This parable begins with these words, "The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field..." (Matthew 13:44, ESV) It seems a man has found a treasure of some sort. He reburies the treasure, and very happily goes home and sells everything he has in order to acquire enough money to purchase the field that the treasure is buried in.
First, this is often a fantasy or daydream of many children and some adults. At some point or another, almost all us have "dreamed" about discovering some great treasure of some kind. Many a boy has dreamed of finding some of Blackbeard's buried gold or finding lost gold mines like the Lost Dutchman's Gold mine.
We have seen some tremendous discoveries even in modern times. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a shepherd boy who to pass the time was throwing rocks in a cave. A diver off of the Florida coast discovered a sunken17th century Spanish treasure vessel full of silver and gold. One day a farmer plowing his field in Suffolk, England found found a container full of valuable silver dishes that were from the times of the Roman Empire.
Second, this parable of Jesus was not an unrealistic dream, it was an event that happened regularly. Palestine was a land of wars. At any time a man's field or property could be turned in to a battle-ground. His house was subjected to be looted by soldiers or thieves at any time. Hiding one's valuables and money in the house was a foolish thing to do. So, most during the time of Christ would hide their valuables buried deep in their fields. Even the Rabbis had a saying, "There is only one safe repository for money - the earth."
Of course a major problem with this practice was that at times a man would disappear, be killed, die, or otherwise be deprived of access to his field and the secret site would die or disappear with him. At the time of Christ there were many stories of treasures being found.
Now, we have someone who has found such a treasure. The text doesn't not say he was looking for it or simply in dumb luck stumbled across it. The meaning of the verb can mean either finding by searching or finding by merely discovering it. It doesn't matter. A man, possibly a man who has rented this property, possibly a hired man hired to plow and prepare the property for planting, or maybe someone just digging around, found a buried treasure.
We are not told what the treasure was, just a treasure which excited the man. He was dumbfounded. He had never seen a treasure like this in his life. How do we know this? Look at the phrase, "...then in his joy..."
Quickly he formed a plan in his mind. He reburied the treasure and determined he could have treasure if he owned the field. He decided to return to his home and sell everything that he owned to obtain enough money to be able to persuade the land owner to sell him the treasure. His wife must have thought he went berserk, his neighbors must have thought he had lost his mind. At least the neighbors and strangers did not know what he was doing.
"...he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." He did it! He kept the secret, he sold his goods, he acquired enough money and he bought the field. The field was his, including everything in it. The treasure was his.
What did Jesus intend to teach with this parable and what did the disciples understand Jesus to say by this parable? First, this man did not take a risk by selling all he had. He knew what he would acquire by selling all that he owned. Second, this man did not make any kind of a sacrifice in order to buy this field. He simply sold all that he already had to raise the purchase price. This is important, there is a difference between a sacrifice price and a purchase price. The purchase price was determined and the property was acquired by giving the set price. This man paid the full amount of the set price.
The treasure in the field is the gospel, or good news of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is the long promised mediatorial kingdom promised to Abraham and his descendants. This man has discovered the good news of the kingdom of God and he is filled with great joy. So he is brought to understand the "purchase price" of this good news is the exchange of all that he is for all that Christ is. He understands that he must, "...deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will loose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself." (Luke 9:23-25, ESV) This man understands what the rich young ruler never understood. To have the kingdom of heaven and all its benefits one must be willing to exchange all that one is for all that the kingdom of heaven offers. Salvation or redemption is not an addition to one's life. We do not merely add Christ or the gospel to our lives, we must exchange our life, be willing to lose our life, or give our life in exchange for Christ and the gospel by faith.
In order for the Jews to enter the kingdom of heaven they must be willing to exchange their life for the life of the King. They must realize that the Kingdom of Heaven is not in Jewish lineage, circumcision, ceremonies and etc. Redemption and the Kingdom of Heaven is found in the King, in Christ. Just as Paul counted all things as "dung" in order to "know" the King, so must the Jews.
Lest anyone becomes confused, salvation is a free gift to the sinner. Salvation cannot be earned nor purchased. No more can you purchase or earn salvation than the rich young ruler who failed to obtain it because he was unwilling to sell all his goods. What is meant is that Jesus demands the believer's whole heart. Just as the hymn writer wrote, one must be will to also:
All to Jesus I surrender
all to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to Thee my blessed Savior;
I surrender all.