Pentecost 10 – "The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like…" – Matthew 13:44-52 – 7/27/14

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“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Occasionally while channel surfing, I’ll come to the “Antiques Roadshow.” People bring their ‘stuff’ to the experts to have it appraised to see if it’s worth anything. Usually it’s something either been passed down to them or something they picked up at a yard-sale for less than $20 bucks. And the appraiser gives a brief history of the item and then tells what its worth. And the owner of the treasure is always shocked. “I had no idea it was worth that much.”

The record find so far was set in 2011. A man had five, Chinese cups carved out of rhinoceros horn that he picked up somewhere because they looked interesting. When he was told that they were valued at between 1 and 1.5 million dollars, he responded, “Seriously? Wow. I guess I won’t have to depend on Social Security anymore.”

And I’m like, ‘yea, if you can actually find someone willing to actually pay that for rhinoceros horns.’

That’s NOT WHAT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE. But that is what THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS LIKE. We don’t know what we have. We have Jesus Christ, and He is the Son of God. “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Col.2:9) In Him, you have the forgiveness of all of your sins and power of almighty God on your side and the only cure for death that there is, and the second by second guidance and care of the Holy Spirit.

And that’s only a spec of it. That’s only a fraction of a fraction of the value of this treasure that you possess. Because that’s only what you have in this time and this world. You have Jesus Christ, and He is eternal life.

We have been given this treasure, this precious pearl in our baptism. And we carry this treasure around with us and we don’t realize what we’ve got.

Author Annie Dillard, in her book called, ‘Teaching a Stone to Talk’ writes, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? Every Sunday morning the churches are like children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, unaware that they are mixing up a batch of TNT with the power to blow the whole place up. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets! Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews!

For the sleeping God may awake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us to where we can never return.”

“Seriously! Wow. I guess I won’t have to depend on Social Security anymore.”

That’s what the ‘CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS LIKE.’ People who don’t know the value of the treasure that they have. And you can tell that they don’t just by watching the way that they treat the treasure.
 They neither fear Him, nor do they love or trust in Him above all things.
 They neither call upon Him in every trouble, nor do they pray, praise and give thanks.
 They neither hold His Word sacred, nor do they gladly hear and learn it.

That's what the Christian Church is like.

But, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man, was looking for, high and low, like a shepherd looks for his lost sheep, like a woman looks for her lost coin, like a father looks for his lost son. He knows their value. They may not be valuable to anyone else, but they are to Him. So when He found it, He hid it. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who was diligently searching for fine pearls. He looked in all of those places where these precious little things can be dropped and lost in the million dark places in this world. And then, after ceaseless, untiring searching, finding one pearl, being the expert appraiser that he is, knows that it of great value. And so, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

It’s the same man in both parables. In both stories, when He finds that for which He is searching, “He goes and sells ALL THAT HE HAS and bought it.” No negotiating. No bargaining. He sells AL THAT HE HAS in order to buy it.

It’s the complete and total sell out by the man that we dare not miss here. If the man had put a dollar down on a lottery ticket and won the treasure, it would be a wonderful story. Or if he had awoke one day to learn that a long lost relative had willed him her “pearl of great value,” it would be a day to celebrate. If He had negotiated a ‘fair price’ for the treasure we would call it a ‘good deal.’

But he ‘went and sold all that he had and bought it.’ Not just everything but a few basic necessities. Everything! That’s hard for us to understand let alone swallow. Sounds to us like the price was too high. What could be worth ‘everything he had’? We don’t see that kind of value in it.

Sitting in the Temple, Jesus watched people putting their offerings into the containers. “Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in EVERTHING SHE HAD, all she had to live on.” (Luke 12:41-44)

And we say, ‘but surely that can’t mean ‘EVERYTHING she had, ALL she had to live on.’ We can’t imagine such a thing, let alone tolerate it. Because we don’t know the value of the treasure. But she did.

