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.
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.