************ Sermon on Matthew 13:44-46 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on January 1, 2006


Matthew 13:44-46
"The Kingdom's Demands"

Introduction
"The kingdom of heaven is like ..." Jesus is teaching us something about the kingdom of heaven. Matthew is the only one who uses the phrase "kingdom of heaven." The other Gospels use the phrase "kingdom of God." There is no difference in meaning between the two phrases.

Before we go any further we need to define what we are talking about this evening. What is the kingdom of heaven? What is the kingdom of God? Both phrases refer to God's dominion in Christ, to God's kingly rule in Christ. God's kingly rule in Christ is eternal. It covers the entire world and all of the nations and powers of the world. This rule is recognized only by God's people and is contested by unbelievers and the powers of darkness. There will come a day, however, when all nations and all peoples will recognize and submit to God's rule.

In one way, then, we can say the kingdom of heaven is future. In another way we can say it is a present reality. We can sum this up by saying the rule of God is a present reality that will be fully realized and recognized when Jesus returns.

Matthew comes to us this evening with two parables of Jesus and tells us something about the kingdom of heaven. "The kingdom of heaven is like ..."

Now, I have to start with a confession. I preached on these two parables 17 or 18 years ago. I treated them as being basically the same. I concluded that they both give the same message. After all, I figured, both parables feature a man who finds a treasure. In both parables this man sells everything he has to obtain this treasure. The point of both parables, then, is the treasure of the kingdom demands complete commitment.

This week, however, I noticed something for the first time. In the first parable, what is the kingdom of heaven like? It is like a "treasure." In the second parable, what is the kingdom of heaven like? If you said it is like a "pearl," a precious stone, you would be wrong. Matthew tells us the kingdom of heaven is like a "merchant." So, the point of both parables is not the same.

Let's look at both parables and what they tell us about the kingdom of heaven.

I The Second Parable
A Listen, again, to the words of the second parable and what it says about the kingdom of heaven:
(Mat 13:45-46) Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. (46) When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

We are told about a merchant looking for fine pearls. In those days, before pearl farms and diving gear, pearls were among the most precious of all gems. They were obtained only by divers specially trained to dive into the depths of the Red sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean for oysters. Thus they were very rare and very valuable. So history, for instance, tells us Cleopatra possessed a pearl worth over 12 million of our dollars. And, Caesar presented the mother of his best friend a pearl worth over $600,000. The merchant of our parable was looking for these kinds of pearls, "fine pearls" pearls of the highest quality, the perfect shape, and just the right shade of white.

He does not find pearls. He finds a pearl, "one of great value." This is a gem of rare excellence. In order to obtain it for himself he "sold everything he had and bought it."

B Jesus tells us the kingdom of heaven is like the merchant like the merchant seeking and finding the pearl. So, it is the kingdom that seeks and finds. It is the kingdom that sacrifices and buys. It is the kingdom that finds the perfect pearl, a fine pearl, and obtains it all costs. It is the rule of God in Christ that finds the pearl of great value.

This means the pearl is not the kingdom which is what we usually think. So, what does the pearl represent? The pearl is something of great price, great value. It is something the kingdom seeks and finds. The pearl has to be you and me!

Surely not, you might say to me. Doesn't the Bible talk about us as worms? Doesn't the Bible describe us as slugs pulled from the slime of sin? How can you say I am a pearl, a precious jewel?

Listen to what the Bible says elsewhere. Peter says we are "living stones ... being built into a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). He also says,
(1 Pet 2:9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

You and I are like the pearl. The kingdom rule of Jesus is like the merchant. When we realize this, then we realize the price that is paid for us. Then we realize everything that is given up for us. Listen to what the Bible says:
(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(1 Pet 1:18-19) For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

(Phil 2:6-8) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

Do you see what the kingdom, what the kingly rule of Jesus, gave up to purchase you and me? God gave up His one and only Son. Jesus gave up, for a while, the glory that was His since eternity. Jesus gave up His throne in heaven. Jesus humiliated Himself and took on our flesh. Jesus suffered and died on the cross. Jesus gave up all to purchase you and me.

Do you think Jesus would have done this for junk? Do you think Jesus would have done this for worms? Do you think Jesus would have done this for garbage? No, Jesus did this for pearls!

So, in this second parable we have the good news, the gospel, of the kingdom (cf Mt 4:23; 9:35).

