Matthew 13:44-46 (7th Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 12)
“What God’s Kingdom is Like”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
July 27, 2014
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text today is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 13:
Jesus said, “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.”
Once when the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale, was walking through the twisted little streets of Kowloon in Hong Kong, he came upon a tattoo studio. In the window were displayed samples of the tattoos available. On the chest or arms you could have tattooed an anchor or flag or mermaid or whatever. But what struck him with force were three words that could be tattooed on one’s flesh: “Born to lose.” Peale entered the shop in astonishment and pointing to those words, asked the Chinese tattoo artist, “Does anyone really have that terrible phrase, ‘Born to lose,’ tattooed on his body?” He replied, “Yes, sometimes.” “But,” Peale said, “I just can’t believe that anyone in his right mind would do that.” The Chinese man simply tapped his forehead and said in broken English, “Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind.”
What do you and I have tattooed on our minds about ourselves? “Born to lose?” “Not worth much”? “Nothing special”? How many of us have been, or continue to be, plagued by low self-esteem and low self-worth? Go to Barnes and Noble or browse Amazon and see just how many books have been written offering people help with their self-esteem. That’s probably a good indicator of just what a far reaching issue this is.
Cheryl was at her wit’s end. She simply didn’t know where to turn. Her welfare check lasted only about half the month. Although she wanted to, and had tried several times, she was unable to work because there was no one to watch her two children and daycare was too expensive. She lived in a rundown apartment in a small town with little opportunity to change her situation. She wanted her children to have more opportunities than she had, but she just couldn’t make ends meet. Instead, she fell farther behind each month. She felt worthless and useless.
You and I can relate. We’re not always able to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves. Life doesn’t move us in the direction we had planned. Our health isn’t what we hoped it would be. Your marriage fell apart. You lost your job. Your kids are constantly getting into trouble. It seems like something in the house or the car is constantly in need of repair. We had planned for more and for better for ourselves and for our families, and we just don’t seem to be getting it. Tattooed in our minds might very well be “Born to lose.”
And in a way, there is truth in that tattooed phrase. David declares in Psalm 51, “Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.” (51:5 NET) We were conceived and born already lost in original sin, the sin inherited from our parents going all the way back to Adam and Eve. How is it that we who are sinful and evil by nature could ever have any real value or standing with each other, or more importantly, with God? The Psalmist writes of God, “You hate all evildoers.” (Psalm 5:5 ESV) God the Lord is holy, without sin and hating sin. Could we ever hope to have value before God?
You and I receive value from that which own us. Conceived and born under the power of sin, death, and Satan, we were owned lock, stock, and barrel by this unholy trinity. We were slaves and prisoners to Satan and sin, sentenced under an eternity of hellish death. Satan stood tall and told God that you and I had no worth whatsoever. “Sinners have zero value to a holy God.” Yet it was God who made people in His own image. It was God who created a perfect world in which the crown of His good creation—people—were to live and to care for the earth in perfect holiness and communion with the Lord. And it was Satan who brought sin and death to us all through the fall of Adam and Eve. It was the devil who destroyed our value before God. It was sin that stole away our worth before our Creator. Or did they?
Satan wants us to believe that we are too sinful to have value to the Lord. The devil wants us to think of ourselves as having no worth. But that’s now how God see it at all.
Remember, we receive value from the one who own us. Satan thinks he does. Sin thinks it does. Death believes it too. And they try to convince us. But we have been purchased from sin, Satan, and death. But we have been redeemed because to the Lord, you and I are the treasure box in the field and the pearl of great value of which Jesus speaks today. You and I and all people are worth the very price of everything God has—the price and cost of His own sinless, holy life.
The man and the merchant in Jesus’ parables did whatever it took in order to possess what he valued so highly, even to the point of selling everything he had. God the Son took on our human flesh, without sin, so that He might make the perfect and full payment to redeem, which means to buy us back, from the power of sin, death, and the devil. Only Jesus, the sinless God-Man, could give His life as the ransom payment for the many. (Matt. 20:28)
Christ’s death on the cross to purchase and win us back from sin, death, and the power of the devil was an act and expression of divine grace. In God’s rule, you and I and all people are a treasure and a pearl to our heavenly Father. Out of pure, fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us, He gave His one-of-a-kind Son to be our Savior. 1 Peter 1:18-19, “For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.” (1 Peter 1:18-19 CSB) The Lord Jesus gave you His everything, His own perfect life to the death of a cross, so that you would have forgiveness and life. Jesus gave you His everything so that you are redeemed from the kingdom and sin, death, and Satan Christ bought you back so that you might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom. As the apostle Peter declares, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
God, through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, has purchased you and made you His own. Each one of you is the Lord’s treasured possession—a treasure box, a peal of great value! Sin wanted us to be born to lose. But because of the gift of God’s forgiveness and redemption through Jesus’ shed blood, we are re-born by grace through faith to win! As the baptized children of God we are already winners over the power of sin, Satan, and death. We can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, say no to sin and temptation. We have the guarantee and assurance of resurrection and life forever in the Lord’s new creation. Even though we may often feel buried under the challenges and dangers presented by our own sinful flesh, by the hostile world around us, and by the great enemy and the father of lies, there need be no doubt that you and I belong to Jesus because we have infinite value to Him.
Your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ purchased and won you at the price of everything that He had. In the breathtaking reckoning of grace, you are as a treasure to Him. Secure in that confidence of your priceless value to your Creator and Redeemer, continue to follow Him as prized children and disciples of the King. Amen.