By Pastor Cherie Dearth

 

We are continuing our sermon series, The Kingdom. We have looked at the when of the Kingdom. It has already begun. It began with the birth of Christ through his earthly ministry. He brings the Kingdom, but it is not fully realized on earth. However, it is within our grasp. We are free to live under the reign of the Kingdom now. We do that by following the Ways of Jesus Christ. We live the way he taught. Of course that means that we need to know what he taught. That’s is discipleship. Disciple is a churchy word for a learner or student. So when the Methodist Church says its mission is to “make disciples for the transformation of the world,” in plain language, it means to teach students about what Jesus taught about loving God and how God intended us to live. This changes the world into a place where people are willing to live under God’s reign, authority, or rules.

 

The words reign, authority, and rules don’t sound very fun, but the irony is that to do it God’s way results in our freedom. We have the freedom to live in a just and equitable society. We have freedom to live in a place where people love and take care of each other. (People also take care of us.) This is living in the Kingdom.

 

Because the thing is that our choice is not between living under God’s authority or our own. It is a choice between living with God as our benefactor, God as our loving parent, or living under the law of the jungle, where “might makes right,” “the ends justify the means,” and “kill or be killed” are the norm. We do live in a location where much of that may be true much of the time figurative sense. There are parts of the world where all of this is true in a literal sense twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. All you have to do is look at the news, and you will get the latest example. When we are Kingdom people, we live free of all of that. We might have to interact with it, but we are not ruled by it. Moreover, we can invite others to live in this freedom as well.

 

Today’s Scripture describes the value of the Kingdom. It is a pair of parables in Matthew 13 beginning at verse 44.

 

Matthew 13:44-46 NIV
     44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
     45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. 

 

One of the defining characteristics of the Gospel of Matthew are its five great discourses or speeches that Jesus makes. As Matthew was writing to a predominantly Jewish-Christian community, these are thought to parallel the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, or the Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Today’s Scripture comes from one of these, The Parable Discourse, where Jesus tells several parables about the Kingdom and what it is like. The most well-known of the five discourses is the Sermon on the Mount.

 

What is a parable? Have you ever heard the saying that a picture is worth 1000 words? A parable is kind of like that. It is words, of course, but it is more than the sum of its parts. Like a piece of art, it is open to interpretation. It may not have an easily identifiable clear cut meaning.  (Though it is not completely ambiguous like a Rorschach inkblot where one person may see a flower and another a charging rhino.) It is intended to challenge your thinking, helping you to think deeply and perhaps see things in a new way.

 

So, here we have two parables, very short and concise. In a few weeks, we are going to look at a parable that will take nine verses to tell. This week two parables taking one verse each.

 

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

 

We have two very short stories that are very similar. Whenever you see that in the Bible, it should be a neon light blinking at you saying this is important.

 

Are you familiar with Spiderman? “Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can … Is he strong? Listen bud, He’s got radioactive blood. … Look out! Here comes the Spiderman.”

Peter Parker, average guy, maybe better than average in some area, less than average in others, just like most of us, but then he gets bit by this radioactive spider. The next day, everything has changed. I know that spiders are our friends. That doesn’t mean that I want to get bitten by one, but if I knew I could get special powers, I might want to encounter one of those spiders.

 

But think about it. The day before Peter Parker had no idea that his life would change so drastically. He was the nerdy kid that couldn’t get Mary Jane to give him the time of day. Then, this one thing happens, and the entire way he views the world and his place in it changes.

 

Have you ever had something like that happen to you? (And, I don’t mean being bit by a spider.) Have you ever had something happen that changed your life dramatically, changed the way you looked at the world, something that you could not have anticipated the day before? When you think of something like the fall of the Berlin Wall? How it changed everything. Something more personal, what about the day you met your future spouse or someone you had a crush on? What were you doing the day before? Was it an instant recognition, or did it need some time to develop or for you to come to the realization. It could be a pivotal book you read (even the Bible, but there are other good books out there).

 

It is a timeless theme. There are examples of this all through the Bible. People are going along in their lives fat and happy, and God shows up and shows them the world in a whole new way. When you think of Moses tending his sheep, and then there is his encounter with God at the burning bush. He becomes the man who will lead the Israelites out of Egypt, probably the last thing that he thought would happen in his life the day before. (Exodus 3:1-12). What about when Jesus calls the disciples. The first ones were one the job, fishing. Jesus calls them, and they drop their net and follow him. (Matthew 4:18-22) Do you think that had any conception of the turn their lives would take that day when they got up in the morning?

 

This is the kind of life change that these parables are talking about. Two people were going about their every day life, just like normal, and they stumbled across this thing that was so great, so wonderful that they looked at life in a whole new way. It was so incredibly valuable that they were willing to give up everything in their life to have it. If this happened to you, you cannot go forward in your life the same way that you did before. You may not even be the same person you were before. This is your life now, and you have to do, you are compelled to do whatever it takes to participate in it. It is everything you never knew you always wanted. (Fools Rush In) Or, maybe you did know, but you did not realize that it was going to be like this. You have won the lottery, but do you realize that you have the winning ticket?

 

Something that is interesting here is despite the similarities in these two stories, we are looking at two different kinds of people here. One is going about their regular life and suddenly gets the surprise of a lifetime. The other is continually searching for this thing that he knows is very valuable, but when he finds it, it is beyond his wildest dreams. The Kingdom can become real in either way, by accident or through a determined search. (New Interpreter’s Bible, ‘The Gospel of Matthew,” Boring)

 

Earlier, I said that parables are intended to make you think, consider other possibilities. What if we looked at these two parables from a different perspective? We have been looking at them as if we are the people searching and finding the treasure of the Kingdom or Jesus. What if Jesus is the searcher and YOU are the treasure? The Kingdom is like when the king encounters YOU and decides that you are a treasure worth any price! That is how sees us, as a great treasure worth rescuing, and he has already paid the ultimate price. Do we consider ourselves worthy of that high price? Well, we are not in our natural selves. Luckily, Jesus does not see us that way. Jesus sees the way we will be in the future when our potential has become a reality, the way we really are with Jesus’ help. That is why Jesus was willing to sacrifice himself so long ago.

 

Are we willing to do what Jesus has? Because the question is not whether the parable means one of these visions or the other. It is a both/and thing. God has found us. God has paid the ultimate price for us. What are we prepared to do in order to be Kingdom people? Many people encounter the Kingdom and say “big deal.” That is the reaction that many had in Jesus’ day. “You can’t possibly be the Messiah. We are going to do it our way.” This whole section of parables was Jesus’ commentary of their rejection of him and his new community.

 

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

 

Jesus is saying that this is what everyone should be doing, but they are not.

 

When you encounter the Kingdom of God, what are you willing to do? Does this mean that we are all called to sell everything we own and invest it for God? For some the answer may be yes. Jesus did ask that of some he encountered, but he did not with most people.  (Most of the people he encountered did not have much to give up.) It is more of a question of “total commitment.” Do you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind? (Matthew 22:37) Which simply means loving God with your whole being, your whole self. It is like at the end of the Gospel of John, when Jesus has been resurrected, and he has joined the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is reconciling with Peter, and he says, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15)

 

What are you willing to do? Are you putting God first in your life? Maybe you did it. You bought the field long ago and after a time of interacting with your treasure very excitedly for a while, you put it away, back in its hole. In the meantime, you have planted a beautiful garden in that field. You have tended it and watered it. You love that field, but you forgot why you bought it in the first place. Is it time to dig that treasure out again? Polish it? Care for it? Spend time with it? Because this treasure is beyond anything we can imagine!

 

Amen!