treasure_3215Pentecost 8 2017, Proper 12
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 30, 2017
Psalm 125:1-5, Deuteronomy 7:6-9, Romans 8:28-39, Matthew 13:44-52

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Grammar is important.  And I am not talking about the person married to Grandpa.  When I was in sixth grade and supposed to be getting more in depth with nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, subjects, predicates, objects, dependent and independent -clauses my teacher, whom I thought was great, thought we would be better served learning to write our own comic books.  I’m not sure I ever quite caught up on what I should know about grammar.  I still have to look up what a predicate is.  Grammar is important.

What is the subject of the sentence, what is the verb, what is the object?  Grammar can make all the difference.  In our Gospel reading today we get two strange parables without any explanation.

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. [1]

This is a bizarre little story.  And the next is similar.

Matthew 13:45-46 (ESV) 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]

Two stories about a man who found something that he prized so highly he sold all that he has in order to possess it.  The man gave up everything in order to have the treasure; in order to obtain the pearl.

Two very short, very strange stories.  Now, these are not investing advice.  This is not how Dave Ramsey would say you should handle your money.  The whole not putting all your eggs in one basket thing.  This guy put the eggs and everything else into the one basket.  This guy went all in on a buried treasure.  This guy gave up everything to possess a single pearl.  This is a foolish way to act.

Here is where the grammar comes in.  The man, in his joy, goes and sells all he has and buys that field.  The man, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

This guy went all in on a buried treasure.  This guy gave up everything to possess a single pearl.  This is a foolish way to act.

The man is the subject, the object is the field with the treasure; the object is the pearl.  The man goes, the man sells, the man buys.  All to obtain the treasure.  The man went, the man sold, the man bought.  All to get the pearl.

The big question is, who is the man?  What is the treasure?  Who is the man? What is the pearl?  Over the history of Christianity, most scholars agree that the treasure, the pearl, is eternal life in Christ.  The man is you seeking the treasure that is Jesus.  This makes sense in that Jesus is the most important thing in life.  But then what is the application?  In order to obtain the treasure; in order to possess the pearl, all you have to do is give up everything that you have in order to buy it.

We see this kind of language in the parable of the unmerciful servant who owed an unpayable debt and he and his family and all that he has was to be sold to pay a small portion of the debt.  This is not a good outcome for the servant.  He is sold as a slave.  Jesus is indeed a treasure, but scripture does not speak about us having to buy the treasure.

Against the common thinking about these stories, the parables make so much more theological sense if we flip the subject and the object.  In almost all parables Jesus, or God in general is the one doing the action.  In the parable of the weeds, for example, the one sowing the good seed is the Son of Man; Jesus.  He is the one acting.

In the parable of the treasure, Jesus is the one who finds the treasure hidden in the field.  Jesus then sells all that He has in order to get the treasure.  What is the treasure?  You are the treasure.  Jesus gives up everything in order to have you.  What a foolish way to act.

Jesus gives up His loved ones.  Jesus gives up His comfort.  Jesus gives up His freedom.  Jesus gives up His skin.  Jesus gives up His blood.  Jesus gives up His clothing.  Jesus gives up His hands and feet.  Jesus gives up breath.  Jesus gives up His life on that cross at Calvary.  Jesus gives up everything He has in order to obtain the treasure; in order to possess the pearl; in order to have you.  Jesus gives up everything for you.

These parables show how the Kingdom of Heaven is; how the reign of heaven is.  These parables show how Jesus reigns.  Jesus does not reign in an expected way; Jesus reigns in giving up utterly everything to save you.  Jesus reigns in a way we find foolish and yet He does it all for you.

What a wonderful comfort as you make your way through this difficult life.  You are the treasure that Jesus gave everything to obtain.  You are the pearl Jesus gave everything to possess.  You are Jesus’ prized possession.  That is grace.  That is why it is amazing.

As you move through this life full of evil and hardship what a great encouragement to know that Jesus values you so highly that He gave everything for you.  And from the next parable of the net we learn that this walk through the valley of the shadow of death is only temporary.  The day is coming when Jesus will return in glory and He will be the final subject of the final verb.  Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.  The great net will be thrown and all the fish will be gathered and sorted.  So it will be at the end of the age.  The evil will be separated from the righteous.  The day is coming when all the evil in the world will be undone.  Until then you have to live in this world and face the temptations of the evil one including the temptation to wonder whether or not you are truly saved.

Often when I teach I use a simple grammatical example of how to best talk about salvation.  How would you answer the question, “How do you know you are saved?”

Some folks will say, “Because I am pretty good.” Or “Because I do good works.” Or “Because I am not as bad as so and so.”  These are not good answers.  How can you know you have done enough?

Some will say, “Because I believe in Jesus.” Or “Because I have faith.” Or “Because I gave my heart to Jesus.”  Or “Because I decided to follow Jesus”.  These also are not good answers because in these answers “I” is the subject of the sentence and “Jesus” is the object.  There is great danger in these answers because when you are the subject of the sentence and you are doing the verbs there is room for great doubt.  You are always left wondering; do I believe enough, do I have enough faith, can I really give my heart to Jesus, did I decide fully enough to follow him?  Did I do enough?  Did I really go all in on Jesus enough to obtain salvation?  The devil loves doubt because he can use it to drive you to despair.

There is a much better answer.  How do you know you are saved?  Because Jesus died for me.  Because Jesus died for you.  In this there is no doubt.  Jesus went all in for you.  Jesus is the subject of the sentence and you are his object.  Jesus is doing the verb and Jesus does the verbs perfectly.  You are Jesus’ treasure.  Jesus did it all; gave it all, for you.  Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible- : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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