Pentecost 8: “God’s Reign”
July 26th, 2020 – Matthew 13:44-52
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Intro on Parable
Parable. What is a parable?
A comparison story that teaches us about something. It is a story of metaphors. It is the way Jesus teaches us things. They can be complex.
I was once broadly told by once of my professors, that one should never preach on parables for at least five years into the ministry. This is because they can be so complex and can be interpreted so wrongly by some. Here, I will preach on a parable, but draw on more experienced preachers for assistance in doing so.
While studying for this sermon I read what another professor had written about parables in general. He says “parables are prisms. Depending on how you hold them in your imagination, they display different rays of light.” He wrote that this pair of parables from Matthew 13 is a case in point.
Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs in his commentary on Matthew interprets these parables one way. After much study, cross-comparison with other Scripture and prayer he looks at these parables and says: The person who finds the treasure or the pearl in these parables is Jesus. Jesus is the one who comes into the world, sells all He has and thereby redeems us, His treasured people.
Others have approached these parables with the assumption they need to do something (e.g., “I need to give up all I have to follow Jesus”). And, they are surprised and comforted when have nothing to do. Jesus has done it all. He has found them, given up all for them, and now claims them as His own.
Another “ray of light from the prism.” if you will, from another more experienced theologian, is that the treasure in the parables is the Gospel. Where the Gospel is proclaimed and forgiven of sins in Christ is given to people, God’s Kingdom of Grace is found. (aka. God’s reign).
May this message today teach you something, fill you up with God’s Grace, and guide your life.
Looking at these opening parables we can see a distinction in how the treasure is found. In the first parable, the man is not looking for anything but stumbles across the treasure in a field. In the second, the merchant is searching for a fine pearl and finds one. In each case, searching or not searching, the kingdom comes to them. It happens to them and they discover it whether they were seeking it or not.
What is your story? Were you a child when the treasure came to you at the baptismal font? Were you brought into the church later as a child and it came to you in Sunday School? Was it later in life when this treasure came up? Perhaps you were minding your own business, and someone said to you “Hey! Come to church with me.” Perhaps you, like the first man in the story, were not looking for it but there it came!
Maybe you were like the merchant. Maybe you were always looking for something more. Maybe you have studied all different types of religions and practiced them too! Maybe you have been through denomination after denomination in search of that treasure.
When was the day the treasure – “You’re forgiven freely by Christ” – found you?
When did you finally find what you were looking for? The message of God’s free gift for you.
When we look to Jesus’ ministry on earth, God’s Kingdom comes to those who are searching and not searching. Some are searching for it like John the Baptist, Simeon and Anna, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, and the rich young ruler. Others are not looking for it at all. Peter, Andrew, James, and John are fishing. Matthew is collecting taxes in his booth. The Widow of Nain is burying her son. These folks are not searching and yet God’s kingdom comes by grace.
What does that tell us about God’s mission through us to spread His Kingdom to all people? Should we expect everyone we reach out to about Jesus to be searching? No. They will not all be. Whether they are looking for it or not, the Treasure is still just as valuable.
On the flip side, many people ARE searching! We must learn the message and present it! We must defend it against all the other false treasures that are out there. It is the mission we have been given by God.
God’s reign of forgiveness, the treasure, comes to us simply by God giving us the good we do not deserve. By being hearers of that Word. We do not earn it or deserve it.
Valuing of Life
Something else we learn from these parables is the value of life. When God’s kingdom comes it forces you to value all of life differently. Once each of the people in our parables encounters the treasure, they sell all they have. The priorities of their lives are flipped upside down.
What do you own that makes you too poor to buy into the Gospel? What “weeds” are there draining your resources? Having too much money? Sleeping in on Sundays? The busyness of life?
Your life is what you spend your time on. It is what you put your resources toward.
When you “lose” your current life by directing your time and resources on Christ, you gain eternal life in Him. Yet, it is Christ’s own life He lost to forgive you and bring you into His care. Our lives respond to that with devotion to Him and valuing what He values.
In Christ’s kingdom, the unborn child has value. The Elderly person living with dementia is not someone forgotten by God, but one for whom He cares. The “down and outs” are not to be avoided and kicked out of town but loved and cared for. God’s command to meet together in His name is valued.
Live off Grace
Finally, the last thing, a wiser theologian than I says, we can learn from this parable from Jesus, is to learn to live off God’s undeserved good toward us- His forgiveness.
We learn to live off God’s grace. Not living off “the weekends,” “family visits,” or a “good meal.” Instead, we live daily off God’s Grace. We must live off the treasure we sold everything else to get. We have nothing else.
So, we turn to -what Jesus calls – the “treasures of the Kingdom” bringing out from it what is old and what is new. We dive into the Scriptures and bring out what is old and new and live off it. We dive into Deuteronomy. We study the book of Romans. We meditate on the Gospels and what they tell us about God.
We learn to rest in God’s promises and bring out the old and new in Bible Study.
We learn that God is working to create in us clean hearts through the forgiveness He offers to all those gathered in His name.
We live every day with the full realization of our forgiveness.
We live under the reign of Christ.
The most important part of His reign? The thing that brings us in His kingdom?
The Words, “You are forgiven.”
Let those words permeate everything you do every day.
Live… under God’s grace-filled reign.
In Jesus Name,