Matthew 13:44-52 – Treasure

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Matthew 13:44-52

44 “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.

Copyright: Edward Riojas. Used by permission

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.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it on the beach and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The kingdom of heaven, apparently, is like a lot of things. This is the third week in Matthew 13 where Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to all sorts of things.

The kingdom of heaven is like a sower who sows seed, and there are enemies of that seed trying to keep it from producing fruit.

Last week, Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sows good seed in his field and an enemy tries to mess the whole thing up by sowing weeds in the same field. But the master isn’t willing to wipe the whole field out. Instead, he decides to wait it out, let the weeds and the wheat grow together, until the harvest and sort it all out then.

Jesus also says that the kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed. When it is planted its teeny-tiny, but it grows bigger than all the other plants. Also, the kingdom of heaven is like a little leaven in a huge batch of dough – it permeates the whole lump.

Today, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, like a merchant in search of fine pearls, and like a fishing net.

To be sure, the kingdom of heaven is the greatest treasure and is of more value than anything you could possibly imagine. In fact, the treasure is so great that everyone everywhere should be willing to give up everything to get their hands on it. As Jesus says later in Matthew, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (16:26). You could have it all, but in the end, if you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have jack squat.

But you and I don’t believe this. And it doesn’t matter how often or how convincingly Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is beyond the greatest treasure imaginable. We aren’t willing to give everything up to attain the kingdom.

We are like the rich young man that comes to Jesus (Mt. 19:16-26) asking, “Jesus, what must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus says, “You know the Commandments. Don’t kill people or commit adultery. Don’t steal or bear false witness. Honor your father and mother. Basically, love your neighbor as yourself.” And the young man says, “Pish posh. I’ve been doing that my while life. There’s got to be more to it than that.” Jesus answers, “If you would be perfect, go, sell everything, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” And the young man walks away unwilling to do what Jesus says it takes.

When we look at the first two parables about the treasure and the merchant searching for fine pearls, our natural inclination is to think that Jesus is telling us to do what He told the young man to do. Give it all up, let everything go, and enter the kingdom. In other words, be perfect and earn the kingdom.

But a vow of poverty won’t get you into the kingdom. Even if you sell everything you have in an effort to gain the kingdom of God, do you notice what you are doing? You’re holding on to something – yourself! You’re just interested in self-preservation, and you haven’t impressed God so that He will reward you.

If you see the parable of the hidden treasure or the merchant in search of pearls as an exhortation for you to give up everything for Jesus, you have it backwards. Repent.

The treasure and the pearl are not heaven or Jesus that we need to find and purchase. The field is not the church or even the Bible. The field is the cemetery where the bones of Adam and all his sons and daughters are buried. Jesus is the one who finds you, goes, and sells all He has to purchase you. The treasure and the pearl are you who are purchased not with silver and gold, but with Jesus’ holy and precious blood and with His innocent sufferings and death. Jesus gave up everything in order to make you His own.

And it probably doesn’t seem right to you, so you are wondering, “Pastor, if Jesus treasured me so much and I am part of His kingdom, why I still have so many problems in this world? Why do I still suffer?” Well, I’m glad you asked.

The answer for suffering and evil was already given, somewhat, in the parable of the wheat and the weeds. But it is also what the parable about the net is also getting at.

When you fish with a net, you catch all sorts of things: good fish, bad fish, eels, empty cans, boots, and tires. God isn’t about catching you each individually with a rod and hook. His love for the whole lot of this fallen world swallows us all up.

Jesus came to save the world – every last one of us. He died for you; He died for all. In Adam, all are condemned; in Jesus, the greater Adam, all are justified (Ro. 5:18). Because of the cross, every sin is answered for, and every sinner is atoned. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself not counting your sins against you (2 Cor. 5:19).

And the day will come when you will be separated from the evil and garbage of this world caused by sin because, “God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession” (Dt. 7:6). God has loved you, chosen you, and in Baptism placed His name upon you.

And, as our Epistle lesson says, everything in this world, even the evil junk that surrounds you, God uses it all for your good (Ro. 8:28-39). Even when you were His enemy, He didn’t spare His only Son, but gave Jesus up for you. So, now that you are His own beloved child, what good thing will He hold back from you? The answer is – nothing, zilch, zip, nada.

You are His beloved treasure now and always. He rejoices at finding you and purchasing you. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Isaiah 55:10-13 & Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – Sprout

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Word of God always works. As surely as rain and snow make the ground wet, the Word of God works.

Time after time, Scripture makes this clear. In creation, God speaks, and things that don’t exist obey. Jesus speaks to a deaf man and his ears open (Mk. 7:31-37). And Jesus tells dead-as-a-doornail Lazarus to come out of the tomb, and he does. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” And Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”

But it doesn’t matter how clear Scripture makes it. It doesn’t matter how many times we read these verses from Isaiah or see countless examples in the Scripture that the Word of God works, we simply and sinfully do not believe this because there are times when it appears to us that God’s Word isn’t working. The results we expect just aren’t there. The Scriptures are pouring down, but where is the sprouting? Where is the fruit?

