By Mike Ruffin
The story, we are told, is probably a legend. But lots of great stories belong to that genre, and this is a really great story.
The story goes that the mathematician Archimedes, who lived in the third century BC, was challenged by his king to solve a problem. It seems that an artisan who had made golden wreaths for the gods was suspected of diluting the gold with silver, but no one could confirm the suspicions. Archimedes was commissioned to figure out a way to determine the truth.
While struggling with the problem, Archimedes decided to visit the public baths. He noticed that more water was displaced as he went deeper in the tub. He realized that the amount of water he displaced was equal to the volume of his body. It occurred to him that, since gold weighs more than silver, it would take more silver to give the wreath its desired bulk. So, he could solve the problem by comparing the displacement of a known pure gold wreath with one suspected of having been adulterated with silver.
Archimedes leapt out of the bath and went running home naked shouting, “I found it! I found it”—which in Greek is “Eureka! Eureka!”
To this day people talk about having a “eureka moment” when we find something vital or realize something important.
Jesus told two stories about people having a eureka moment. The stories are parables, which are stories told to make a point, often by comparing two things that at first glance don’t seem alike.
In these two parables Jesus talks about people finding a treasure. The first person is likely a peasant who while plowing someone else’s field finds a treasure–perhaps a jar of coins buried there by a previous owner unbeknownst to the present owner–and goes and sells everything he has to in order to buy the field. The second person is likely a merchant who would know the value of pearls and would have some means and who, when he finds a pearl of great value, goes and sells all he has to purchase the one pearl.
Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like that.
But what is the kingdom of heaven? Simply put, the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of God is the reign of God; so the kingdom of God is where God rules. That no doubt means many things, but it surely means that the kingdom of God is where God’s grace, mercy, and love are the driving forces and the guiding principles. Still, these two parables as well as other parables and teachings of Jesus make the points that in some way the kingdom of heaven is hidden from view and that there are few that find it.
How then do you come upon the kingdom? There’s no one way. After all, in the first parable the man came upon the treasure accidentally, probably just in the course of minding his own business; the treasure he found was something he didn’t expect and probably something for which he wasn’t even looking.
On the other hand, the merchant in the second parable was looking for fine pearls when he found the finest pearl of all. One person was looking while one was not—but they both found the treasure.
In the film Pretty Woman, Richard Gere’s character takes Julia Roberts’s character to the opera. He is a man of the world—educated, privileged, and refined—who frequents, understands, and appreciates opera. She is a woman of the world—but in a very different sense; she is not educated, privileged, or refined, and she has never even seen an opera. By the end of the performance, though, she is mesmerized and moved to tears. She liked it even more than “The Pirates of Penzance”! He enjoyed the opera because he knew what he was looking for; she enjoyed it because she stumbled upon something unexpected and beautiful.
The kingdom of heaven is like that.
So you might find the kingdom if you’re not looking for it and you might find it if you are. It is, either way, a gift of God.
Whenever you find it, wherever you find it, and however you find it, shout “Eureka!” It is, after all, the greatest discovery you will ever make.
It is available to everyone.
And there are few who find it.