Matthew 13:44-46 (6th Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 12)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
July 24, 2011
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 13:
“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. “Again, 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 and bought it.”
Things have value. However, some things are more valuable than others. It’s quite interesting to see what value is placed on different things. An object doesn’t even have to have a lot of age behind it to be a great worth. There are plenty of more “modern” items that are given larger dollar amounts than some things that are a hundred years old. It all depends on what is being collected by whom and what the piece’s condition is. For example, a late-Egyptian bronze hollow cast falcon statue that once contained a falcon mummy has a value of $12,000 while a 1795 lap desk given to Martha Washington’s granddaughter by the Marquis de Lafayette would be worth $30,000, even though it is much “newer” than the Egyptian piece. I guess we could say that value is kind of like beauty—it’s in the eye of the beholder.
In our Gospel lesson this morning Jesus directs us to the value of the kingdom of heaven. He compares it to a treasure and a pearl. The value of the Kingdom has to be understood and received, otherwise it will be rejected along with its precious treasure.
To begin with, what is the kingdom of heaven? It’s not a place. It’s not an object. It is God’s gracious reigning among us. It is God’s ruling as king over the whole universe, the church on earth, and the church and angels in heaven. When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” we are asking God to give us His Holy Spirit so that we believe His Word and lead godly lives as members of His kingdom of grace. We remember from Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed that the Lord recklessly and graciously scatters the seed of His Word throughout the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit our hearts are made into the good soil of faith that receives and believes that Word—the Word of forgiveness and eternal life, a Word of peace, hope, and love. Yet we also remember that not all of the soil received the Word so that it was able to grow and bear fruit. The Word was rejected and choked.
Remember Jesus’ explanation of that parable. Our Lord said, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. . . . 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.” (Matthew 13:19-23) If someone doesn’t understand the Word, they will not understand its value. They won’t receive it as the life-giving Word that it is and so they will reject life in God’s kingdom.
In our text today, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to treasure and a pearl of great value. He wants His disciples, both then and today, to know that God’s kingdom is worth so much. In fact, the value of the kingdom is priceless because of what the kingdom brings and gives. We have already said that the kingdom of heaven brings to us the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts to receive and to believe the Word of Promise. The Word of Promise is the Gospel. It proclaims, gives, and seals the forgiveness of sins and eternal life won for all people by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and glorious resurrection from the dead. The Word of the Gospel is a means of grace, a means of the Spirit, working to bring us the blessings of God’s Kingdom in Christ Jesus.
It’s through the Bible that we not only learn about the blessings, but also the great value of the blessings of God’s Kingdom. From God’s Law, we are taught that we are sinners who are conceived and born without eternal life. We are in need of God’s restoring forgiveness and life otherwise we would be lost forever under God’s wrath and condemnation. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Colossians 1:13-14 reminds us that “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” What great and priceless value God’s Kingdom has for all people—the gift of forgiveness, the gift of eternal life! We wouldn’t know this nor understand it if we did not have contact with God’s Word in the Bible.
In the Scriptures, God the Holy Spirit reveals to us our sinful condition and our need for rescue and salvation. In the Scriptures, God the Holy Spirit shows us our Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose again winning our complete forgiveness from all our sins. Where there is Christ’s forgiveness, there is also eternal life and salvation. These are the blessings we received when the Holy Spirit made us members of God’s kingdom through another of the means of grace—Holy Baptism. Through the water combined with the Word of the Gospel in Baptism, the Spirit washed away our sins with the blood of Christ, created faith in our hearts to believe in Jesus as our only Lord and Savior, rescued us from death and the power of the devil, and gave us eternal life, just as the Word and Promises of God declare, “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mk.16:16)
We are saved! That is the treasure and the pearl of great price. We have been freely given forgiveness of sins and eternal life in God’s kingdom! That’s where the value lies—in what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. He called us to faith, forgave us our sins, and gifted to us life everlasting. The value of God’s Kingdom is found here, in His Good News Word and in the Good News gifts that He blesses us with through the power of the Word.
We know the eternal value, the priceless treasure of the Gospel which saves us. But our Christian appraisal is much different from those who have not yet heard or understood the Word of our salvation. They do not value God’s kingdom because they don’t know their great need or what the Lord offers freely to them through Christ in the priceless blessings of forgiveness and eternal life. Now this is where God uses us to extend His kingdom and to bring many others into His kingdom.
We have a great treasure that not everyone possesses. In Christian love, we have the heartfelt desire to share with them this great gift of salvation because it is also God’s heartfelt desire that we do so. God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Tim. 2:4) Jesus said, “therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) Paul requested the Thessalonian Christians to pray “that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored” as happened among the Thessalonians. (2 Thessalonians 3:1) Peter encourages us to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1Pe 3:15)
You see, there is more than enough treasure to go around and people need what you and I have—forgiveness and eternal life. They need to come to know their sinful condition and their need for a Savior. Then they need to hear about the Savior, Jesus, who loved them so much that He died on a cross to win their forgiveness and everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17) As you tell the unchurched and the uncommitted about Jesus, you are sharing with them the treasure of the kingdom of heaven. You are giving the Holy Spirit the opportunity to work through the Good News Word you speak so that He can created saving faith when and where it pleases Him. You are enabling the Spirit to use the Gospel to bring Jesus’ gifts of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to someone who is lost in sin and death. What a treasured gift you have to share and what a treasure you become in Jesus’ name with those to whom you share the blessings of God’s kingdom.
Things have value. But there is nothing of greater value than the treasure of the kingdom of heaven that is ours through the Gospel. There is nothing more valuable than the forgiveness and eternal life which Jesus purchased and won for you, for me, and for all people. There is no greater way to celebrate and give thanks for this treasure than to give it away to those who do not yet have this prized possession from the Lord. So what are you waiting for, go and share the wealth of the Kingdom! Amen.