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8th Sunday after Pentecost           “Finding and Being Found”

July 26, 2020                                       Matthew 13:44-52

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

Matthew Chapter 13 begins with Jesus getting into a boat,  a little way from shore,  and a large crowd was on the beach.  Vs.3 says,  “Then He told them many things in parables,…”  What follows is 7 parables:  /the parable of the farmer who sowed seeds on the different soils;  /the ‘weeds among the wheat,’  /‘the mustard seed,’  /& the ‘yeast’ or leaven.

Finally,  there are the 3 we hear today:  the parables of  /the ‘hidden treasure,’  /the ‘pearl’,  /& the ‘net.’   Your Bible might’ve titled Matt.13 as  ‘Parables of the Kingdom.’

In His 7 stories,  Jesus uses earthly things to teach lessons about heavenly things.

He teaches us about where the kingdom comes from,  & how it operates in the world until the Day He returns.    But *how does a person come into this kingdom?   Our main thought for the day is:  Finding and Being Found.

“Jesus said,  ‘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.’”

It was not so unusual in Jesus’ day to hide a certain portion of your wealth.  There were no banks,  like we have.   So people would divide their money in 3 ways = one part was put into their business,  one part into precious stones & jewels  that could be kept on their person,  and one portion buried in a safe place.

So,  it could very well happen  that someone would die, and all trace of this buried money be lost,  until someone would stumble on it by accident;  which must’ve been common enough to be in this story.   But Jesus is talking about the kingdom,  not money.  The Kingdom of Heaven is the great treasure.  The precious things of the kingdom of God are:  /forgiveness, /peace, /the favor of God, /righteous living,  /& the hope of a perfect eternal future.   In this fallen world,  these are like a hidden treasure,  which our Creator intends for us to find.

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About this ‘hiddenness’,  we hear Jesus say earlier(chp.11):  “I praise you, Father,  Lord of heaven & earth,  because You have HIDDEN these things  from the wise and learned,  and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father,  for this was Your good pleasure.”    It has pleased God to hide this treasure-of-life;  … but then  He helps us to find it.!

Jesus spoke in parables so that the kingdom would remain hidden from unrepentant man;  then the Holy Spirit uses those same parables to call us into repentance & faith in Christ.

It is only by God’s power & grace that we are brought into His kingdom to be His people.

In John 6,  Jesus says,  “No one can come to Me  unless the Father who sent Me  draws him.   It is written in the prophets:  they will all be taught by God.’  Everyone who listens to the Father & learns from Him,  comes to Me.   This is why I told you  that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him.”    In other words,  only God can teach us about Himself,  so that we believe it.       +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jesus’ parable agrees with our Epistle lesson (Rom.8)  The Spirit has to give us a new-birth;  God elects or predestines;  He calls, justifies, & glorifies.  God has established the TREASURE of life-with-Him;  then He calls us to Himself,  gathers us up, & secures us as His children. He has helped us find him.   Think of it like the joy of a parent or grandparent  playing hide & seek with a young child.   Of course,  the adult is smart enough to never be found;  but the joy of it  is being found by the child.   God gives us the desire to seek Him,  and He helps us to find Him;  so He enables us to receive His kingdom  by His Spirit speaking to our soul.  So Eph.2 says  that by His grace we are saved,  and not by our work;  is a gift of God to us.

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Part of Jesus story  is that the man comes across this hidden treasure in an open field

For earthly treasure, that’s not a good place to hide something;  *what if someone saw you put it there?    But spiritually speaking,  God did not hide His forgiveness & God-pleasing life  way-off in secret places,  where no human could possibly find it.   He hid His treasure in the most common & lowly places,  where it could be easily found:   /it is in His Son Jesus = whose name is recognized world-wide;   /it is found in the Bible = the most commonly respected book on the planet;   /the kingdom is found in plain water, bread, & wine;  /it is found among all His people,  spread out all over the world;   and His Church has the mission to tell that Good News to all.   There is no other treasure so easily found!

The trouble is,  sinners are rebellious;  people want to be  know-it-alls,  arrogant & self-righteous.  They refuse to believe that something so precious & important could be so easily found  in such ordinary & dull places;   so they go searching in all kinds of weird & exotic places,  with complicated religious formulas & exciting spiritual rituals == where the devil helps them find ‘fools gold’  instead of real gold.

Some believe they can figure out the heavenly mysteries by using the numbers in the Bible,  as if there are ‘secret codes’,  esp. in the books of Daniel & Revelation.  Some try special meditation techniques,  & magical rituals to find & explain God.  To them,  the Treasure of Heaven remains hidden.       The Bible is that open field & ordinary place  for God’s priceless & unique treasure.  Many smart people walk thru that bible-field  looking for what they want to find  instead of what God wants them to find.   So,  in Scripture they see nothing of any real value,  because they resist the working of the Holy Spirit.   But the great treasure is there,  & God wants everyone to have it.   +++++++++++++++++++

And then we notice in Jesus’ story  that it was just  ‘a man’ who found it;  an ordinary person;  whose education, wealth, or upbringing doesn’t matter.  This man is one of those ‘whosoever’ people we hear about in the Bible.   Like the verse that says,  ‘whosoever believes in Him  shall not perish  but have everlasting life.’  ‘Whosoever’ includes you!   ‘Whosoever is baptized in Christ,  has put on Christ’;   whosoever believes & is baptized shall be saved.’

