(For the PowerPoint presentation for this sermon, Click Here)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 17, 2015
Parables of the Kingdom: Its Value
Not long ago a wildfire broke out a little south of Ellenville. It was serious enough that for the first time ever New York had an air tanker brought in to fight a fire, and several homes had to be evacuated when it jumped Route 52. What would you have done if you lived in one of those homes? You have been given 10 minutes to leave and there is a strong possibility that your house will be a charred ruin before you will see it again. What do you value? What would you save if your house was on fire?
In the light of eternity, all your physical possessions do not really matter much for it is the condition of your soul that is ultimately important. Turn with me to Matthew 13:44 as we examine two parables in which Jesus describes the unsurpassed value of the kingdom of heaven and a final parable in which He warns of the dire consequences of not being righteous in that kingdom.
Setting the Context
The context of any passage is the key to understanding it, and this passage occurs in the midst of a period of time in which the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders has reached a peak. Earlier on this same day they had falsely accused Him of breaking the law of Moses and of casting out a demon and healing a man who was both blind and dumb by the power of the devil. Jesus strongly rebuked them showing that their accusation was illogical, inconsistent with their own practice, insurrectionary against God Himself, inane and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for which they stood condemned. The fruit of their lives was evidence of their evil hearts. Jesus also gave to the multitudes that had gathered at the house in Capernaum a stern warning of being like these hypocritical religious leaders in seeking more signs. Enough evidence had already been given by Jesus’ teaching and miracles.
Later that day Jesus made His way to the shore of the Sea of Galilee where He was now teaching the multitudes using parables so that, as stated in verses 11-17, He could reveal truth to His followers while at the same time concealing that truth from His enemies though they both heard the same thing. Jesus’ followers gain understanding through both the ministry of the Holy Spirit who enlightens their minds and the further explanations that Jesus would give to them later in private. Jesus’ enemies would lose even what understanding they did have because they were limited to their own wisdom and the devil blinds the minds of the unbelieving to the truth.
The mysteries being revealed in these parables are set in contrast to the general understanding of Biblical prophecy at that time. They were expecting the Messiah to come as a powerful conquering king whose army would put down Roman rule and establish Jerusalem as the power center of the world. They expected the Messiah to have no toleration for His enemies and to bring many blessings upon all Jewish people. These parables reveal that the kingdom would first come in a different form before the prophecies upon which their expectations were based would be fulfilled.
What have we learned from our study of the first four parables that we have already examined? The parable of the soils revealed that instead of coming as a conquering military power, the kingdom would come through the proclamation of a message to which only a small percentage would even respond. The parable of the tares among the wheat revealed that instead of quickly destroying His enemies, God would be tolerant of enemies within the kingdom until the harvest when those who are evil would be gathered and separated from those who are good and then suffer judgment. The parable of the mustard seed revealed that the kingdom would start as a small entity instead of a large force, but it would grow to become a very large entity that would be a blessing to all. The parable of the leaven revealed that not only would the kingdom be small in size in the beginning, but also that it would expand through its internal influence instead of outward oppression of its enemies.
This morning we will be examining the last three parables recorded in Matthew 13. From the statement made in Mark 4:33-34, it appears that Jesus spoke more parables on this occasion to the multitudes than are recorded in any of the gospel accounts. Only Matthew records these last three parables, and since they follow Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the wheat and tares, then it appears that these were only told to the disciples after Jesus had left the crowds and returned with them to the house in Capernaum (Matthew 13:36). This is further supported by Matthew 13:51 which records Jesus asking them if they understood these things after He had told these last three parables. They serve then primarily as revelations to the disciples and information to the multitudes only in that Matthew wrote them down in his gospel account.
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure – Matthew 13:44
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all he has, and buys that field.
This seems like a very imaginative story to us, but to the people Jesus was talking to at the time this would not have been all that uncommon. We must be careful not to read the conditions of our lives into theirs. First, they did not have banks or other public depositories in which they could store their wealth, so there was the increased risk of robbery. Second, remember that Israel was the land between the great powers of the world. For centuries they had alternately been under the control of either Egypt to the South or Syria to the north as the Seleucid and Ptolemy empires battled each other. Roman rule gave them some stability at the present time, but Israel is a land very used to invasion. People learned to protect their wealth from both thieves and from the plundering of enemy soldiers by burying items including food, clothing and various household objects as well as gold, silver and jewels. The first century Jewish historian Josephus wrote, “The gold and the silver and the rest of that most precious furniture which the Jews had and which the owners treasured underground was done to withstand the fortunes of war.” It was common for the people to bury their valuables.
