“And now Lord, open my mouth so that I can speak. Open our ears so that we can hear. And open our hearts so that we can change … and truly experience peace through your grace, Amen.”
We are in the midst of studying several parables from the Gospel of Matthew.
Last week we looked at the parable of the Weeds in the Wheat.
We are all anxious about the gross sin we see around us, but the burden we feel to do something about it is softened because God says that ultimately the weeds are ALL His problem … not ours.
However, the three parables in our Gospel lesson today may be on another whole level of burden for us. They were taught by Jesus, of course, but not to the multitudes.
Here, Jesus is specifically teaching His apostles, His believers. His audience is very different, which we should keep in mind as we proceed.
Now the first two parables today relate to those who receive the Gospel; while the third parable relates both to those who receive the Gospel and those who speak (or preach) the Gospel.
We also need to keep in mind that when Jesus uses the phrase “the Kingdom of Heaven is like” … He is always going to give us another profound truth about His Kingdom, so it is a QUE to LISTEN carefully.
Like in today’s first two parables, Jesus says “that the kingdom of heaven is like” (so here comes a profound truth) the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, AND the kingdom of heaven is like locating an extraordinary pearl.
It is necessary to realize that the kingdom of God is WITHIN us in order to understand these parables.
Jesus’s Spirit is within us, and it is this fact that is EQUAL to a treasure hidden in a field, or the discovery of an extraordinary pearl.
But another part of Jesus’ teaching is that it is a treasure hid from the world … OBVIOUSLY since it is within you.
We find, or discover this treasure, when we come to faith in Christ. Then, with this treasure deep in our hearts, we are to give up all other earthly pursuits of happiness for this treasure … we SACRIFICE for this treasure of eternal life with Jesus forever.
The phrase kingdom of heaven” implies that the Gospel is preached and understood, which is like a net gathering every kind of fish.
The Gospel gathers at first both good and bad people. Then, through Christian discipline and living, the Gospel begins a separation process in this world, which separates the good fish from the bad fish.
This process will culminate and be finally accomplished by the angels of God at Christ’s second coming.
Because of the awful burden of sin in our world, peace seems to come to some people only if they resort to some sort of denial of truth of the Gospel in their life.
Some people begin to think that perhaps, if they could move the standard so it is not so demanding, then they could be made right with God.
Surely God grades life like an exam on a curve, and since I am better than most people, I should be on the high end of the curve … certain to get to heaven.
I really think this flawed thought process leads many people away from the truth of salvation through faith in Christ alone.
The message of Jesus is very bold and direct. Look at Matthew 5:48…
“Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.”
After reading and thinking about this command, we realize that all of us fall short of the glory of God, which we are reminded of in both Isaiah 53 and Romans 3. We can NEVER be perfect this side of heaven. There can be no grading of life like an exam in school.
Think of it this way … even our own death is an affront to God. He did not create us to die. When we die, we are failing to be what God made us to be. But we cannot help ourselves because of the sin in our lives.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus lifts these burdens from our shoulders.
Our worries about the state-of-affairs in our country and the world are bad enough. But WHEN our worries get to be PERSONAL, it is even worse.
Just think about the impact to our lives IF we but remember the greatest gift of all … Jesus’ life as payment for our sins. We get to live forever because Jesus gave His life for us … Jesus treats us as the TRUE treasure of God.
So here is the question of the day … if we have this true treasure within us, why wouldn’t we want everyone we know … to have the same treasure within them?
Shouldn’t we at least engage our family and friends and neighbors in conversations about Jesus, and how much He means to us personally?
You do not even have to say anything about them believing in Jesus … just talk about yourself. Just tell others how you feel about Jesus, and let Jesus do the rest.
It is easy to say, “I love Jesus. He gives me peace, comfort, and lifts all my burdens. It is so freeing to be a Christian.” If they want to hear more, they will ask. Otherwise your testimony is done for the moment.
Another question might be … is it OUR duty to tell our families, neighbors and friends? Or, perhaps we need to phrase that question a bit differently.
Why would Jesus ever want me to be talking about Him to the people around me? After all, I am not terribly good at it.
But then I think, even if I am not good at it, is not talking about Jesus motivated by His love for me? It is never ABOUT me or whoever I am talking to … it is always about Jesus.
As a believer, I follow and obey Jesus the best I can for a totally different reason than (1) just avoiding eternal judgment, or (2) obtaining something good like eternal life?
I talk about Jesus because He asked me to.
But I also know that there is something strange at work here. If we keep the command to love God … only because he commanded it … aren’t we breaking the commandment?
If I love God ONLY because it is my duty, would you say it is real love?
Likewise, the service rendered to God for any reason other than His love for us, whom he has created, the service cannot really be a true service rendered to God.
God IS NOT for sale. He CANNOT be manipulated. We need to serve God from other than a purely human point of view.
