole new layers of meaning, they may have seen the connection between these parables and passages like Deuteronomy 7:6
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
They might have thought of Psalm 135:4
For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.
After watching Jesus the parable teller go on to give away everything and pay the ultimate price on the cross; wasn’t that little band of disciples permanently marked by the knowledge of what it was that Jesus paid the price to attain?
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
I wonder if when Peter taught new followers of Jesus that they were
a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession . . .
1 Peter 2:9
Did he and did Paul think of God like the men in the parables – did they think of Him with the surge of desire, the urgent determination of attainment, the inexpressible joy of possession?
Maybe you’re the treasure. Maybe you’re the thing that brings out desire and urgency and determination and joy. Maybe Jesus was the one with the thrill of discovery as he looked out into the crowds, knowing the individual lives behind each face and calculating the price he was going to pay to win his treasure.
Maybe you’re that treasure.
Maybe it’s Jesus.
Maybe it’s both.
Together every Sunday we remember the truth. We remember what really matters. We sit together and we take a breath and relax, we let go of the angst and the strain of the desires for earthly things that are always rubbing off on us as we move in this world. We let go of the restless poverty of soul that comes in a materialistic age. We remember this morning that there is a great treasure which outshines every glint and glimmer in this world. We remember the price you paid to obtain what to you is the greatest treasure.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown