Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, AD 2020

Matthew 13:44-52

For the past two weeks, we have read in the gospel of Matthew Christ’s parables about the church’s status in the world. Christ says in each of these, “the Kingdom of Heaven is like,” but what is the kingdom of heaven? Hearing the words “kingdom of heaven” can bring to mind some sort of fantasy land of castles in the clouds, “fairyland” might be a good substitute name for it. The kingdom of heaven sounds like a place separated from earth, that Christ is king in a place far away. Yet this makes the kingdom of heaven somewhat irrelevant to us, or at least more of an almost-attainable goal, like getting back into your high-school jeans.

There is a “not yet” element to the kingdom of heaven, which we will not fully know until the resurrection from the dead. It’s not the future reality which is the problem, but the idea that the kingdom of heaven is about attainment at all. As we heard the last two weeks, the kingdom of heaven is about Christ’s work. In the parable of the sower, God in Christ is the sower who sends out His Word to the world, and, while people receive it differently, it is always Christ and His Word doing the work. In the parable of the weeds, Christ is also sowing good seed, and while the enemy plants bad seed, Christ tends it and lets it all grow until the final harvest when He manages the storing of good wheat and burning of bad weeds.

The kingdom of heaven, then, is the action of Christ in the world. Think more of the “kingship” or “reign” of Christ more than a certain place or object. The Kingdom of heaven is Christ’s reign through his saving work, centered in his atoning death for sin and resurrection from the dead. The kingdom of heaven is Christ’s work to purchase us as His own.

Therefore, as we read parables about the kingdom of heaven, we must think “what is Christ’s work in this parable?” In both the parable of the treasure in the field and the pearl we have something of great value found by someone looking for them which it costs everything that person owns to purchase. We have a purchaser and something of great value which he purchases. If we think about who is doing this work, who is the subject of the parable, it has to be the one making the purchase. This person, then, is Christ.

In each parable there are also important differences. “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.” When you think about this short story, the man is really quite unscrupulous. The field he digs up is not his, as he has to buy it from someone else. The treasure he finds was not his, and it seems the owner did not know of the value of it either. Without telling the owner, the purchaser buys the field for what would be significant amount, all he has, but the value of the treasure is even more.

This valuable treasure is us, poor sinners whom he paid for with all he had, not silver and gold, but with his precious blood, his suffering and death. It might be jarring to our piety to think of us as a treasure compared to Christ, that we could possibly be worth all the son of God has. Yet any salesman can tell you that things are worth what people are willing to pay for it. Our Father was willing to pay the price of his beloved Son for our salvation, not only for the treasure, but for that of the field, the whole world. And the Son made that purchase with everything He had - with great joy! What we see on the cross is not just the suffering of Christ for our sins, but it is the merchandise tag that says “this is what I would pay for you, my dearest treasure.”

Again, as Christ paid for the world with all He had for his dearest treasure, he also shows the work of His kingdom as a merchant searching for a pearl. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” While the treasure in the field shows that Christ paid for all the world for the sake of our salvation, the pearl shows that He also purchased us individually, that He would have given all He had just so you could be saved. You personally are of great value to Him, because He has given You this value.
For love, the Father sent his Son to pay everything He had for us, and the Son willingly gave all that He could have us. Christ died and made that payment, and risen from the dead He sends the Holy Spirit as a net to catch us. For Christ’s work in the kingdom of heaven continues today as we work as fishers of men, preaching that very gospel to others. We send out the net knowing that some will believe and some will be preserved.

Christ’s work can be understood in the Holy Spirit, but never fully, only in parables – treasures brought out old and new. Parables are not meant to reveal how God is like us, but how God is unlike us.  While the parables are about Christ, we can’t but help see ourselves as Christians in the parables as dim reflections now of Christ. Since we are on the same mission as Christ, we should see ourselves as well in parables wherever Christ is.

You are worth everything to Christ. He paid everything he had. And Christ is worth everything to you. There is a cost – to give up sin, to give up gossip, lust, and hatred. The cost is to give up all other gods that we fear, love, and trust above all things. And the thing is, while it may seem like everything to us, it is really nothing at all. Sin is nothing but destruction, a worse life, an overall negative. Because of our sin, we were that negative too, and we deserved nothing at all. Now, every good gift we have, believer or unbeliever, is because of Christ. Everything good is ours because Christ paid everything he has, as the baptized we inherit from Him.

Now we all benefit, and I mean everyone, all are caught into that net of grace as Christ proclaims to us, “I paid everything for you. You are mine. Trust in me. You are my treasure beyond all things.” Have you understood all these things? Maybe, like the disciples, you can say yes. Maybe not. Maybe you need to think things over before such a cost. Remember, the kingdom of heaven is now, and Christ is working in you and in the world. And this is only a down payment of the final resurrection of the dead where we will fully enjoy Christ’s investment without sin, fear, or pain. Amen.

[Some insights for this sermon were taken from Rev. David Petersen's sermon on the Commemoration of Sarah]
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