What Does Treasure Look Like?
2 Corinthians 4:6-7
Harrison Ford created a swashbuckling hero in the character of Indiana Jones. Jones took on many tasks that seemed impossible, but in true heroic fashion overcame all obstacles and completed each one. I found the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade particularly exciting and meaningful. There are several reasons I like this film (Sean Connery, for one), but the main reason is that at the center of this film is a search for the Holy Grail, the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper. If it exists, it would be of inestimable value—if it exists, of which there is no conclusive proof.
When Ford/Jones finally comes face to face with the cup it is one of many. He has a limited amount of time to choose the right one. If he makes a mistake, disaster will strike.
Which should he choose? There are many beautiful cups, some made of gold, some encrusted with precious stones—all of them attractive to the eye. In the middle of all this finery he sees one plain cup, distinguished from the rest because it is so undistinguished.
Which does he choose? He chooses the plain cup—and it is the correct choice. If I remember the end of the movie correctly, the cup is buried in the mountain as it collapses around him. He escapes (of course!) and saves his father (Sean Connery), but the cup is lost—a fitting end to the story, since the mystery of the Holy Grail is allowed to continue. It wouldn’t do to have it found in a movie when it hasn’t been found in reality.
Matthew relates a parable Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven. A merchant is looking for pearls to buy. He finds one absolutely perfect pearl, and knows he won’t be satisfied with anything less. He sells everything he possesses in order to purchase the pearl of great value. Jesus tells this parable to indicate the worth of God’s kingdom. To those who value the kingdom it is worth more than the total of everything else they have or might acquire. We must be ready to give up everything to gain the kingdom.
But I think this parable has other applications as well. What if that pearl had been covered in dirt and grease when the merchant saw it? Would he have been able to look past the grime to see its perfection?
One time, when my wife and I were house hunting, we looked at a house where every flat surface held knickknacks, and every closet was stuffed with clothing. At first glance the house was totally unattractive. When we went home, we were able to mentally remove all the clutter and see the house for its potential. We purchased the house, decorated it our way, and were quite happy in it.
In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul reminds them that things are not always what they seem on the surface. “For God,” Paul says, “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” What a beautiful thought! God’s light fills us and shines through us. But Paul doesn’t stop there. In the next verse he says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
What jars of clay will you meet today? What grimy pearls? Remember, the treasure isn’t always in the beautiful chalice. Sometimes we’ll meet angels with dirty faces. Sometimes the treasure is in undistinguished containers.
Don’t miss them.