#42 in 66 in 52: A One Year Journey Through the Bible. Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL. James Jackson, Lead Pastor
Good morning! Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 13. This is page 769 in the Pew Bibles.
We are continuing our series within the series called “Who do you say I am?” The title comes from something that happened in Matthew 16. Jesus was with his disciples in a place called Caeserea Philippi. Here’s what it looks like today. You see this flat area with this big cave. That cave was called the gate of Hades, and it was a place that had been known for child sacrifice. And at the time of Jesus, this area was like a strip mall for idolatry. You had a temple to Augustus, built by Herod the Great, you had a temple to Zeus, you had a shrine to the god pan—take your pick.
This was where Jesus asked his disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” and they reply, well, some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Jesus looks at them and asks, “Who do you say I am?”
In other words, right here, when you have so many different options for who or what you are going to give your worship to, who am I to you?
And I bring this up, even though we aren’t looking at this passage today, because it’s the same question we have to deal with today, and it’s very similar circumstances. There are just as many if not more things competing for our attention. And Jesus is asking you the same question. Not “who do your parents say I am, or who does Glynwood say I am, or who does popular culture say I am, but who do YOU say I am?
Last week, we were in Mark 1-2, looking at Jesus as the Sovereign authority. This morning, we are going to look at Matthew for an example of Jesus the Sage (or, if you don’t care about alliteration, Jesus the teacher. We talked last week about how Mark emphasizes action. His favorite word Is “immediately,” and his focus is on what Jesus did. Mark wants us to see Jesus as the Son of God.
Matthew has a different focus. Matthew presents Jesus as the Promised Messiah. There are 130 direct quotes or references to the Old Testament. Matthew’s favorite phrase is, “This was done to fulfill what was said in…”
But another one of Matthew’s emphases is on Jesus as the New Moses. Moses was the Lawgiver. The one who went up on a mountain and brought back God’s law and taught it to the people. The first five books of the Bible are also called the Five books of Moses.
And so Matthew has more of Jesus teachings than any of the gospels. And he deliberately organizes Jesus’ teachings into five sermons or discourses:
- The Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:28)
- Teaching about missions (10:1-42)
- Teaching in Parables (13:1-53)
- Teaching about Community (17:22-18:35)
- Teaching about the end of the World (24:1-25:46)
Now we obviously don’t have time to deal with all of these this morning, but I wanted to put these up here to show you how Matthew emphasizes Jesus as “Sage” or teacher. And we are going to look in depth at two of Jesus’ parables as just a sample of his teaching. So if you have your bibles, we are going to look at Matthew 13:44-46. It’s a pretty short passage, so if you would, please stand as we honor the reading of God’s Word:
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.
This is the word of the Lord, thanks be to God. [pray]
These two stories are examples of Jesus’ favorite teaching method, which was to teach in parables. Just a few verses before this, Matthew tells us that Jesus
34 said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:[e]
“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”
What’s a parable? It’s an earthly story with a heavenly point. The Greek word parabola means “to throw alongside,” and that’s what a parable does. It takes an everyday, earthly event, like farming, or fishing, or shopping, and it matches it with a heavenly point—The kingdom of heaven is like a man. The kingdom of heaven is like a net. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure. You get the point.
And here, Jesus is teaching about the kingdom of heaven. He says there’s two ways to find treasure:
Stumble over it or Seek after it
Jesus illustrates this truth with two stories.
In the first story, there’s a man finding treasure in a field. He’s probably a tenant farmer, growing food for his family on a rented piece of land. In Jesus day, someone burying treasure in a field wasn’t all that unusual. Maybe a previous owner had buried it before going off to war and didn’t come back. Jesus doesn’t tell that part of the story. But however it got there, just notice that the man doesn’t own the field. He didn’t do anything to earn the treasure. He didn’t work for it. But when he finds it, he knows how valuable it is, and he goes and sells everything he has in order to buy the field.
But in the second story, you’ve got a merchant who is looking for fine pearls. Here’s a guy who is actively seeking a treasure. He knows how valuable pearls are (especially in Jesus day, when there was no such thing as cultured pearls), and he is willing to pay a high price for them. And one day, he found one of great value, and he went and sold all he had in order to obtain it.
These two stories are very similar. Jesus wants to teach us something about the kingdom of heaven—so they both start with “The kingdom of heaven.”
And they both involve treasure. A treasure in a field, a pearl of great value.
Three truths about the treasure
- It’s worth everything
- It costs everything.
- It requires action
Four Questions about the stories:
Who was the treasure hunter?
1. The hunter is me. Actually, for the first parable at least, it would be better to say the finder is me.
2. The treasure is Jesus. It’s a relationship with him that is more valuable than anything else in the world. (I’d rather have Jesus)
3. And the cost is everything I have. The man goes and sells everything he has to buy the field. The merchant went and sold all he had and bought the pearl. The same principle is true in both stories. There’s a treasure that’s worth everything, that costs everything, and it requires action to obtain it.
And it’s easy to see the gospel in this, isn’t it? Think about that first parable. Did the tenant farmer do anything to earn the treasure? No. Had he done anything to work for the treasure? No. But was the treasure rightfully his? Yes. He took the necessary action to obtain the treasure. He goes and sells everything he has in order to buy the field.
This is how anyone responds to the gospel. First, you recognize the value of a treasure you did not earn or work for. It’s worth everything. And you realize that it’s going to cost you everything. Jesus put it this way, in Luke 9:23:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Take up your cross could only mean one thing—it meant to die. And Jesus taught that we take up that cross daily. Daily we die to our own desires and ambitions and wants.
But there’s a phrase in Matthew 13:44 that I don’t want you to miss. Look at it again: In his joy the farmer goes and sells everything he has in order to buy the field.
We can’t ignore the fact that following Jesus is going to cost us everything we have. Our possessions is no longer ours. Our leisure time is no longer ours. When we follow Jesus, nothing belongs to us anymore.
But we also can’t ignore the fact that there is joy in giving up everything in order to gain a relationship with Jesus. This is how Paul put it in Philippians 3:
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
All three of these truths apply to both parables. The treasure is worth everything, it costs everything, and it requires action to obtain it. Don’t misunderstand that last point. There’s nothing you can do to earn the treasure, but you have to respond by surrendering everything.
And we could just leave it at that. Jesus tells two parables in a row that make the same point. And the reason he told two stories is to emphasize the importance of it.
But there are a couple of differences that I want to point out.
The first is in the way Jesus introduces the two stories. In the first, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden.”
But in the second parable, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking
In the first parable, the kingdom of heaven is a treasure. In the second parable, the kingdom of heaven is a treasure hunter.
Sure, it’s possible that Jesus was teaching the same thing in two parables. Lord knows there’s been plenty of times I’ve needed a lesson repeated. Usually more than twice.
But its also possible that the second parable is teaching something else:
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant.
What if the merchant is Jesus? Just as the merchant knew the value of the pearl, Jesus knows the value of the treasure He is seeking. What is that treasure?
The treasure he is seeking is a relationship with us. God knows your value. He created you after all. He knows what you are worth, and He is willing to pay the price.
What is the price? The cost was everything He had.
Is it a stretch to look at it this way? It would be if this was the only time Scripture said anything about it. But what does scripture say?
The son of man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
2 Cor. 8:9
And just like the man who finds the treasure hidden in the field and in his joy sells everything he has to obtain the field, look at Hebrews 12:2. We look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus looked at you and said, it’s worth it.
So, one more thing: What action was required?“
1. “goes, sells, buys”
2. “went, sold, bought”