This might be one of my favorite nights of the semester. This is deep, challenging stuff.
Jesus tells many great stories…that engage us and resonate with us.
Matthew 13:44-46 ESV
44 “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.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
2 very short parables…with some very straightforward themes. We are going to talk about those themes tonight…
The first two themes deal specifically with the kingdom…and the second two themes deal specifically with our response to the kingdom.
The first theme is:
The kingdom is discovered.
We are in the process of discovery here…so many of us have heard about the Kingdom and read about the Kingdom in the Bible, but we have not, up until this point, grasped its meaning or understood its implications.
I want us to notice something in these parables though…there are two ways that the Kingdom is discovered in these parables.
In the first parable, verse 44, it says that “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found…”
It was not uncommon to hide treasures in the ground in these days…banks were available, but only to the extremely rich. The Average Joe would hide his treasure under the ground on his land to keep it safe. He would hide it…and nobody would know where it was, except for him…and this way, it was kept very safe.
Especially in these days of great warfare, enemies would come to your house and plunder it…if you had hidden your treasure out in the fields or on your land, the enemies would not have access to your most valuable possessions.
Think about the parable of the talents…remember, the king gave 10 talents to one guy, 5 talents to another, and 1 talent to one…what did they guy who got 1 talent do? He went and hid it under the ground. It was a very common practice.
Also common in these days were travelers who walked through your land…they had property lines, but there were no fences to keep people out. So, travelers going your way would travel on your land…they wouldn’t think anything of it and neither would you.
And here is what we have in this parable…a man traveling on another’s land…and what happens? He stumbles upon a treasure that had been hidden in the field.
And that is one way that we discover the Kingdom…sometimes, we just stumble upon it. We aren’t looking for it, it simply may be looking for us.
I have had this kind of experience of discovering the kingdom by stumbling upon it…not looking for it. I have shared with you parts of my journey of faith…for those who maybe have missed it…
…when I was in college, I had been dating a girl for about 4 years when she was killed in a car accident. My world spun out of control and, as you might guess, I had questions about everything, but specifically about God, His goodness, His mercy, and all that.
And one day I was laying on my couch at my house…in the middle of the afternoon, so I had probably skipped class yet again that afternoon in my depression, and I heard a knock on the door. It was the campus minister of the campus house there, Joe.
I was nominally involved in the campus house at the time and it was very large…about 500 students involved. So, I didn’t know Joe. He didn’t know me. But there he was, at my front door, with a bag of groceries under his arm. He said, “I heard about what happened to your girlfriend…and I thought you could use these.” And he handed me the groceries. He came inside and confessed that he didn’t know my girlfriend very well, or myself, and he wanted to get to know me, and through me, get to know her.
And that was the day that I stumbled upon the Kingdom…
Here I was in my complete brokenness…and this man who loved Jesus approached me at a time where I was very angry with Jesus…and he loved me and met my needs and he let me talk, vent, cry, and be real. And it began for me a journey of ultimate giving up and following Christ as well.
But that day, I stumbled upon the Kingdom of Christ in Joe.
And maybe you have had experiences like that…where you weren’t looking for it, but the kingdom came up and bit you. And you discovered something there that you weren’t even looking for.
Or, can you think about people in your lives right now who need someone to represent the Kingdom to them? Hurting people? The sick? The hungry? The thirsty? The rejects? Those who are forgotten?
There are people out there who have no hope…and aren’t looking for Jesus to bring them any. They think they have nothing to discover. But you and I are would argue differently.
The story goes that there is a statue in Valladolid, Spain…where Christopher Columbus died in 1506. The monument is commemorating Columbus…and one of the most striking features of the statue is of a lion. The lion is destroying a Latin word that was a part of the motto of Spain for centuries before. Before Columbus took his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of the earth. So, they adopted the “Ne Plus Utra” which means “No More Beyond.” The lion, on the monument, is destroying the word “Ne,” which means “no” in the phrase “No More Beyond.” The lion left only the words “Plus Utra”—“More Beyond.” Columbus proved that there was more beyonde.
And friends, the Lion of Judah…he proves, with the coming of his Kingdom, that there is more beyond…for us, and for those who haven’t yet found the kingdom.
This is your chance to be the way THEY stumble into the Kingdom.
So, that’s one way the Kingdom is discovered…the other way the Kingdom is discovered is found in the second of tonight’s parable.
