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Pentecost 8, 2020 Proper 12
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 26, 2020
Deuteronomy 7:6-9, Romans 8:28-39, Matthew 13:44-52

 

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Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
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Today, in our Gospel reading Jesus teaches us four parables.  The challenge of these parables is that a couple of them do not have an obvious explanation.  When Jesus finishes the first three, He asks, Matthew 13:51 (ESV) 51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.”[1]  So it is entirely possible that Jesus never gave an interpretation of these parables.  Now that would be fine if the meaning was as obvious to us as it was to the disciples.

The first two parables are both very short, and the themes are similar: a man discovers something of great value and then sacrifices everything that he has in order to obtain it.  In the first parable, the item of great value is a treasure.  In the second, it is a precious pearl.  Despite the simplicity of the two parables, faithful theologians have come up with two possible interpretations.

One interpretation is that the Kingdom of Heaven is the item of great value … the treasure…the pearl.  In this case, the parable teaches that we should be like the man or the merchant, and give up everything to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.

The other interpretation is that the Kingdom of Heaven is the main actor in the parable…the man or the merchant. In this case, both the treasure and the pearl represent the Holy Christian Church.  The idea is that the Kingdom of Heaven suffers all, in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to redeem you…His treasure…His pearl of great price.

The fact that good, solid, faithful theologians can, in all honesty, come up with two valid, reasonable interpretations of these parables does illustrate one point.  Unless the Bible itself gives the explanation to a parable, we should not base any teachings on parables.  We can use parables to illustrate teachings that are clearly expressed in other parts of the Bible, but we should not rely on parables alone as a source for doctrine.

But what should we do with the parables that we heard from Jesus this morning? Although I am not nearly as smart as the great theologians of the church, I am going to give you something to think about when you hear these parables.

Jesus begins the first of these parables and says, Matthew 13:44 (ESV) 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. …[2]  This sounds like the Kingdom of Heaven is the treasure hidden in the field.  In that case, Jesus is indeed illustrating that the Kingdom of Heaven is precious.  In fact, it is so precious that Jesus goes on to say, (ESV) 44 “…Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. [3]  This implies that there is no price that is too much to pay for the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Because our sin has corrupted our human nature, we do not recognize the value of the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are certainly not inclined to surrender everything in order to obtain it.  And even if we wanted to obtain it, we are not able to pay the price required by so great a treasure.  So, we are beyond hope.

Now this would be great if it weren’t for one important detail.  As the Apostle Paul writes, Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV) 1… you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[4]  

Because our sin has corrupted our human nature, we do not recognize the value of the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are certainly not inclined to surrender everything in order to obtain it.  And even if we wanted to obtain it, we are not able to pay the price required by so great a treasure.  So, we are beyond hope.

But now we hear the second parable from the mouth of Jesus.  This time Jesus teaches, Matthew 13:45 (ESV) 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,[5]  In this parable, the Kingdom of Heaven is the merchant who searches for fine pearls.  With this parable, Jesus portrays the Kingdom of Heaven as the one who does the searching.  The Kingdom of Heaven is the Reign of God who searches for excellent pearls.  But what are these excellent pearls for which the Kingdom of Heaven searches?  At another time, Jesus Himself says, Luke 19:10 (ESV) 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”[6]  You are the excellent pearl.  In this second parable, Jesus is the merchant who sold all that he had…even his body to death on a cross…in order to obtain you…His precious Pearl.

Consider Jesus’ words this morning.  Matthew 13:44 (ESV) 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. …[7]  In this parable, the Kingdom of Heaven isa precious treasure … beyond anything that we could pay.  Nevertheless, in the second parable, Jesus said, Matthew 13:45 (ESV) 45 “…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,[8] In the second parable, the Kingdom of Heaven searches for you.  You are the precious pearl for which Jesus Christ gave His all.

So, what difference does it make that you are the precious pearl of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Well, that becomes apparent in the next parable.

The Parable of the Net makes it very clear what will happen to all people on Judgment Day. Jesus compares the people of this world to the contents of a net full of fish.  Just as a net gathers up all things from the water, so Judgment Day will gather up all things.  Just as fishermen sort the contents of the net into trash and good fish, so God will send His angels to separate the evil from the righteous.  The righteous are those who have the righteousness of Christ through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith.  They are God’s valuable treasure – His precious pearl.  The evil are those who refuse the Holy Spirit’s gift and rely on their own righteousness for salvation.  They may be valuable and precious in their own sight, but that means nothing in God’s eyes.

The Bible tells us that we are sinful creatures.  The psalmist says, Psalm 51:5 (ESV) 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.[9]  From this we learn that we are sinners the instant we come into existence at conception. The prophet Isaiah says Isaiah 64:6 (ESV) 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.[10]  From this verse we learn that nothing we do in our lives can change our sinful status.  Paul tells us, Romans 3:23 (ESV) 23 … all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,[11]  From this we learn that no one can escape from this sinful condition.

From today’s parables, you learn that God still considers you precious in spite of your sinful condition.  You learn that God will spare nothing to ransom you from this sinful condition.  Instead, He will give all that He has in order to purchase and redeem you from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  Peter writes, 1 Peter 1:18-19 (ESV) 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.[12]  From this we learn that Christ gave it all.  He paid for you with the currency of His holy, innocent blood … a shedding of blood leading to death.

You know that Christ’s payment is sufficient.  He does not remain in the grave, but rises on the third day.  His resurrection assures you that you are indeed God’s treasure.  You are His precious pearl.  His resurrection assures you that you also will rise from the dead.  It assures you that you, and all believers; God’s Holy and precious people, will enjoy heaven with Him forever.  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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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