Now if the person who buried it died or was taken away as a captive, then that treasure would remain buried until someone happened to stumble upon it. That is the case presented here. We are not told specifically why the man was in this field. Perhaps he was renting it? Maybe a hired hand working it? Or possibly someone just walking through it? Why he was there was not important. The point is that he found some type of treasure with the inference that he stumbled upon it. We are not told anything specific about the treasure. The word here (qhsaurovV / thesauros) simply means treasury or treasure box. We use the transliteration of this word, thesaurus, to refer to a treasury of words listing synonyms and related concepts.
What was in this treasure box is not revealed, but whatever it was, the man is filled with joy over his find, and since he does not want anyone else to find it and steal it, he hides it again. He then proceeds to do what is necessary to make it his without any legal question, so he sells everything he has to buy the field.
Some have questioned the ethics of this man because he did not take the treasure to the owner of the field. However, his character is validated by three facts. First, if he was dishonest, he would have simply stolen the treasure out right. Others might do that which is why he hid it again. Second, rabbinic law provided that if a man found something that had obviously been lost and the owner was dead or unknown, the finder could keep it. In this case, if the owner had been aware of the treasure, he would have either refused to sell the field or removed the treasure prior to the sale. Third, this man went to great expense – selling all that he owned – to secure the treasure so that there would not be any question to his legal right to it.
What is the meaning of this parable? It is revealed in its contrast to what was expected. They believed the Messiah would come in power to physically set up His kingdom openly as He conquered His enemies. In Acts 6:1 we find that after Jesus’ resurrection the disciples still had the expectation a physical kingdom would be set up immediately. They also expected to be part of that kingdom simply because they had the right blood line through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their position in it would be directly related to how close they were to Jesus. That is why the mother of James and John sought to secure for them the positions of sitting at the right and left of Jesus in His kingdom (Matthew 20:20-21). There is no doubt that all recognized that the kingdom of heaven would be a great treasure, but there was no thought that it would be hidden, personal, and that everything would be gladly given in order to gain it. The next parable is similar.
The Parable of the Costly Pearl – Matthew 13:45-46
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
In this parable the kingdom of heaven is likened to a merchant who is specifically looking for very high quality pearls. Such a merchant would have traveled along the Persian Gulf and the coast of India where the better pearls were produced. After finding and purchasing them, he would travel to areas such as major cities in the Roman empire where he could sell them at a high profit. In this case, this merchant finds one particular pearl that was so extraordinary that he sold everything he owned to purchase it.
The disciples would have understood this illustration very well though we lose some of its sense because pearls are no longer as expensive as they were then. Pearls are now cultured so that they are plentiful and it is no longer dangerous to acquire them. In ancient times diving for oysters risked health and life and it was rare to find a pearl. In those times pearls were the most highly valued gem and were often bought as investments – much like diamonds today. The rich would flaunt their wealth by dressing their wives in pearls. Cleopatra is said to have had two pearls each valued at what would be multiple millions of dollars today. This merchant found an exquisite pearl and sold everything he owned in order to purchase it.
This parable is connected to the previous one by “again,” so its point is similar. That is an important point for there are those that promote the idea that the merchant represents God and the pearl represents people whom God finds and purchases because they are so valuable. While I understand how that idea is generated, it promotes a man centered gospel that is contrary to fact and context. Christ died for sinners that they might become saints (Romans 5:8). Man has no value in himself. His value only comes from being made in the image of God, and sinners will be judged for defiling that image. Believers have value because of what Jesus has done for them and in them to regenerate them and make them into new creations.
They were expecting the kingdom of heaven to come upon them as Messiah established His reign, but here the kingdom of heaven is presented as existing in such a manner that what is valuable must still be found. They would not gain what is important passively. It would not come based on their genealogic blood line as was commonly thought among the Jews.