II The First Parable
A Now that we understand the meaning of the second parable, let us turn our attention to the first parable. Jesus says,
(Mat 13:44) The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

We understand, in light of the second parable, that no one finds the kingdom on their own. The kingdom seeks them out. God, in Christ, takes the first step. He always takes the first step so that we can enter into the kingdom. It is He Who pays the price. All that we can do is submit to the kingly rule of Jesus, or recognize the kingly rule of Jesus.

B In this first parable we are being told that those who have been found and bought by the kingdom are to give the kingdom complete devotion. Those who have been found and bought by the rule of Jesus are to give Jesus complete devotion.

In teaching us this lesson, Jesus does NOT allow us to get bogged down in details. We have tons of questions. My commentaries are filled with questions and discussions. Exegetical and theological points are argued back and forth. But Jesus is short and to the point:
(Mat 13:44) The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

What man? A farmer? A shepherd? A traveler? A hiker? We aren't told. Because it is not important.

Well, what was he doing in the field? Was he plowing? Was he moving rocks? Was he planting? Was he a real-estate agent looking the property over? Was he out looking for lost sheep or cows? Was he poking his nose into his neighbor's business? We aren't told. Because it is not important.

What sort of treasure did the man find? Was it gold, silver, precious stones, art, pottery, a family heirloom? We aren't told. Because it is not important.

How was the treasure hidden? Who buried it? When did he bury it? Was it hidden in plain view or did the man have to dig around to find it? We aren't told. Because it is not important.

Who did the field belong to? A neighbor? A friend? A family member? A fellow Jew? An absentee landlord? We aren't told. Because it is not important.

What about the ethics of the situation? Wasn't the man unethical, a thief even, in finding and hiding a treasure that belonged to another man? Isn't the whole situation fraudulent? I read all sorts of explanations this past week of how, according to Rabbinic law, there was nothing illegal about the situation, of how the original owner did not really own the treasure. Guess what? We aren't told. Because it is not important.

Jesus did not want His disciples focusing on the details. Because the details are not important. The message He was trying to get across was not in the details.

C Only one thing is important: how do you respond to the kingly rule of Jesus? how do you respond to the kingdom of heaven? how do you respond to the kingdom that seeks you and finds you and pays a big price for you?

A man finds a treasure. An unexpected treasure. We don't know what it was. But whatever it was, it was precious, it was valuable. It was precious and valuable enough that he sold everything he had in order to buy the field. You don't do something like that at the drop of a hat. You don't turn all your assets into cash on a whim. You don't sell your home and your business and your car and your wife's diamond ring and your furnishings and your kid's bikes and computers without giving this very careful thought. But this man did that.

The man of our parable was willing to do whatever it takes to obtain the treasure for himself. The man of our parable was so enraptured by the treasure that it had to be his. The man of our parable was so filled with joy at the sight and thought of the treasure that he gave up everything for it. He was totally devoted to the treasure!

Don't forget, the kingdom of heaven is like the treasure. It is valuable. It is precious. It is worth everything. Nothing else compares to it. It is not something we find. It is not something we go looking for. It is something that finds us. It should fill us with so much joy and so much longing that for it we are willing to do anything and everything. We are to be totally devoted to the kingdom!

D How do you respond to the kingly rule of Jesus? How do you respond to the kingdom of heaven? How do you respond to the kingdom that seeks you and finds you and pays a big price for you? What do you do with the treasure of the kingdom?

The demand of the kingdom of heaven is total. We are called upon to give up everything for King Jesus. Let me quote Jesus to tell you what is required:
(Mat 5:29) If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

(Mat 10:37-39) Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; (38) and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (39) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

(Mat 19:21) "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Our devotion to the kingdom, to the kingly rule of Jesus, is to be so great that we would rather lose an eye or a hand than sin. Our devotion to the kingdom is to be so great that our love even for our family is to be as nothing compared to our love for the kingdom. Our devotion to the kingdom is to be so great that we are willing to renounce everything and everyone.

Of course, if you have not seen the treasure of the kingdom these demands are far too great. The price is way too high. But for those who have been found and bought by King Jesus, their joy is so great that they will renounce everything as much as they have for the sake of the kingdom.

Conclusion
The treasure of the kingdom. We don't find it. It finds us and buys us. But once we are found and bought, we are willing to give it our complete and total devotion.
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