A man came to Jesus with the mother of all questions, “what must I do to have eternal life?” And after a bit of back and forth, Jesus said, “Go, sell what you possess and give to the poor and come follow me.” “And the young man went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.” (Mat.19:16-22). The price was too high because he didn’t know the value of the treasure that was being offered him.

Isn’t that our reaction when we hear that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who “went and sold ALL THAT HE HAD” to acquire it? “Let’s be practical. Let’s negotiate? Would you settle for a 10th of ALL THAT I HAVE? Can I charge it?” We don’t know the value of the pearl.

So, the thing that really confuses us here, is that little detail that we had hardly noticed before but that is now so UNNATURAL and STRANGE and unlike any person that we know. “IN HIS JOY, he goes and sells all that he has…” “IN HIS JOY…” His JOY in finding what He was searching for compels Him to go and sell all that He has to acquire it. He spends everything He has on this treasure, and He’s HAPPY to do so.

There is also a bit of a logical dilemma that becomes clear when we think about it a bit. The proposition seems to be that if we were to find this treasure and this pearl,
 and even if we actually recognized its true value,
 and even if we were compelled by joy to sell all that we had to buy it,
 would EVERYTHING THAT I HAVE be enough?

Every month when my issue of DownEast magazine comes, I look at the real estate section in the back which shows pictures of the beautiful houses on the ocean and fabulous camps on a lake that are for sale. And if, in my JOY, I sold all I had, it would never be enough.

How much less, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? How much less, JESUS CHRIST, IN WHOM THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND?

No, the more we think about it, the more we begin to realize that we may be looking at this parable all wrong if we have been reading it as a guide for what we should do if, by chance, we should stumble upon the Kingdom of Heaven which is located in the person of Jesus Christ.

In fact, THE MAN who searched for and finds the treasure and the great pearl He was seeking is not us. And Jesus Christ is not the treasure or the pearl of great price.

In fact, THE MAN who searched for and found the treasure and the great pearl He was seeking is Jesus Christ who is telling this story. And the treasure and pearl of great value that, in His joy, He sold all that he had to purchase is YOU.

“He has purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, THAT I MAY BE HIS OWN, and live under Him in His kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness…” (S.C.)

He sold ALL THAT HE HAD. His head, His hands, His feet, His side. He sold ALL the power that belonged to Him. He sold ALL the glory that was rightfully His. He sold ALL the clothes He owned. “And they cast lots to divide His garments.” (Luke 23:34).

And He did it IN JOY. Gladly, willingly, because He knows what you are worth.

The world doesn’t know how valuable you are. So don’t expect them to understand. The world should stand in awe of you and admire and envy you because of what you have. But it doesn’t know how valuable you really are.

The world treats the Christian Church as though it were a nice thing to have around for certain occasions, at best. A total nuisance that should be thrown out with the trash, at worst. It doesn’t know how precious you are. Because it doesn’t know the price that has been paid for you.

But you do. “You were bought with a price…” A price that is greater than all of the silver or gold in the world. The priceless blood of Christ.

You see, it’s not that you are so valuable that Jesus sold all that He had to purchase us. “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all people. But it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping His oath that He swore to your fathers…” (Deut.7:7).

“You are a people holy to the Lord your God…” because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, sold all that He had to purchase us for Himself. He promised that He would purchase You. And He was willing and able to pay to do it.

There is one more question here that seems to bother some people. And that is, TO WHOM did Jesus pay the price? To whom did the Son of God hand over ‘ALL THAT HE HAD’ to purchase you, His precious treasure, His priceless pearl?

But the answer is really as clear as the cross on which He hangs. He paid it TO YOU. And every time you hold out your hand at this rail, He pays you with His body – IN JOY saying, ‘take and eat.’ And He pays you with His blood, IN JOY saying, ‘take and drink.’

And you are His precious treasure, His priceless pearl.

This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

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