The difference between the two parables is that in the first the person stumbled onto the treasure while doing something else. In the second parable the merchant has been diligently looking for what is valuable when he finds something that is extraordinary. The similarity in both parables is that when the value of what was found was recognized, both men sold all they had in order to acquire it.
Gaining a Place in Christ’s Kingdom
These two parables reflect the way in which a place in Christ’s kingdom – salvation – comes to individuals. Some have diligently been searching for truth before they find that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. Others have just been living their lives without much thought to eternal things when they, from the human point of view, stumble onto Christ and find the answer to the question that they had not even been asking – what is life all about?
God uses a variety of circumstances to bring the treasure of the kingdom of God – eternal life in Jesus Christ – to an individual, but there is only one way by which that individual can partake of what is being offered. In both parables, the man and the merchant recognized the supreme value of what they had discovered and everything else became secondary to taking possession of what they found. Both men “sell all, whatever they have.” Nothing is held back. The same is true in salvation. There is a transaction that takes place.
Does this mean that salvation can be purchased or earned? No! The Scriptures are clear that the purchase price of salvation is beyond us. We cannot earn it. We cannot buy it. However, there is a transaction that takes place. The old is exchanged for the new. What is relatively worthless is exchanged for what is invaluable. Turn to Isaiah 55:1-7 and see its description of how this invaluable gift is freely gained.
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.” How can you buy without money? How can you buy something without cost and yet still have a purchase transaction made? Continue to verse 2.
2“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good. And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David. Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, and a nation which knows you not will run to you, because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you. Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
The exchange is your wickedness for God’s righteousness. Return to the Lord and He will have compassion and grant pardon. It is a simple matter of turning from your path of sin that leads to death and turning to the Lord. His offer is to forgive and lead you on the path to life. Life in Christ costs you nothing in the sense of paying for it, but it costs you everything in the sense of surrender. You yield your will to His because you have come to believe the truth about Him.
Many balk at becoming a Christian because they love the world’s sinful pleasures such as sex outside of marriage, drugs, drunkenness, profanity, lying, boasting, stealing, cheating, envy, anger, revenge, murder, greed, selfishness, etc.? But what value are such sinful things to those who have found Christ? In Philippians 3:5-7 the Apostle Paul considered everything including even those things that “were gain to me” as “loss for the sake of Christ.” The value of the kingdom of heaven is so great that everything else is worthless in comparison. Paul, like the men who liquidated everything they had to gain the treasures they found, counted as worthless everything else compared to priceless treasure of life in Christ.
How much do you value life in Christ? If you have not placed their faith alone in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin, what is holding you back? What are you counting as worth more than life with Him? If you are professing to be a Christian, what is holding you back from being all that you know that you should be in serving Him? What could possibly have more value than living for Christ? If per chance you think there is something, the next parable brings back reality.
The Parable of the Dragnet – Matthew 13:47-50
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, then drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This is also a parable that they would have easily understood and especially so since they were in a fishing village which saw this activity going on daily. A large net would be spread out into the water by a boat. This net would capture everything in its path as the ends would be drawn together and then the whole thing would be dragged up onto the shore. The good fish would be put into containers for sale, but the inedible fish and garbage would be thrown away.
This parable is also connected to the previous parables by the word “again,” and it is similar to the explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares. The only difference is that the emphasis is not on the fact that the good and bad are now mixed together, but rather on the judgment at the end when the good and bad will be separated. The explanation of the parable at the end of this parable is the same as that in the wheat and the tares.
Beloved, 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us that God is longsuffering and not willing that any should perish but that all should repent. That is why He is so tolerant of sin and sinful men and women at this present time, but a day is coming in which is His period of patience will end and judgment will come. That judgment will seem quick when it comes, but that is only because sinful man refuses to see the warning signs. A fish swimming through the water does not think twice about a net should it happen to bump into it. It will continue to calmly swim near it not knowing the danger. The net is slowly drawn together, but as it closes, the fish becomes excited and starts thrashing about, but by then, it is too late.