We need a way to serve God that pleases Him, and I believe that way involves serving Him without EXPECTING anything in return … and is not that simply the very definition of …
God’s Love in Action?
More than four hundred years ago, in Florence, Italy, a block of the purest marble, seventeen feet high, lay on its side gathering dust in the work yard behind the cathedral.
The block had originally been quarried at great expense for use in a large statue, by the master sculptor Donatello.
But the great artist died, and the job was assigned to his assistant. The assistant made a mess of the marble, chiseling a great gouge in the middle of the column.
A generation of artists each visited the magnificent block in the work yard and suggested possible designs that would overcome the terrible flaw, but none appeared acceptable.
Finally, a young, twenty-five-year-old sculptor, who had hoped and dreamed since he had been an apprentice in Florence in his early teens of carving this block began lobbying the board for permission to carve the marble slab.
When finally, they granted him the commission, it took him another three years to release from the damaged block the beautiful figure … the “hidden treasure” he saw imprisoned inside.
He alone had seen that by swiveling the figure twenty degrees within the column, he could add dramatic tension to the statue, and make use of the gouged area. And what was the statue that is now one of the great artistic treasures of the world?
“The David”, of course. The David is a 14-foot sculpture by Michelangelo, and today it still stands in a dominant place in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
The “Parable of the Treasure” and the “Parable of the Pearl” are twin parables with essentially the same message.
In both, the discovery of something of immense value comes as a surprise … a complete shock.
In both parables, when the discovery is made, it fulfills all of the finder’s hopes and dreams, so much so that compared to the new-found treasure, everything else in the world is without real value, and can be let go of with a feeling of contentment.
I believe the lesson is clear … the Kingdom of God is the all-embracing, totally-absorbing, ULTIMATE treasure in life.
The value and the importance of this discovery takes precedence over everything else in life.
We all have the desire to find the meaning of our existence — the “hidden treasure,” the “one valuable pearl.”
And Jesus makes it absolutely clear that the only way we can discover the true treasure is through God … period!
It isn’t money that reveals to us who we are, and who we are to become.
It isn’t money and the things money can buy that give us happiness in life.
Our happiness as people … depends entirely on our willingness to place ourselves under the Rule of God as we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Everything else we depend on is temporal, and will ALWAYS be less than satisfactory in the long run.
It is when we begin to really live by God’s Rule, that we can constantly think of new ways of expressing God’s love to those around us … while expecting nothing in return.
Anyone who reads the Gospels knows that Jesus spends a great deal of time getting down to basics about money, and its influence on our lives.
He typically warns us about the DANGERS of the LOVE for money. He knew that for most of us, money ends up CONTROLLING us. We become involved in it to the point that it becomes the heart of our concern and our motivation.
And that is NOT surprising because money is our chief link with the world around us, and gives us a measure of security for our families.
Money is also prestige and many other things that are important to us. For this reason, Jesus knew that money would be a problem.
Do you remember the Bible story in which a rich young man asks Jesus, “Lord, what must I do to share in everlasting life?”
And Jesus replies by quoting some commandments to him … you shall not kill; You shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal — and so on.
The rich man says, “I obey these commandments”. He was a good young man, an eager young man, a respectable, clean-living … rich young man.
But Jesus saw that there was something missing in the man’s life. Jesus knew that the one thing missing in the rich man’s life revolved around the problem that he had not recognized.
He had not yet realized the importance of a generous spirit, which is such a necessary part of living under the Rule of God.
He hadn’t arrived there yet. He is still uptight about his money. So “His face falls” when he hears Jesus telling him to give his money to the poor. And he goes away “sad.”
In a similar way, many of us may often feel the same. We do our best not to disobey the commandments. And then, we come running to Jesus to ask Him about “everlasting life.”
Up to this point, it seems like all is going well. But then, like the rich young man, we may not have yet reached the point of breaking through to a generous spirit, which is what it takes to live in the Kingdom of God.
The father of two daughters had just awakened in the morning. His wife was in the kitchen making breakfast. She turned to the two daughters and said, “Run upstairs, and tell daddy that breakfast is ready.”
They both ran upstairs, but the older one outran her sister and was the first to reach dad, who was sitting on the edge of the bed. She jumped on daddy’s knee, put her arms around daddy’s neck and kissed him, saying, “Daddy breakfast is ready.”
Then her little sister arrived, teary-eyed as she looked at her big sister, who taunted “I’ve got all there is of daddy.” Whereupon, daddy held out his free arm for the younger daughter.
She ran to him and daddy put that arm around her and hugged her.
The little sister then looked up at her big sister and said, “You might have all there is of daddy, but daddy’s got all there is of me!”
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The God who made you WANTS you for His own. And when you TREASURE Him in your deepest heart … He’s got ALL there is of you! And all God’s people say … amen