09.25.2022 - Sunday Evening Service - One Thing

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Scripture: Matthew 13:44-53
Matthew 13:44–53 NRSV
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; 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 on finding one pearl of great value, he 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 caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out 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 furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” 53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.

One Thing

Attacked on all sides

Hook The world has a way of picking us apart, one piece at a time. The devil and the forces of darkness attack us on multiple fronts. Our own superstitions claim that bad things don’t come one at a time, but they always come in groups, or in waves. If it is not one thing, it is another. Little wonder that the most famous story of spiritual warfare was against an army of spirits named “Legion”. The people who were delivered from Egypt saw judgment happen through not one, but ten separate plagues in Egypt. While they wandered in the wilderness, they tried to learn sin management, running from one form of pagan worship and the sins that came with it, to another. It was almost like they were re-living the journey of Abraham, searching for the Promised Land and learning to be the people of God, with enemies at every side. In the time of King David, the established people of God bounced from one sin to the next, again, almost repeating David’s own life. That generation, having an established land and Temple, knowing where the foundation of their faith was, refused to go back to their roots and deal with the sin at its base. So instead, they covered it up, made treaties with other nations, and eventually lost everything. 500 years later, the Jewish leaders were still trying to do sin management, some trying to completely eradicate sin from their lives. They spent their lives debating which sins were worse than others so that they could justify themselves before the world and each other. The Apostles and every generation of the church have also struggled with this tendency toward sin management. We have inherited this tendency toward sin management as well, and every 50 years or so, we have to rediscover what this relationship with God has always been, despite what we have made it. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit and His Perfect Word, continues to shape and re-form us in His image, and our scripture today gives us a glimpse of how that works, by showing us how to focus on God instead of ourselves.

Jesus Costs Us Everything

Jesus takes all of us, not part of us. The first two parables build upon one another. The first is about a man who found a treasure buried in a field, hid it again, and then went and bought the field. When I first read it this week, it made me think of the Beverly Hillbillies, striking oil and moving on up in the world. However, this is really a very different kind of story. We are not told whether this man was out looking for treasure or if he stumbled upon it, but the land it was on was not his own. It belonged to someone else. So he hid the treasure and bought the field with everything he had. House, livestock, horse, wagon. All he had then was an empty field and a secret buried there. His friends and family must have thought him absolutely crazy. Like Noah building an ark kind of crazy. That is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, according to Jesus. Some people are out there wandering around, minding their own business, maybe just curious, and low and behold they see a burning bush, or hear God call them up into a vision of heaven’s throne room, and instead of walking away thinking how weird that encounter was, they say: “Here I am, send me.” They leave everything behind. And they throw themselves into the arms of Jesus. The second parable is much like the first. A merchant is looking for fine pearls and he suddenly comes across a pearl of great value. He also goes and sells everything he has: home, store, food in the pantry, extra clothes, and he uses that money to buy this one pearl. Now, you probably know that pearls don’t grow in the ground, they come from oysters and mussels. I found a pearl merchant online that reported that today, natural pearls are extremely rare. Only 1 in about 10,000 wild oysters will yield a pearl and of those, only a small percentage achieve the size, shape and color desirable to the jewelry industry. Those natural pearls are usually valued at between $300-$1500. I can imagine this merchant combing the fish markets, looking for a good find. That’s what makes this parable different. The merchant is looking for pearls. It is not a surprise that he finds one. What is surprising is that he finds one that is so valuable he gives up all the rest. In a world of many cultures, many opportunities, and many gods, those who are considered wise by worldly standards refuse to commit to one thing, and instead become collectors of everything. They look for the best of all possibilities. This merchant is a seeker and he found perfection at last. To tell the pagans that you have found one God that is greater than all the others seemed foolish. To tell the Jews that you had found one law that fulfilled all the laws they had debated, well, it just wasn’t practical. It was like saying we have almost 700 songs in our hymnal, but we finally found one song so good that we will never sing another song again. Why not keep a few others, you know, just in case? Both of these parables teach that God’s Kingdom is not something we can earn or deserve, but it will still cost us. According to these parables, it will cost us everything. And it is worth every bit. While the world tries to distract us with many things. Jesus gives us one thing: Himself.

The Net

The last parable teaches something a little different. Instead of us judging who or what to invest our lives in, we have a parable about God judging us. While it may be possible to tell who has given all they have for Jesus in the present, it is impossible to know who will stay and endure until the end. So, like the parable of the wheat and the weeds before it, it is the angels that come do the sorting out. The stakes are clear. Those who did not find and give everything for Jesus will be separated out from the righteous and thrown into a fiery furnace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Anguish, suffering, and punishment because we are not perfect pearls or priceless treasures buried in fields, although God gave everything to purchase us. It is almost as if, with these three parables together, God is saying “Test me...” again with the prophet Malachi. Listen to these words: 8 Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. 11 I will rebuke the locust for you, so that it will not destroy the produce of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not be barren, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
13 You have spoken harsh words against me, says the Lord. Yet you say, “How have we spoken against you?” 14 You have said, “It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the Lord of hosts? 15 Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape.”
The Reward of the Faithful 16 Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name. 17 They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. 18 Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Mal 3:8–18). (1989). Thomas Nelson Publishers. Let us close in prayer for ourselves and for those near us who are still searching for Jesus.

What do we profit?

The priceless treasure is Jesus Himself and the law we must follow is Loving Him. If we love him we will follow and obey Him. Jesus taught that the true teachers will be able to share both the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the Law and Prophets and how they both lead people to Him. We can’t figure it out on our own. Every generation tries to, but we were never meant to. He gave everything for us. He asks us to give everything for Him. We’ve heard the parables Jesus taught. We’ve heard God’s word from the prophets. Let me close with one more scripture form Mark 8:34-38, where Jesus stated it plainly to His disciples. 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Mk 8:34–38). (1989). Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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