Our Pentecost journey continues today with a series of three parables from Matthew’s 13th chapter. Today marks the 7th Sunday we’ve been on this journey. Which means there are only 17 more Sundays to go and only 21 more weeks till Christmas.
We’re taking this journey together as those for whom Matthew wrote his gospel – NEWBIES TO THE FAITH. This is instruction for those who want to know more about this Jesus Christ – and what this thing called ‘Christianity’ all about – and what does it mean that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”?
This is the POINT OF PERSPECTIVE that is critical to remember as we travel. We’re NOT on this journey as ‘PROSPECTS’ whom Matthew is trying to recruit or persuade to make our decision for Jesus. We are NEWBEES who have been baptized, in whom the Holy Spirit has planted His Word, in whom the Word/Seed has fallen on GOOD SOIL and has taken root. The ‘journey’ is all about nurturing and watering and cultivating that seed so that it bears its crop of saving faith.
The key word that Jesus uses to describe this ‘cultivation’ of the seed sown in us is the word, “UNDERSTANDING.” The 13th chapter of Matthew’s gospel is a collection of Jesus’ parables that are all about UNDERSTANDING.
Parables are effective ways of teaching someone who is ALREADY A BELIEVER – already in the mansion – what life in the Kingdom of Heaven is all about. To those on the outside they are just silly little stories – and ‘what’s your point?’
It will be helpful if you have your bible out and opened to Matthew 13 this morning – page 818 in the pew bible.
The GRAND OPENING to this collection of parables is the one about the Sower who sows His seed. Some grows and some doesn’t – and Jesus makes it clear why some live by faith and some fall away.
LOOK AT VERSES 18-19.
Jesus explains the meaning of the parable to His disciples. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and DOES NOT UNDERSTAND IT, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown…” ‘Faith’ without understanding is easy-pickins for the devil and all the other temptations that surround us.
Faith needs the chance to take root which means UNDERSTANDING.
LOOK AT VERSE 23.
“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and UNDERSTANDS it. He indeed bears fruit and yields in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
So, we’re on this journey – not as people who are shopping for a new house to buy, trying to decide on whether or not this one is the right one for us – but as people who have been GIVEN this mansion to live in FOR FREE and it’s all new to us and every door we open opens to a whole new mystery and a whole new way of seeing the world that we’re not used to – and we need to know how to find our way around – and how to behave.
And the really big question has to do with the BANQUET HALL where, we’re told, we meet the MASTER OF THE HOUSE who brought us here. And we learn about this mysterious food and the drink that He serves His friends and why it’s such special food.
LOOK AT VSS. 24-30.
“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away…”
And the servants want to know if the MASTER OF THE HOUSE used GOOD SEED or did He mix in a little WEED SEED? In other words – is He the one responsible for this? And then they want to know if they should PULL THE WEEDS and get rid of them?
And the MASTER OF THE HOUSE instructs HIS SERVANTS telling them that the weeds were sown by THE EVIL ONE and it’s not their job to RID THE WORLD OF EVIL. They’re only going to end up doing more harm than good. THE REAPERS will do that at HARVEST TIME.
That’s UNDERSTANDING the faith that you have been given so that you can take root and grow and produce fruit.
LOOK AT VSS. 31-33
“He put another parable before them saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in the field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches”
“He told them another parable. The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Maybe you’re wondering if something so small and insignificant as the peached Word or water or bread and wine can actually create and strengthen faith in the heart. Shouldn’t there be something BIG and AWESOME –MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS?
But that’s not how life in the Kingdom of Heaven works and how the believer grows in his faith. It’s not about the ‘THREE MEASURES OF FLOUR’ that you can measure and weigh. It’s all about those tiny particles of ‘leaven’ and what they do the flour when just the smallest amount gets into the flour.
This is a PARABLE that’s about the way that the Holy Spirit works in the believer – through His Word and His Sacraments to grow and strengthen our faith. And it’s critical to UNDERSTAND THESE THINGS.
Now finally we come to the text assigned for today.
LOOK AT VERSE 44-46. “The kingdom of heaven is like… 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.”
“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 an bought it.”
The POINT OF PERSPECTIVE in these two parables IS THE SAME as it has been in all the others. This is UNDERSTANDING for those on whom the SEED has fallen and taken root.
We’re not the ones who discovered the HIDDEN TREASURE or who sought and found the PEARL OF GREAT VALUE. Nor are we the ones who ‘SOLD EVERYTHING’ to acquire them. That’s not the way the Kingdom of Heaven works – nor is it even possible.
In the 19th chapter of his gospel, Matthew introduces us to a man who came to Jesus with the mother of all questions, “what must I do to have eternal life?” He wants to know WHAT HE MUST DO to enter the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. And after a bit of back and forth, Jesus said, “Go, sell ALL 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. He couldn’t do it. AND NEITHER CAN WE. And Jesus’ point here is not that we should ‘try harder’ or ‘sell more’ to enter His Kingdom. His point is, ‘this is not the way the Kingdom of Heaven works.’ We already live in His Mansion BECAUSE HE HAS SOLD ALL THAT HE HAD to HAVE US and bring us into THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
Here’s how you hear these parables with UNDERSTANDING. YOU are the TREASURE and YOU are the PEARL OF GREAT VALUE.
Maybe you get to wondering sometimes whether or not your Lord really knows where you are – all surrounded and covered over in this world so overgrown with weeds. Maybe you get to wondering if you’re really much of a TREASURE really. Without UNDERSTANDING you’re going to fall away.
But now you hear that “a man” FOUND YOU. And it’s not that He just happened to stumble upon you by mistake. No, He left His Father’s mansion and came down from heaven to FIND YOU. And when He found you, IN HIS JOY, HE SOLD ALL THAT HE HAD and purchased the WHOLE FIELD – weeds and all – just to HAVE YOU.
And maybe you get to wondering sometimes whether or not you’re really worth much to Him what with all of your ‘issues’ and ‘fears’ and ‘problems.’
But now you hear that “a merchant,” one who is particularly skilled in knowing a fine pearl when He sees it, “on finding one of great value,” “SOLD ALL HE HAD” just to have YOU.
He sold ALL THAT HE HAD – His head, His hands, His feet, His side – ALL His MAJESTY and GLORY. You were “bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:20). “Not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ…” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
And before you MISUNDERSTAND and start thinking that maybe He SOLD ALL HE HAD FOR YOU because He saw what a prize you are or how much potential you have, listen again to our Old Testament reading. “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 you for Himself. He promised that He would do it. And He kept His promise – not because you are faithful – BUT BECAUSE HE IS FAITHFUL.
There is another question here that bothers some people and that requires UNDERSTANDING. 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?
And the answer is 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, given for you – IN JOY saying, ‘take and eat.’ And He pays you with His blood, shed for you IN JOY saying, ‘take and drink.’
LOOK AT VERSE 47. “The Kingdom of heaven is like… a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age…”
Jesus compares His Kingdom to a NET and not HOOK. A HOOK is designed to catch one fish at a time. A NET is designed to catch everything in its path. It’s not a SELECTIVE process. And it’s not your job to sort out the bad fish. For one thing – you don’t know how to tell the difference. And for another – the bad fish are the very ones whom we are to SELL ALL THAT WE HAVE – all our pride, our hang-ups, even our possessions, to tell about this Jesus Christ – who SOLD ALL HE HAD to HAVE THEM.
LOOK AT VERSE 51
Jesus asked His disciples, “Do you UNDERSTAND ALL THESE THINGS?” “They said to Him, ‘yes.’”
I pray that we do too. “For when anyone does not understand the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” But “what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (13:23)