Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Matthew 13:44-52)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Bethel Lutheran Church, Sweet Home, OR
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost + July 30, 2017
Text: Matthew 13:44-52

In the Gospel today, there are two familiar parables, the one about the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price.  Both of these parables, Jesus tells us, are descriptive of the Kingdom of heaven.
These parables introduce us to two men, one a man who finds a treasure in a field, the other a merchant looking for pearls.  At first read, these parables are thought to mean that the Kingdom of heaven is a treasure worth giving everything and a pearl worth sacrificing for.  And that is true, but we ought to take a step back and see how this transaction really begins.
In the first parable, the man finds a hidden treasure, and He sells all that He has.  This is our clue about what the treasure is.
First we should consider what his joy is in light of other passages about joy:
Matthew 25:21: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”
Hebrews 12:2: “Looking to Jesus, the founder 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.”
The Lord’s joy is the salvation of men and women, passing through the cross, passing through many trials, and reaching the promise of eternal life through faith.
Second we look at the price paid for the treasure.
Matthew 20:28: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Philippians 2:6-8: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
There are things we would shell out a lot for, but how many of us would completely empty our checking, savings, and any cash hiding under the mattress to obtain one single thing?  Even more than that, what single thing would be worth even giving up our life to obtain?  If this were describing a person, he would be a fool.
But this is in fact the price that the Lord paid: he sold everything He had, He gave His life as a ransom, and He emptied Himself to obtain this treasure.
The treasure He sought was you—that you would be with Him by faith in this life and by sight for eternity.  This is was the goal which He looked ahead to through His whole passion that would make it all worth it.  It’s for this reason that there is also joy before the angels of God over every sinner who repents.[1]
But this treasure and its value is covered up so that none of us would find it on our own.  It is a gift to be given by God, who opens our blind eyes so that we would not boast that we found God, but rejoice that He has found us.
It’s revealed to us when we come to know what our life means to God, what our place in His eternal kingdom cost and to what length He was willing to go to gain us.  That’s when He becomes our greatest treasure—the thing we prize above all other things.  This is what the Apostle Paul describes in Philippians 3:
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 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— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
The surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ is the source of Christian sacrifice.  I offer just two examples, but there are many.
First, we sacrifice our time because God has given us all of eternity.  So, we spend time reading His Word, because in those minutes and hours He refreshes our souls.  We give the firstfruits of our week to him.  While others see the weekend as precious time for recreation, we are here because God is making His new creation in us.  We dedicate our free time to the needs of others, caring for our community in volunteer work, devoting time to things in the congregation like going to evening council meetings.
Second, our money also becomes a sacrifice to God.  What is it that supports this pastor, this church building, and the missions we give to if not the money which God’s children put in the offering plate?  Because of Christians sacrificing their earthly treasures, the Gospel is preached and we have a place to gather for that sacred, holy thing.  You don’t receive a statement that you’re obligated to pay, neither are you taxed on it.  The money you give is borne out of a thankful heart for the treasures of the Gospel.  As St. Paul says, The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”[2]
All of this comes into being because of Christ our heavenly Savior, who “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”[3]  May we have hearts to bless God for His abundant grace, and free spirits to offer our sacrifices in light of His own.  Amen.
[1] Luke 15:10
[2] 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
[3] 2 Corinthians 8:9

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