A Treasure Possession--Matthew 13:44-46
I think in many ways and for many reasons humans are obsessed with the end. If you listen well, you will find that the world contains many theories about it. Go to any bookstore and you will see what I mean. There are countless fiction stories about the apocalypse. You will also find non-fiction books about the end of all things and books about how to be ready for it. Books about how to outlive the end and news about humanity’s technological struggle to overcome the end. False prophesies abound on the internet about when the last day will be and what it will look like. Hollywood is full of movies about the topic. Grand sweeping epics about the end, usually featuring Will Smith.
How many churches in America, at this very moment, are studying the Revelation given to the apostle John? A lot! I am certain of it.
It seems the world can’t get enough when it comes to the end of the age. Maybe for those that do not have ears to hear what Jesus is saying, it brings feelings of uncertainty and terror. The thought of it is unsettling.
But for you who have ears to hear, the thought of the end is not so uncertain, rather it is filled with hope, and it is something for which you eagerly wait.
In the Gospel according to Matthew we have been hearing Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth, tell parables about his rule and reign. He has said many times, “the kingdom of heaven is like…” In other words, this is how the reign of God is working on earth in Jesus, the Son of God. It is like a small seed, like a net, like a field a master sows seeds into, like leaven and so on. In two of the parables, of the weeds and of the net, he speaks to the crowds specifically about the end of the age and what is going to happen on that day. It is a day of judgement. On that day the Son of God will send out the angels who will gather all people then separate out of his kingdom all evil, all causes of sin and all lawbreakers. He will separate evil from the righteous, casting the evil and wicked away into the place where there will be weeping and sorrow and frustration. The righteous on the other hand will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
This news can bring trouble to the conscience and maybe this is why we are obsessed with the end. We want to know where we will stand. What is going to happen to us? What about the ones we love? We want to know we are a part of the righteous. Whether it is resurrection, reincarnation, some spiritual realm, or a new planet involving holy underwear, we want to know we are right and safe. However, when I honestly consider my thoughts, words, and deeds, I know I am in fact one of the many who break God’s law---I’m a lawbreaker. What about you? This morning, like all Sunday mornings, we began by confessing our sins with those words. This will trouble the conscience and tempt anyone to do whatever they can to suppress the truth. Sometimes they will deny the truth outright, pretending the end is some fairytale like event where everyone is safe and happy. In their denial they might say the end is just an end and this life is all there is, no God, no judgement, no eternal life of any kind. Taking a different strategy, they might work feverishly to prove to God they are not what they are, that they are good, and their heart is good, mostly, and mostly is enough to warrant a good life after reward. To say it another way, my own flesh, working with the world and the evil one himself, will thrash about trying to find peace only to end up without it because that peace was sought outside of God’s rule and reign in Jesus.
In the middle of these two parables about the end Jesus tells two parables that give life and encouragement to those who will hear. I think they address this issue. Both short stories talk of a man who finds something of great value. Upon finding that thing, a treasure, or a pearl, he sells everything he has, giving it all up so that he can purchase that most precious treasure.
Who is the man? What do the treasure and pearl represent? How does he buy it and why?
Since we are Biblical Christians who believe we are saved by grace, and in faith we receive this gift, I will dismiss the idea that we, Jesus’ disciples, are the man who seeks out the kingdom and gives up everything so that we can attain it. You cannot, nor do you want, to purchase the kingdom of God.
Rather I would like us to think about this with Jesus in the center of it all. These parables are about how the reign of God is working in the world through Jesus, God made flesh. Perhaps a better understanding, one that speaks to our concern about the end of the age, is to consider that the man in the stories is Jesus. He finds you, a pearl, a special treasure, and with such tremendous joy he sells all he owns to buy you. I might say it this way…he gives everything, even his life, to purchase you. That cost was not paid with gold or silver, but with his own blood so that you might be his own treasure possession.
You have been brought into the kingdom of heaven by the work of the Son--purchased, ransomed, redeemed. His Word and Spirit called and gathered you. It has been accomplished and in the waters of your baptisms you have been connected to Christ Jesus, you in him, and he in you. You were buried with him in those waters, your old self has died with him, and in newness of life you rise with him out of the waters. And more, just as he now lives and will never die, so it is with you. By his blood we have been made righteous, and by his resurrection you have been justified and sanctified. You are a chosen, treasured, possession of the King who rules and reigns over heaven and earth.
Now as you look to the end of the age, you look not with fear and uncertainty, but with great confidence and joy and peace. You are a treasured possession. You stand with the righteous and will shine like the sun. The king has made it so because he loves you. It is an incredible gift which holds you firmly through death into life without end.
So, the end is coming and is nearer now than it ever has been. Take courage! Be at peace. Stand firm. Follow him.
Those who have ears—listen!