Matthew 13:44-46 "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.”
Social media was filled this past week with two very different and distinct stories. The first was the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life. Many of us knew him from his famous roles in “Mork and Mindy,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” and “Good Will Hunting.” Our children knew him as the cross-dressing Mrs. Doubtfire and the voice for the multi-dimensional Genie in “Aladdin.”
Many of us, also, probably knew about Williams’ battles with alcohol, drugs and depression.
What we do not know much about was Williams’ faith. He was raised as a child in the Episcopalian Church. But he seemed to separate himself from his faith and espouse being an atheist.
We don’t know why Robin Williams took his own life. Many guess that it was because of his past addictions and his current mental illness. One thing we can be fairly sure of – Williams did not seem to have a treasure that was worth more than his fame, fortune, family … or even his own life.
The other story that was prevalent on social media (but not so much on the local news) was about the extreme persecution of Christians in Iraq by the Muslim terrorist group ISIS. Mothers are being raped and killed. Fathers are being hanged. Even children are being dismembered and killed in the most gruesome ways imaginable.
Why is this happening? The Christians know that ISIS is coming for them. All they have to do to spare their lives is forsake Jesus and become a Muslim. Deny one and swear allegiance to another. Then they and their families will be safe.
But the Iraqi Christians won’t do it! Why not? Because they have found a treasure that they will not give up, that cannot be taken from them, that they will not surrender even under the penalty of beheading.
That treasure is Jesus. Their Savior, Jesus has already been denied by His disciples and forsaken by His heavenly Father. He sacrificed for them. He suffered for them. He died to bring them into His Kingdom. Now they are willing to suffer for Him. To sacrifice for Him. To even die in His name, knowing that immediately upon their death, they will enter His heavenly Kingdom.
Now let’s bring these two stories home. With whom does your faith more closely identify – the one who took his own life because he had no treasure … or the ones who have their lives taken from them because they won’t relinquish their treasure?
Today Jesus tells us two parables about hidden treasure – treasure hidden in a field and then a pearl of great value. The buried treasure and the costly pearl both represent the kingdom of God or Christ our Savior, who established that kingdom in our hearts and who rules over them with His Word.
Though the two stories Jesus told had settings that were very familiar to the audience of His day, they’re not so familiar to us. “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.” In the first story, Jesus tells us about a man who unexpectedly comes upon a treasure hidden in a field. We might find that strange until we understand that in that time period, it was a common practice for a wealthy person to divide his wealth into thirds. One third he would keep in cash for carrying on business transactions. Another third he would invest in precious stones and jewels, which he could easily take with him if he ever had to flee from an advancing enemy army. The last third he would bury in the ground somewhere, hoping to dig it up and reclaim it when he was able to come back home.
Of course, such a person didn’t always come home, and his buried treasure’s location might not be known to anyone else. Evidently, the man in this story happened to find such a treasure while he was strolling through a field one day. He very likely wasn’t even looking for it. When he came upon it, however, he recognized its value. He was filled with joy! Without hesitation, he sold all his possessions so that he could buy the field and the treasure it contained. You see, they adhered to the same kind of binding laws that we do today – “finders keepers, losers weepers.”
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” In the second story, the dealer in costly pearls made it his business to search far and wide for the finest possible pearls. When he found a pearl more perfect in size and shape and color than he had ever seen before, he just had to have that pearl. So he also sold all his possessions in order to buy that single perfect pearl.
The point to both parables is that we find great treasure in being part of the kingdom of God. In one case the man found treasure by accident – in the other the merchant sought long and hard for that pearl that would set him up for life. In both cases, however, they realized the value of what they had found, and gave up everything to get it.
Jesus is saying that being a member of His kingdom is such a treasure that it is worth giving up everything we have to keep it.
Is Jesus the most important person in your life? Do you treasure God’s Word, your Baptism and His Holy Supper? Are God’s grace, mercy, love and forgiveness of highest value in your life?
We may think these things are important to us, but our actions speak louder than words.