Matthew 13:45 ESV
…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls…
Do you notice the difference? The man in the first parable stumbled upon the treasure of the Kingdom…here, the merchant is in search of the treasure.
That’s the other way we discover the kingdom…we search for it.
In the ancient world, pearls were more valuable than gold. And this merchant is a wholesaler…the word for merchant is “emporos” which is where we get our word “emporium.” This man was looking for treasures to sell in his shop…and he is seeking…searching…and by doing so, he finds the pearl of great value.
Now, at the same time that I was stumbling upon the Kingdom of Christ through Joe, I was also searching for it. And I had been searching for it since I was young…I remember thinking to myself at a very young age, “There has got to be more than this.” And you know where I went with that question? To the Bible. My mom had an old dusty one on the top shelf of our coat closet. ‘
And with my questions at the time of my girlfriend’s death, Joe and I went searching together…we did something very similar to what we are doing with ::abide::–we read through the NT once together every week. I was searching for the treasure…and you know what, when you search, you find.
Matthew 7:7 ESV
Seek, and you will find.
We are seeking the Kingdom here together…and we are finding it. I’ve said this over and over, sometimes when we feel that we can’t see the Kingdom here, it’s not because it’s absent; rather, it’s because we haven’t been taught to look for it. We haven’t been taught what it looks like.
So, whether we stumble upon it, or we search for it, or both occur in our lives, the point of the two stories we are reading is about discovery.
Have you ever seen a child when they receive a gift? It doesn’t have to be big or shiny, but a thoughtful present for a child. They get it and their eyes get very big…and they open their mouths really wide…and when they open the gift and discover what is inside, they may laugh or squeal or, like our daughter Jerah does, they may say YIIPPPEEEE.
Can you see the fascination? The happiness? The pure wonder?
Mark 10:15 ESV
Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it…
We must, tonight, recover the wonder of the discovery of the Kingdom.
The second theme we see in these parables tonight:
The kingdom is valuable.
The first man finds a great treasure in a field…the second, the merchant, finds a pearl of great price.
And immediately, upon their discovery, they realize how valuable this thing is that they have found.
The first goes and sells all he has so he can buy the field where the treasure lay. The merchant goes and sells all he has so he can buy just the one pearl.
Obviously, from a financial standpoint, these two gave up everything to attain the treasures…and we will talk about that more in a second.
But, what do we normally do when we have something of value? In some form, or another, we share it. If you get a nice new car, we invite others for a ride. If we build a mansion, we invite our family to come and see it. When people when the lottery, they tend to give at least some of it away to family, friends, or charity.
So, if this Kingdom is so valuable, are we sharing it? And I do mean evangelism, but that’s not all. Are we just living like this Kingdom is valuable?
I want to share a couple of stories with you.
The first is found in John 1…
John 1:35-42 ESV
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
These two disciples of John the Baptist hear their teacher say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And they begin to follow this Lamb, Jesus. They spend the day with him…and one of the two, Andrew…goes immediately and finds his brother. In fact, verse 41 says “He FIRST found his own brother…” and tells him they have found (for they were seeking!) the Messiah. And he brought Simon to Jesus…and Jesus gives him a new name…and we all know the vital role Peter would play in the course of history.
A few verses later, we read this:
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Philip follows Jesus…and goes to Nathanael, his friend, and tells him about Jesus. Did you notice his words? “We have found him…” Who finds things? Those who are seeking for them! Nathanael is skeptical, but Philip invites him to come and see. He comes, he sees, and he believes.
Do you get the impression in these two stories that these men had found a treasure of great worth…of great value? They did. And what do they do with it? They share it.
In John 4 Jesus sits down at a well and asks for a drink from the well from a Samaritan woman. They share a conversation about worship. The woman confesses that she is waiting for the Messiah to come.
Here is how it goes:
John 4:25-26, 28-30 ESV
25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”… 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.
Skip down to verse 39:
John 4:39-42 ESV
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
She is seeking…she finds…she shares…and MANY believed because of her sharing with them the valuable treasure.
I said we could find 4 themes…
2 deal with the Kingdom:
1) The Kingdom is discovered.
2) The Kingdom is valuable.
2 deal with our response to the discovery of the valuable kingdom.
Here is the third theme:
Our response is sacrifice.
