Matthew 13:44-52 (Eighth Sunday after Pentecost—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
July 26, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson for the day, from Matthew 13:
44“The reign of heaven is like a treasure having been hidden in a field, which, when a man had found it, he hid it, and from his joy, he went and sold all that he had and bought that field. 45Again, the reign of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls. 46And when he found a very valuable pearl, he went away and sold all that he had and bought it. 47Again the reign of heaven is like a net cast into the sea gathering together all kinds of fish. 48After it has been filled, when they had drawn it up onto the seashore and had sat down, they gather the good into containers, but the worthless they threw away. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the evil from the midst of the righteous 50and they will throw them into the fiery furnace. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there. 51Do you understand all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52He said to them, “On account of this every scribe who has become a disciple of the reign of heaven is like a household who brings out of his treasures new things and old things.”
Disciples of Jesus are in the world as “sheep in the midst of wolves” (7:15; 10:16). Disciples of Jesus are in the world—the wheat growing together with the weeds (13:30). As disciples who live by faith in Jesus Christ, we are not removed from the world. Temptation is not taken away. We are daily assaulted by the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.
In another parable, Jesus tells us again of this reality of the reign. Jesus said, “Again the reign of heaven is like a net cast into the sea gathering together all kinds of fish.” All kinds of fish are people (just like the weeds and the wheat). There are those who hear the Word and receive the gift of saving faith, forgiveness, and eternal life. There are those also who reject that gift and refuse the promises of God that are for them in the Gospel. As in Jesus’ parable of the weeds and wheat, so also here in the parable of the net, the day will come when the Lord Jesus will send His angels to separate the believers from the non-believers. The weeds will be thrown into the fire to be burned; the worthless fish thrown away; the righteous ones separated from the evil ones; those without saving faith in Jesus thrown into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth but the righteous who live by faith receiving eternal salvation.
Wheat and weeds growing together; good fish and bad fish in the same net. But at the End, all things will be put right at the final judgment at the close of this age. Once again, this means that, for now, you and I get life in the reign of heaven in the midst of stumbling blocks and temptations and evil. And sometimes we are simply buried under the challenges and dangers of our own sinful flesh, of the hostile world around us, and of course, of the father of lies, the devil. But there is the good news of the reign of heaven that we cannot forget. Buried under the challenges, temptations, and dangers, you belong to Jesus.
Before the parable of the net, Jesus taught, “The reign of heaven is like a treasure having been hidden in a field, which, when a man had found it, he hid it, and from his joy, he went and sold all that he had and bought that field. Again, the reign of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls. And when he found a very valuable pearl, he went away and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Sandwiched between the explanation of the parable of the weeds and wheat and the parable of the net are these two really short comparisons. Jesus tells us with these stories what the reign and rule of heaven is about and what God is doing in Jesus who brings the reign of heaven to people. Believers and non-believers will live together until the Last Day. That is true. And believers like you and me are faced with all the trials and temptations and struggles of this life. But notice, in Jesus’ stories the man and the merchant did whatever it took in order to possess what each valued so highly—the treasure and the pearl—even to the point of selling everything he had!
Buried under the challenges and dangers of the devil and his temptations . . . you belong to Jesus. Submerged beneath the challenges and troubles of the hostile world around you . . . you belong to Jesus. Swamped by the weakness of your own sinful flesh with all its ungodly desires . . . you belong to Jesus. You belong to Jesus because you are the treasure. You are the pearl of great value. You are worth the very price of everything God has—the price and cost of His own Son’s holy, sinless life given into sacrificial death for you.
God the Son, Jesus, took on human flesh, without sin. Jesus gave up His glory, His power and prestige, to be born in this world. He gave up His popularity and safety to complete His earthly mission to save the world from sin and death. Jesus gave up His life on a cross so that He might make the perfect and full payment to redeem, to buy you 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 world (Matt. 20:28). And Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross was to purchase and win you back from the power of the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh. This indeed was an act and expression of divine grace because you are the treasure in Jesus’ eyes. You are the pearl He so wants that He gave up everything for you.
In God’s rule and reign, you are the treasure and the pear of great value. Out of pure, fatherly divine goodness and mercy, your heavenly Father gave His One-of-a-Kind Son to be your Savior because He loves you so much. 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 eternal life. Jesus gave you His everything so that you are redeemed from sin, death, and Satan. How did we learn it from the Small Catechism? “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”
Jesus Christ saved you from the power of the devil, the world, and the flesh so that you might be God’s own child and live under Christ in His reign and rule. You are now equipped by the Spirit and empowered by the Gospel and Sacraments of Christ to stand against devil, world, and flesh as victors in Christ. St John writes in his first epistle, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5 ESV).
God the Father, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has purchased you and made you His own treasured possession! The devil wants you to believe that you are worthless and inferior. He wants you to think that you were born to lose, to fail under the temptations and trials of this life that he sets before you. Satan desires you to think that you are defeated by the evil that the world throws in your face and by the desires that your own flesh lusts for in your heart. But you are not! Because of the gift of God’s forgiveness and redemption through Jesus’ shed blood, you are reborn by grace through faith to win! You are already more than conquerors though Jesus Christ! (Rom. 8:37).
As baptized children of God, all your sin and guilt stand forgiven. You are able, through the power of the Holy Spirit who works through God’s Word and Sacraments, to say no to sin and to overcome the temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh. You also have the guarantee and assurance of resurrection and life forever in the Lord’s new creation at the Last Day. Let there be no doubt, then, that you belong to Jesus and you have infinite value to Him. Amen.