In our Gospel lesson (Mt. 13:1-9, 18-23), the Parable of the Sower and the Seed and its explanation, Jesus deals with our objections to the truth that God’s Word always works.

In the parable, Jesus teaches that God’s Word has enemies. The devil is first of those enemies. He is always trying to snatch away the Word as soon as the seed falls. Satan wants nothing more than to take that seed from you as soon as possible. That is why you have a hard time listening to sermons and why you get distracted when you read your Bible. Satan is always trying to steal God’s Word from you.

But there is another enemy of God’s Word. Trials, tribulations, and persecution also threaten the harvest that comes from hearing the Word of God. Troubles in this life tempt us into thinking that God is far away and has either abandoned us completely or isn’t interested in what is going on in our life. We wrongly think that, as a Christian, we should have less trouble and a better life than those who aren’t Christians. But Jesus never promised that. Jesus did not say, “Take up your Lazy Boy and follow Me.”

The Christian life isn’t easy. When tribulations and persecutions come, that isn’t the time to give up on God’s Word and retreat. Those trials should cause us to hold tighter to God’s Word. To sink our roots deeper into the promises that come only in the Scriptures.

Both the devil and the trials of this life are deadly enemies to the Word of God. But it is the third enemy, the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the enticement of stuff that is striking – especially this time of year.

Imagine a man standing just outside the door of our church, and every Sunday he would hold out $1,000 to you as you approached. The $1,000 is yours, free and clear, so long as you don’t come into church and listen to God’s Word. Would you take it?

Sadly, you are lured away by less than that. That tournament your child is playing in keeps you from hearing God’s Word and receiving the promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation. The lake is really nice to visit this time of year, and a few Sunday mornings of fishing and relaxing are much more appealing than being in a pew. Or, and I am guilty of this too, we would rather watch one more episode on Netflix before bed rather than spending time in the Bible.

Psalm 119:72 says, “The [Word] of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold or silver pieces.”

Brothers and sisters, we all need to repent. Repent and once again hear the effective Word of God. Notice that even when these enemies of God’s Word prevent the harvest – they never succeed because the Word, the seed, is ineffective.

The seed of God’s Word always has life in it. Even if we are hard-hearted pavement, the Word has life. Even if the rocks prevent our roots from receiving nourishment, the Word grows. Even if the weeds of the pleasures of this life choke out the growth, the Word works.

Repent and hear again this promise: God’s Word does not ever, never ever, return empty but accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent. And remember that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh.

The Word was sent by the Father to dwell among us. Jesus, the Word of God, bore all the accusations the Law could throw against you and of which He was innocent. The Word was sent to the slaughter, to accept your guilty verdict and to be killed on the cross for crimes that you committed.

And He is risen. Jesus has broken down the gates of hell and opened heaven to you believer, that you might live. And still, constantly through His Word, He speaks you righteous. He declares you innocent, and there is no one left to accuse or speak a word against you.

Hear His Word now: You are forgiven. Your sins are gone. Now, go out in joy and be led forth in peace. Sprout, and bear fruit for His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Matthew 11:25-30 – Hidden & Revealed

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Matthew 11:25-30

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus prays, “I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will.”

Hang on there, Jesus. What’s all this talk about God hiding things from the wise and understanding? I thought God wanted all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. What does God have against the wise and understanding?

Well, there are two kinds of wisdom – according-to-the-world wisdom and according-to-God wisdom. According the world, the wise are those who have it all figured out. An answer for every question. And it isn’t that God doesn’t love the according-to-the-world wise; it’s that they don’t want God or His love and mercy because the don’t want to need His mercy. Those who are wise according to the world want to be above God and not below Him.

The other kind of wisdom – the according-to-God wisdom – is to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10).

So, Jesus’ prayer which opens this text is speaking against the according-to-the-world wisdom. “Thank You, Father, for hiding the treasures of Your kingdom from those who don’t think there are any treasure to be found. Thank You for hiding Your mercy from those who would rather crawl their way back to You than receive Your mercy. And thank You, Father, for hiding Your wisdom under the foolishness of the cross (1 Cor. 1:21-24). Thank You for hiding Your strength under weakness and Your victory under defeat. Thank You for revealing these things to little children.”

Little children. Jesus said that unless you become like one of them, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Mk. 10:15). These “little children” are those who receive, trust, and depend – all characteristics that we are supposed to grow out of. And in this world, we should become independent, productive members of society. But none of us ever grow out of our need for God’s love and mercy.

As long as we are in this world, we are sinners. And, unlike wine and certain kinds of cheese, sinners don’t get better with age. That is what Paul was getting at in our epistle text (Ro. 7:14-25).