God has enabled US to find His treasure of forgiveness in Christ,  & the promise of heaven to come.  God hid the treasure,  but He has led us to it.  That’s how we have found it,  thru His Baptismal grace,  and thru His Spirit working thru the Word of Christ.   ++++++++++++++++++++

So then,  *what did this man DO to keep that treasure?  In joy,  he hid it again  where he could always find it.  Like Psalm 119:11 says,  “I have hidden your Word in my heart.”

Proverbs tells us:  “My son,  if you believe my words,  and store up my commands within you, …then you will understand the fear of the Lord,  and find the knowledge of God.  Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,  thus you will walk in the ways of good men,  and keep to the paths of the righteous.”  (2:1; 4)    that is, you will remain in the faith & be saved!

In the NT,  Paul writes:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. … For the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.”  (Col./Gal.)  So,  this man sold all he had,  and bought that field so that he would rightfully possess the treasure.  He couldn’t buy the treasure,  because it was free for the finder.    Likewise  Jesus says:  “Do not be afraid, little flock,  for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.   Now,  sell your possessions  and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out,  and a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted,  where no thief comes near,  and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is,  there your heart will be also.”   (Lk12)

So,  we can see here  that the Kingdom of Heaven  cannot be bought with money or effort;   yet,  it will cost us everything we are & have  to possess & keep.  This is why Jesus says,  “Whoever finds his life will lose it;  and whoever loses his life -for my sake- will find it.”  (Mt.10)

Paul also reminds us how much it costs us to possess the kingdom; the price is our ‘old’ life.  “Set your minds on things above,  not on  earthly things.  For you died,  and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ,  who is your life, appears,  then you also will appear with Him in glory.   So,  put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature…

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the /sexually immoral, /nor idolaters, /nor adulterers, /nor male prostitutes, /nor homosexual offenders,  /nor thieves, /nor the greedy,  /nor drunkards, /nor slanderers, /nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.   You are not your own,  you were bought at a price;  live lives worthy of being called children of God.”  (col.3, 1cor.6)

So, yes,  Scripture talks about giving up all that would prevent us  from possessing this one precious treasure;  it’s everything that doesn’t fit with faith.  ‘what does it profit a man to gain the whole world,  yet forfeit his soul?’   So now we realize how important the Scriptures are to us;  by God’s Word  we are drawn-in to find Christ & possess the Kingdom;  AND by God’s Word  He guides our lives to live in Christ, and to remain in His Kingdom forever.   In the Bible are all the treasures of life & salvation.

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Jesus also said that the Kingdom of Heaven  is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;  who,  on finding one pearl of great value,  went & sold all that he had,  and bought it.   This story is kind of the flip-side of the first one.   The kingdom is not just for ordinary folks who stubble upon it.   It’s also for those merchants in search of all the fine pearls of life,  such as /education, /moral living, /charity, /justice, /science & technology, /business & industry, /& the arts.

These are considered the ‘pearls’ of this life,  and these earthly things are good;  but still not the most valuable or most lasting thing.     Some people are driven to become the very best in their field,  & become rich & famous;  and then they find out it all feels empty,  & they’re still missing the best thing.    And that’s when the Holy Spirit breaks thru to them,  and they see that Jesus Christ,  the Son of God,  is that one ‘pearl of great price.’   As Paul wrote:  ‘in Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and understanding.’  (Col.2)

No earthly pearls can compare to God’s eternal One.  The merchant sells all his other pearls  so that nothing he has  will compete with that One.    As Paul says,  “I consider EVERYTHING a loss  compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,  for whose sake I have lost all things.   I consider them rubbish,  that I may gain Christ  and be found in him,  (phil.3)    … in Christ alone is true life.

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Finally,  the Parable of the Net  wraps up all of the 7 parables about the Kingdom of Heaven.       [read vs.47-50]

           The message of Christ & His cross  is the NET  which finds people.  It goes out,  and calls all people to believe in Him for forgiveness & life.   Then,  when the era of God’s hidden kingdom is over,  the catch will be separated = the faithful from the unfaithful.   The only thing that will be of any eternal value  will be the treasure given to us by God in Christ.

And so,   just when we thought we had to go & find the treasure,  like a net,  the gospel of our Savior is out to catch us.  Jesus himself is that NET of mercy & forgiveness that has gone out from the Father,   and calls our attention to the eternal treasure He has prepared for us.   Jesus says:  ‘I go and prepare a place for you’, …. I am the way,  the truth,  and the life.’  (Jn)

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This is how Jesus taught back then;  and this is how he teaches now.  Our gracious God plays hide & seek with us,  and He helps us to find Him,  and brings us into the Kingdom of Heaven.    +That treasure is hidden in an open field for all to find;     +that treasure cannot be compared to any of the world’s valuable things = Christ is the pearl of great price;  +and God’s Word is like a net thrown out to the ends of the earth,  so that the good news of Christ Jesus  will be heard by all  so that all might believe & be saved.

As Jesus said,  ‘he who has ears,  let them hear that good news.’      Amen