Monday, July 25, 2005

Sermon - Matthew 13:44-52 - "You are the Treasure!"

10th Sunday after Pentecost – July 24th, 2005
Matthew 13:44-52
“You are the Treasure!”

I. Introduction –
Pretend with me for a moment that it is the day of your death. The doctors have told you that there is nothing more they can do. Your family stands around your bedside helpless to prevent your death from coming. It no longer matters how much money you have, how expensive your house is or the kind of car that you drive. Your education and your job are now meaningless and now you have only a past with no future. But as you lay there in bed a song from childhood keeps going through your mind: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

Now pretend with me again. Jesus has returned to judge the living and the dead….and now you stand before him and see him with your own eyes. And as you stand before him you fully understand why he is the most valuable treasure you have in all of life for your eternal destiny of eternal life or eternal damnation will be sealed. For Jesus says: “The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Part of our joy is knowing that we will not be thrown into that fiery furnace of damnation. We will live, and by his grace alone, attain heaven’s riches. At that moment, nothing – NOTHING – else will matter, nothing but our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Today Jesus tells us one of those “kingdom parables”. What is the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God like? He answered this question many ways. Today we will focus on the two short kingdom parables – the hidden treasure, and the fine pearl. We will consider questions of ultimate value. And we will be reminded of what (who) is truly priceless, and how.

II. What’s it Worth to You?
I think we’ve all seen those mastercard commercials, which list off the price of several things – gas for the car, $40 – airline tickets, $200 – Spending a tropical weekend vacation with the family – priceless! “Some things in life are priceless, for everything else, there is mastercard”. It’s not a bad series of commercials, I think, because it makes us think about what is truly valuable in life.

Take the man in this first parable, who found the hidden treasure in the field. That treasure, what was it? A stash of gold? Some ancient artifacts? Precious jewels? Doesn’t matter, this is a parable. The point is it was SO valuable, that he HAD to have it. He sold all that he had – his total net worth – exchanged it for the field (and that treasure), and presumably, ended up a very wealthy man.

Likewise the merchant looking for pearls. He knows value when he sees it. The perfect shape, the right color. And size counts too. When he finds that one diamond in the rough, that pearl of great value, he liquidates his portfolio to get his hands on the precious jewel.

Now, one interpretation we could draw here, is that very simply, the kingdom of God is of ultimate value. That, being a follower of Jesus, having faith in him, being baptized, receiving the sacrament, hearing his word – that these things together are more important than ANYTHING else. Our faith – which holds onto God’s grace in Christ - our greatest treasure. God is #1 most important. Amen. Great. We can all go home now, right? Wait just a minute.

I don’t know about you, but if we take this meaning of the parable, we are left with something other than a warm fuzzy feeling. This interpretation makes me think, “If God’s kingdom is worth more than anything, even all my possessions, how come I don’t act like it is?”

In other words, “how come I don’t pray all that much? How come I don’t give more and more joyfully to support God’s work? How come I don’t love God above all else? How come I take God for granted so often and so easily? How come I can’t even love my neighbor as myself? Am I taking the treasure for granted? Am I dragging the gift through the mud?”

Well, to the “how come’s”, we could answer, “because you are a sinner”. And to the, “Am I messing up’s” we could answer, “yes”.

Does our sin ultimately disqualify us for the treasure? Does our failure to appreciate the treasure make us ineligible? Will we stand before the throne of God’s judgment empty-handed, because we didn’t sell all our possessions in service of him? No.

III. What You are Worth to God.

There’s another way of looking at these 2 parables. Instead of thinking of the treasure hunter as YOU, think of him as GOD. Instead of you being the merchant, think of GOD going through the marketplace. Now the story is different. Now the treasure hidden in the field is – YOU and ME! Now the pearl of great price is – the sinner who becomes a child of God?

And what does God “sell” to make his purchase? Better question, who? Jesus. Jesus, his only son. His greatest treasure, to make us his treasured possessions.

Jesus paid a price too. He too gave all he had, to make us his own.
Luther put it this way in the Small Catechism:

“He has purchased and won me from all sin death and the power of the devil, not with silver or gold, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death…That I may be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”

Now, certainly, we have no value of our own. We are not worthy or valuable except in that God loved us so. We bring nothing to the table, no value, no merit, no worth. Scripture says the best we can offer God is as filthy rags. Yuck, who wants them?

But God sees us, even in our sin, as treasures – great pearls – worth even the life and suffering and death of his own Son. And there at the cross of Jesus he makes us into the treasures that shine with heaven’s brightness forever. What are you worth to God? Everything.

IV. Eternal Salvation: Priceless!

What would you pay for a dream vacation? Thousands of dollars? What about the best luxury car on the market? Hundreds of thousands? What about eternal salvation: priceless!

You see, with our first understanding of the parable, we could never have the kingdom anyway. Nothing we can do, nothing we can earn, nothing we can give up for the kingdom of God will buy our way into heaven. Only Jesus can pay the price. Even if we did, literally, sell everything we had and donate it to Grace Lutheran Church, and go live in Calcutta serving the poor and the lepers, it still isn’t enough. We would still be lost, if we didn’t have Jesus.

But Christ has paid the price and bought us back, our value to God depends on HIM not on US. This is why we can rest assured knowing the treasure of God’s kingdom is ours forever. Because Jesus put it on HIS tab, and there is no credit limit there. His grace will never be declined. His mercy will never go bankrupt. His love will never be repossessed. His promises are more than FDIC insured – they are eternally trustworthy and true.

What a great treasure we have in these parables of Christ. They illustrate the great value of belonging to his kingdom, and I believe even more, the great value that God places on us by paying the ultimate price for us at the cross. May we always treasure Him who has treasured us so. In the precious, precious, name of Jesus, Amen.

V. Conclusion
The parables of the Hidden Treasure and Fine Pearl are not only about how valuable the kingdom is to the believer. They also show how valuable we are to God – who would send his only Son to die – that we might be his.


Paul said...

I think that even or especially a little child, a very young child, would be saddened to know that the Kingdom of God holds a torture chamber in its basement.

Preachrboy said...

Well, I wouldn't describe it that way, but Hell is real. And it is sad. But what gladdens is, as I said, knowing we need not end up there because of Christ.

Lynn of St. John's said...

Let's not forget all the saints who have suffered a marters death, surely these are included in the Kingdom at hand. And nothing has changed, just last week a mother came to our house with her infant who had been baptized just the Sunday before. Being Born Again didn't liberate him from suffering.Infact he may have had to suffer so that I could be the witness to tell you this. He was crying and the father threw him on the couch,yelled he hated him and wanted to give him up for adoption. Oh he repented later, but the fact remained even this Baptized into the Body of Christ Christian man lost his cool and needed Gods mercy, grace and forgiveness. While we are not in hell for eternity sometimes we get a taist of hell on earth and God lets us know He has told us the truth ,that the devil is real.