Romans 1:18-32 states that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous men. Those displays are only warnings of what is to come against the ungodly. While God’s wrath is revealed at times in natural disasters, epidemics, war, loss of freedom and economic collapse, Romans 1 makes it clear that the greater revelations of God’s wrath are found in the consequences that are reaped from sin men have sown. Their hearts are darkened, they become futile in their speculations, their minds become depraved and they enter into all sorts of immorality, perversion, and sin. Their lives are torn apart physically by abuse, fast living, drugs and gross immorality. Emotional turmoil comes from destroyed relationships which is aggravated by modern psychology’s excuses for sin even teaching its okay to use and abuse others for one’s own satisfaction. Mental breakdown comes as men push aside God and pursue their own vain philosophies resulting in the worship of science, philosophy, false religions, cults and even a return of paganism.
But regardless of how extreme a case you may want to find – from the most pathetic person in a mental hospital to the most wretched drug addict – whatever turmoil they have now holds little in comparison to the suffering that will take place in Hell for every person that does not know God and does not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
We do not like to talk about it. We do not even like to think about it, but Hell is a real place. Jesus talked more about Hell and eternal punishment than any prophet or apostle. He spoke more about it than He did about love. Hell is not a place you want to go to even if you do have friends there, for it is not a place where sinners will be gathered together in comraderie to enjoy sins perverted pleasure. It is a place of constant torment, misery and pain that will last forever. We cannot even imagine the horror that Hell will be because our minds are finite and cannot comprehend infinite agony any more than we can comprehend infinite joy.
The torment of Hell is described by Jesus in various ways. It is outer darkness not penetrated by light (Matthew 22:13). That is worse than blindness because in blindness there is no perception while in darkness there is the constant strain to try to see.
He also described it as a fire that will never go out and that cannot be extinguished (Mark 9:43). It is a place where “their worm does not die” (Mark 9:44), a horrible reference of the resurrected physical bodies of the wicked being continually being eaten by worms, yet never consumed. It is a constant and eternal torment. No wonder it is also described as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus said in Matthew 25:41 that Hell was made for the devil and his angels, but every person that rejects God’s grace will also go there. The devil does not rule there, for it is the place of his punishment. It is a place where the unrighteous are eternally shut out from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9) and therefore anything that is good, and shut into a place filled with demons and everything that is evil.
Denial of this doctrine does not change its reality. The claim that God is too loving for Hell to exist is a rejection of Jesus’ teaching and a perversion of love and God’s character. God is too holy and just for it not to exist. Those who teach that those condemned to Hell will either be annihilated – cease to exist – or will some how work their way out of it do so in rejection of Jesus’ teaching on this subject. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus’ describes heaven as the place of eternal life and Hell as the place of eternal punishment. If heaven is real, and it is, then so is Hell.
People often say after the death of someone who has suffered from some horrible illness, “at least now they are out of their misery.” But the reality is that if they do not personally know the Lord Jesus Christ, then their misery is just beginning. If that sounds horrible to you, then you have a small idea of what hell is like. And if hell scares you, and it should, then you have taken the first step in having a proper fear of God for Jesus said “do not fear those who can kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Conclusions – Matthew 13:51-52
What is the value of the kingdom of heaven? Everything! God is not only holy and just, He is also loving from which extends His grace and mercy to offer to all who will turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ an escape from the condemnation of Hell and the gain of the joys of heaven. However, to have faith in Christ you must follow the advice given Isaiah 55:6-7, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Repentance and faith go hand in hand, but what cost is there to recognizing and giving up sin in view of the value of Life in Christ and the utter contrast between heaven and Hell?
Matthew 13:51-52 is for those of you who are Christians. Jesus asks His disciples, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.”
Since they have understood both the Old Testament and these new truths about the kingdom of God revealed in these parables, then they should be like the head of a household that provides for his family by giving them what is needed. They should provide eternal life to others by teaching them what they have learned. God has provided a way of salvation to people who are currently on the path to Hell through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christian, are you spreading and proclaiming that message of both warning and hope? I pray that you are.