Paul tells his sad story. He is a man who truly wants to do good. He knows what is right, and he earnestly and honestly wants to do it. But he can’t. He always fails. He delights in God’s Law, but he also recognizes that he is a total, complete, abject sinner. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Does he give up? No.

Instead, Paul knows the wisdom of God, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! He has redeemed me. He has shed His blood and died on the cross for me.”

Blake, today you are baptized. Today, you are born again. Today, Jesus has chosen to reveal Himself to you. Stay childlike before God. Stay totally, completely, wholly dependent upon your Heavenly Father.

Blake, by the grace of God as you grow, you will learn many things. You will learn to crawl, stand, walk, and eat on your own. You will learn to ride a bike, read, and drive a car. Your life will be filled with assignments, deadlines, and all sorts of other pressures. You will learn how to be a productive member of society. And by God’s grace, you will become an independent, smart woman like your mother, your aunts, and your grandmother.

But don’t ever be fooled into thinking that you outgrow your dependence upon God.

Blake, and all you believers here today. You never outgrow your need for the love, mercy, and provision of God.

So, when you feel the weight of the world, don’t be afraid to recognize that you bear those burdens because of your sin. After the Fall, God said by the sweat of your brow that you would eat. Confess that it is because of sin that life is hard.

But then, hear Jesus’ constant invitation. “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

The Christian life is work. But always remember who is carrying the load. Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father.” Jesus bears every load, every weight, every burden.

Luther says that it is like a mule pulling a cart with a flea on its nose, and the flea pulls with all its might. Jesus bears the heavy load and lets you walk with Him as He carries you. Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light because He bears the weight – not you. Jesus does the heavy lifting. And in Him – only in Him – you find the rest that you seek.

May this mystery be revealed to each of you here, for this is the Father’s gracious will. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Romans 7:1-13 – A Dead Dog

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Romans 7:1-13

1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

God commands us to not want what we don’t have, “You shall not covet.” Such a small command. Not only is it small by the number of words, but it seems such a small, harmless thing to do. So what, if you covet your neighbor’s things? It’s not like you’re actually stealing. So what if you covet your neighbor’s wife or husband? It’s not like you’re actually committing adultery.

But that is exactly what the devil wants us to think. Satan wants us to minimize the sin of covetousness so that we fall into all sorts of other sins that harm ourselves and our neighbor.

Coveting is where sin starts. Remember King David? He was out enjoying his balcony one evening, and he saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, bathing. David sinned by coveting his neighbor’s wife, but the sin didn’t stop there.

David had an affair with her – breaking 6th Commandment. To cover up his sin, David had Uriah killed – breaking the 5th Commandment. David took Bathsheba as his wife – breaking the 7th Commandment. In his actions, David lied – breaking the 8th Commandment. He dishonored his parents by not doing what they had taught him – breaking the 4th Commandment. By breaking all those other Commandments, David was not honoring God’s name and God’s Word – 2nd and 3rd Commandments. In all of this, David broke the 1st Commandment, serving his desires rather than the true God.

What started with breaking the 10th Commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” turned into a Commandment-smashing spree.

Coveting is a lot more dangerous than we think it is. In Colossians 3:5, Paul says that coveting is idolatry. How can he say that? Well, think about it. At its core, coveting is you believing that God got it wrong when you don’t have what you want. You put yourself in the place of God and, in effect, say, “That thing should be mine.”

That is why God gave the Commandments about coveting. Like Paul did, we don’t give coveting a second thought, but it is deadly dangerous.

Think of your conscience like a radar that picks up the threats of sin. Your conscience radar can pick up the threat of murder, stealing, lying, etc. But coveting is like a stealth bomber. Your conscience doesn’t even notice it.

That’s why Paul says here, “I would not have known what it is to covet if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the Law, sin lies dead.”

Sin is like a sleeping dog, and the Law comes along and kicks it awake. God doesn’t let sleeping dogs lie – not when it comes to sin. God doesn’t want you to be ignorant of your sin and your deadness. So He gave the Commandments.

The Law cannot make you a better person, and the Law certainly cannot make you righteous. That is not why God gave the Law. God gave the holy, righteous, and good Commandments to show you just how dead you are in sin.

The Law always accuses and comes to kill you, sinner, by showing you that you do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The Law shows us all that we are covetous idolaters in our hearts and married to sin.

Repent. You were married to sin, but Jesus has come. God made Jesus, who knew no sin to be sin and to die to sin – for you. You were married to sin. But in Baptism, God joined you to Jesus so that you would die to sin and be married to another – to Jesus who has been raised from the dead. And now you are reborn in Jesus, and there is no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus.

Now, God looks at you and sees Jesus, His beloved child. The life you now live, you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave His life for you (Gal. 2:20).

Believer, your Husband, your Savior Jesus, calls you to His table to receive His holy body and His precious blood to assure you once again that your sins are forgiven. He gives you His risen body and blood so that you may serve Him. Because of what Jesus has done, you belong to Him, now and forever. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.