Do you plan your family vacation around your worship of the Lord? Do you find a WELS church in the area or at least gather the family together on Sunday morning for a devotion and prayers? Do you plan your work and sports schedules around your worship schedules? If not, then what is your true treasure – relaxation, income or Jesus?
What water is more important to you – the water lake or pool or water park for swimming … or the waters of Baptism that washes your sins away with the cleansing bath of Christ’s forgiveness?
What words are more valuable to you – the words in your texts or social media or movies … or the words of condemning sin and absolving guilt that you hear from the voice of the pastor?
What meal is more special to you – your Sunday brunch or workday lunch … or the victory feast of the Lamb in the Lord’s Supper?
Which treasures are more precious to you – your home, vehicles, golf clubs, fishing poles, jewelry, or family heirlooms … or the treasures that Jesus has stored up for you in heaven?
Be honest. Do cabins, vacations, grass cutting, family visits, toothaches and a whole host of minor events and insignificant situations get in your way and draw your attention away from “the one thing needful” (Luke 10:42)? How many times do you miss church because the weather is too awful … or too nice? Do you ever put work before worship? Athletics before advice from God? A good novel before the Good Book? A Sunday snooze instead of Sunday School?
How often don’t we allow the important to be pushed aside by the inconsequential? How often don’t we sacrifice God’s Word for the trivial? How often don’t we substitute God’s Wisdom for the worldly?
Unfortunately, too often we don’t treasure the kingdom of heaven. We treat it more like a cubic zirconium than a fine pearl. We do this when we forget its true value. And when we forget its true value, we are in danger of losing it altogether.
Perhaps by examining this parable in another way, will help you understand the value of this treasure. Instead of reading the first parable where you are the man and Jesus is the treasure, reverse it. Imagine that Jesus is the man. But He’s not in a field, but a cemetery strewn with stones (like the image in the bulletin). Christ sells all He has – His life – and buys the cemetery to claim His hidden treasure – you.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed (purchased)” (1 Peter 1:18).
The treasure box is a coffin – for we use a “coffer” for our valuable objects and a “coffin” for our valued deceased family members. The coffin also carries with it the idea that we were born dead in our trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). We did not contribute anything to our salvation. We were in a box we could not escape. But Christ found us. He dug us up. Because, although we are worthless creatures with nothing good within us, still Christ found us valuable.
For Christ is very unlike us. He does not treasure gold or silver. He is not distracted by all that is glittery and shiny. (Squirrel!) Instead, those that are valuable to Christ are those cast off by society – the sinful, the lost, the prostitutes, the murderers, the crippled, the rotting, the oppressed and depressed, the persecuted and the forgotten.
And finding us, He was not content to leave us there – dead in our sin and unbelief. He purchased us with all that He had – His perfect life, His innocent sufferings, and His redeeming death. With single-minded devotion and steadfast purpose, with a heart of love and nail-pierced hands, Jesus bought His treasure and pearl. And now you belong to Him.
We are not the doers – doing is the work of Christ. We are not the finders, but we are the found. We were lost and now we are found. We were owned by the devil. Now we are purchased by Christ. We were dead. Now we are alive forevermore.
Because we are Christ’s greatest treasures.
Jesus Christ is our greatest treasure because we are Christ’s greatest treasures.
That means when the Lord calls, we need to answer; when He speaks, we ought to listen; when the opportunity to worship presents itself, we should allow nothing to woo our eyes away from the cross and the empty tomb.
The way to keep this treasure is to use this treasure.
This treasures if found in Jesus crushing the serpent’s head and resisting his temptations in the wilderness, in His dying and rising, in His absolving your guilt and washing away your sins, in His holy supper and His Triune blessing, in His words that contain eternal life.
Sadly, there are many in our world who do not have this treasure. Their lives and their souls are lost without it.
There are others in our world who have been granted this treasure. They won’t give it up for anything. For when their lives are ripped away, their souls are taken to heaven.
May Jesus be your priceless treasure – for you are certainly His! Amen.