Sermon Notes: Parables of the Kingdom: Its Value
What would you ______if you had 10 minutes to evacuate before it a fire would come & destroy your house
Setting the Context
The ________________between Jesus and the religious leaders has reached a peak
Jesus has _____________them and warned the people about being like them
Jesus begins to teach in __________in order to reveal truth to His followers and conceal it from His enemies
The mysteries revealed about the kingdom are in _________to the then common understanding of prophecy
The parable of the soils revealed the kingdom would come through a _______that only a few would believe
The parable of the tares revealed God’s _____________of sinners until the end of the age
The parable of the mustard seed revealed the kingdom would start ____________and then grow large
The parable of the leaven revealed the kingdom would expand through its ______________influence
Jesus spoke many more parables, but Matthew only records the last three told only to the _______________
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure – Matthew 13:44
People ________________their wealth to protect if from thieves and marauding armies
If the person who buried the treasure died or was taken captive, its ________________would be unknown
The man was filled with joy when he _________________found a treasure in a field
The man did not steal the treasure but went and sold all he had in order to buy the field and _______secure it
The parable is in contrast to the expectation for Messiah to come and ________and set up a Jewish kingdom
The kingdom would come _________, and a person who found it and knew its value would give all to get it
The Parable of the Costly Pearl – Matthew 13:45-46
The merchant would buy _______pears from the Persian Gulf and coast of India to sell at a profit elsewhere
He found ________________so extraordinary that he sold all he had in order to purchase it
In those times pearls were the most ___________valued gem – much like diamonds today
This parable is connected to the previous one by “___________,” so its point is similar
Man’s only value comes from being made in the ________of God – and sinners will be judged for defiling it
They expected the kingdom to come upon them with the arrival of Messiah and gain it by _________line
Here, the kingdom exists in such a manner that what is valuable must still be ___________sought
The man stumbled onto the treasure while the merchant _________looked for good but found extraordinary
Both men recognized the ______________of what they found and sold all they had in order to acquire it
Gaining a Place in Christ’s Kingdom
Some people stumble upon salvation while others search for truth and finally find Jesus is the __________
Salvation _______be earned or purchased by man, but a transaction takes place – the old is given for the new
Isaiah 55:1-7 ____________________________________________________________________________
Your wickedness is ________________for God’s righteousness through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ
Life in Christ costs nothing in the sense of paying for it, but it costs _____________in the sense of surrender
Christians find that sinful pleasures have ____________compared to walking with Christ – Philippians 3:5-7
If you have not put your faith in Jesus Christ, what is holding you back that you ______more than His offer?
The Parable of the Dragnet – Matthew 13:47-50
A large net was spread in the water and then drawn in after which the good and bad would be ____________
This parable is also connected to the previous by the word “again,” and is _____________to the wheat /tares
2 Peter 3:9 – God tolerates ____because He is patient and calls people to repentance, but judgment will come
Romans 1:18-32 – God’s wrath against ungodliness is revealed – mostly in ______________________of sin
Hell was made for the devil & his angels, but those who do not obey the ______________will also go there
Denial and false doctrine do not change reality – Hell is as real as ______according to Jesus – Matt. 25:31-46
Death brings worse suffering, not relief, for the unbeliever – Hell should scare you, ___the Lord (Mt. 10:28)
Conclusions – Matthew 13:51-52
God is holy and just and so will judge, but also loving, merciful and gracious and so __________salvation
Isaiah 55:6-7 – _______________and faith go hand in hand
They understood the prophecies & the parables and so could proclaim the _______________of the kingdom
God has provided a way of salvation for those currently on the path to hell, we must __________the Gospel
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “woman” is said. 2) Discuss with your parents what the Bible says about a woman’s role in family & society.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the purpose of Mother’s Day? Did you thank the various “moms” in your life? Describe feminism in your own words? What do feminists value? What pressure does this put on women in our society? What is God’s physical design of a woman? What is God’s emotional design of a woman? What basic differences do you find between men and women? Has feminism helped women be better women? How and why do feminists promote and protect abortion? What does God say about children? What influence does a woman have on her children? What happens if the woman fails in her role? How does a woman influence her community? Does a woman have to have children to be valuable – Why or why not? Why did God create Eve (Gen. 2)? What is the effect of a wife on a husband? How important is a “support” role? Husband – Do you honor your wife for her support of you? Wife – Do you fulfill your role willingly or fight against it and usurp your husband? Does a woman have to have a husband to be valuable – Why or why not? Men – are you fulfilling your responsibilities or do women have to fill in the gap to your shame? Irrespective of family, where does a woman find her true value? Men – how are you helping your wife/daughters find their true value? What negative influence has society had upon you?
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