This text shines its light on two critical truths of the gospel: suffering for and with Christ, and Christ as our most priceless treasure.
First, in the larger context of suffering, which begins at 10:18, the Lord Jesus invokes the examples of teacher and disciple and master and servant (10:24-25). Both disciple and servant were representatives of their teacher and master, respectively, and that had wider implications: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” The disciples of the teacher and servants of the master would inevitably bear, not only the substance of their leader, but, as members of the “household,” they would also bear the reproach.
The Lord Jesus follows with a command: “So have no fear of them” (v. 28), a command he issues twice more ( vv. 28 and 31). And he draws out the reason they should have no fear of those who reproach their teacher and his disciples and their master and his servants: they can only kill the body but not the soul (v. 28).
Second, the Lord Jesus teaches the magnificent lesson on the priceless treasure that we have in Christ. This lesson is broken down into two main points: Christ as our priceless treasure (vv. 35-39) and how God considers our worth as members of the kingdom of Christ (vv. 29-33).
Matthew’s anachronistic style of writing is to introduce major ideas of Christ’s teaching by implication before laying them out in the “light’ later in the Gospel. He may hint at this in verse 27: “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” For example, Jesus’s future suffering underlies this text, a fact that Matthew first shines the “light” on in 16:21. Furthermore, we are borrowing explicit terms for Christ’s priceless worth from the later teachings, the “treasure hidden in the field” and the pearl merchant who found “one pearl of great value” (KJV, “pearl of great price”) and sold all he had to buy it (Matt. 13:44-46). Strangely, but at the same time quite wonderfully, the Lord Jesus draws upon the tender tones of family relationships to build the lesson of the priceless treasure (vv. 34-39). While he certainly does not demean those precious connections of the human family, he lays them out so we can see how the boundaries of human families cannot become the limitations of our love for Christ: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, . . .” (v. 36).
The sub-lesson that Jesus attaches to this “priceless treasure” teaching is our supreme worth as Christ’s followers, that is, our worth in the Kingdom of Christ 9 (vv. 29-32), and it is phenomenal. Sparrows may be among the lowest valued objects of our world, but “not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (v. 29). If that fact does not grip us, then what about the fine detail that “the hairs of your head are all numbered” (v. 30). I love the way the Heidelberg Catechism makes this point: “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven” (Q&A 1). If we suffer from the pangs of low self-esteem, this can certainly boost it higher on the scale. We must remember that God does not value the things of this world by the same standards we use.
The Levitical writer of Psalm 73 reflected on the fact that he was sometimes envious of evil doers who got along so well in the world, at least it seemed, while he, by God’s appointment, had no landed property because the Lord was his heritage. All the psalmist needed, and all he desired, had “become one and the same.”  And he concluded on a note very much like the plateau that Christ decreed for his disciples: “Whom have I in heaven but you, and there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” That is the psalmist’s description of the priceless treasure. Its thrust is summed up by Johann Frank’s beautiful hymn (translated by Catherine Winkworth), “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”:
Jesus, priceless treasure,
source of purest pleasure,
truest friend to me:
Ah, how long I’ve panted,
and my heart has fainted,
thirsting, Lord, for thee!
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb;
I will suffer nought to hide thee,
Nought I ask beside thee.
 Bullock, Psalms 73-150 (Baker, 2017), 7.
C. Hassell Bullock is the Franklin S. Dyrness Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College (IL) where he taught for 36 years. He is a graduate of Samford University (Birmingham, AL), Columbia Theological Seminary (Decatur, GA), and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Instiutute of Religion (Cincinnati, O).
Among his published works are An Introduction to
the OT Poetic Books (Moody), Encountering the Book of Psalms, and a two-volume commentary on the Psalms, Psalms 1-72, and Psalms 73-150 (Baker Academic).
In addition to forty years of teaching in the college classroom, he has served Presbyterian congregations as pastor in Alabama and Illinois. He is married to his college sweetheart, Rhonda, and they have a son and a daughter and five grandchildren.
The kingdom of heaven is worth infinitely more than the cost of discipleship, and those who know where the treasure lies joyfully abandon everything else to secure it.
Matthew, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, 1984, p. 328.
John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer
John Wesley’s covenant prayer demonstrates a level of sacrifice and devotion to Jesus that has been rarely matched. How many of us have asked for suffering, in order to experience the humility and the poverty of spirit that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount? This prayer forces us to ask how committed we are to God’s will in our lives. Are we willing to suffer for Christ? Are we willing to submit other desires, goals, achievements to the larger purpose of Christ transforming us?
I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing: I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.