The first man stumbles upon a treasure hidden in a field…and then he goes and sells everything that he has and buys that field so that he can attain the treasure.
The second man, the merchant, searches for and finds a pearl of great value…and his response? He goes and sells all that he has and buys the pearl.
Now, the fact alone that these guys gave up everything to attain the treasure should tell you how valuable it is.
Put simply…the Kingdom of Heaven is more valuable than anything you have. More valuable than your cars, your iPods, your houses, your stuff, and all of your money. There is nothing, NOTHING that is worth more than the kingdom.
And so, what are you willing to sacrifice to attain it?
I want to share some thoughts that have been rumbling around in my head for the better part now of 6 months that have to deal with possessions and sacrifice and the Kingdom.
Did you know that in the early church, if someone in the community was without food, the entire community would fast until everybody could share a meal together. What a great sacrifice in the Kingdom.
Also in the early church, if you had a neighbor who didn’t have clothes to wear or food to eat or water to drink or a place to sleep, and you had all of those things in extra, then you were deemed to be a murderer for withholding those things from someone in need.
I wonder why in the world we have homeless people in this world when most of us have extra bedrooms in our house that go empty most nights.
It’s always perplexed me that Jesus called the rich young man to sell EVERYTHING he had and give it to the poor and then follow him. But when Zaccheus, the tax collector came to Jesus, he gave away only 50% and Jesus said that salvation had come to his house.
The only thing I can think of is that rich young man held on too tightly to his wealth…it was everything to him. His possessions were everything. And he was unwilling to sacrifice them.
We may not be called to give away everything, but I firmly believed we are called to give away more than what we are.
How many coats do you have? How many can you wear at a time? Do you need 5 or 6 or 7 coats whenever there are people around us who don’t even have one? Can you sacrifice your extras?
How many clothes do you have? Girls…do you have a closet full of clothes? Have you not worn some of them in months? Do you keep buying more? Do you need to spend that money on clothes when you have enough? Or can you give away some of, half of what you have?
Think about the “extra” stuff we buy everyday. Could be big things like clothes or shoes or hats or NW sweatshirts or whatever…do you need to buy another? Couldn’t that money be better spent by giving it away?
But even small things…do you need to get fast food 2x a week? Or more? Do you need to have another soda for $1 when you have already had 3 or 4 that day? And it goes on and on…
Keri is very frugal. She spends our household budget…and even as frugally as she spends, I think we can still identify ways that we are getting extra or more when we don’t need extra or more.
Does this sound extreme? Yes, I think it does. But, is it wrong? No, I don’t think so. I think we are called to SACRIFICE. And I see very little SACRIFICE by Christians today in America.
We have so MUCH…to give away a little bit of it isn’t sacrifice. We are just giving away our extra.
I’ve said this before…sacrifice isn’t how much we give away…it’s how much we have left.
And what did the man who stumbled on the treasure in the field and the merchant who sought after and found the pearl have left?
And, at the same time, EVERYTHING.
These thoughts have been haunting me…keeping me awake at night…and I feel like God is getting my attention to motivate me towards repentance.
Listen to Paul’s words of great sacrifice:
Philippians 3:7-9 ESV
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him…
For his sake…I have suffered the loss…of ALL things…and count them as rubbish (lit. “dung”)…in order to gain Christ.
It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
And we have been tricked in our culture into thinking that if we were to sacrifice all of this, like we are talking about, then we would be very sad. We would be the unfortunates. We would be depressed and deprived.
But, this leads to our 4th theme…and our 2nd response:
Our response is joy.
Back in Matthew 13:
Matthew 13:44 ESV
44 “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.
In his joy…he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
This man sacrificed EVERYTHING in his JOY.
He understood what we do not…that what he is attaining is far more valuable than what he is sacrificing.
Friends, I am going to tell you this as plainly as I can:
The Kingdom of Heaven is far more valuable to attain than what you sacrifice to attain it.
David Livingstone was a missionary to Africa. He says this:
“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life–these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.”
Can what we sacrifice be called a sacrifice when it is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay?
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
Let’s [look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…
Jesus sacrificed EVERYTHING and did so for the joy that was set before him…
I am calling you to several things tonight:
I am calling you to discover for the first time, or maybe re-discover, the Kingdom.
I am calling you to see its beauty and value.
I am calling you to sacrifice much…more…all…and for that, I am not sorry.
But I am also calling you to joy.