Pastor Scott L. Harris
November 14, 1993
The Value of the Kingdom
What do you value the most? A week and a half ago, many people in Southern California had to decide very quickly what they would save before the rampaging fires in the Santa Monica Mountains destroyed their homes and threatened their lives. In less than eight hours over 200 homes and structures were destroyed, many people injured, and three people killed. By the time it was over, two days later, over 500 homes and buildings were destroyed. If you had been living in the path of the fire, what would you have saved?
This morning we are going to look at two parables in which Jesus describes the physical treasure that two different men valued so much that they sold all they had to gain it. Jesus will use that illustration to teach the spiritual truth that there is nothing on earth as valuable as entering into His kingdom.
What would I save if my house was on fire? In the light of eternity all those physical possessions do not really matter, for it is the condition of my soul that is ultimately important. Turn with me to Matthew 13:44 as we prepare to examine the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Costly Pearl.
Setting the Context
The context of any passage is the key to understanding it, and this passage occurs in the midst of the period of time in which the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders has reached a peak. They have falsely accused Him of breaking the Law of Moses and of doing His work by the power of the devil. Jesus has strongly rebuked them, showing He is perfect in keeping with the law and that what He has done could only have been done by the power of God. (See: The Unforgivable Sin, Exposing The Heart & What Sign Are You Looking For?) Jesus is now teaching the multitudes using parables so that, as it says in Matthew 13:11-17, He could reveal truth to His followers while at the same time concealing that truth from His enemies though both heard the same thing. (See: The Purpose of Parables)
Jesus’ followers gain understanding through both the ministry of the Holy Spirit who enlightens their minds and the further explanations that Jesus gives to them in private. Jesus’ enemies lose even what understanding they did have of the Old Testament prophecies because they are limited to their own wisdom and the devil blinds their minds to the truth.
These mysteries being revealed here are set in contrast to the general understanding of Biblical prophecy at that time, which expected the Messiah to come as a powerful conquering king who comes with an army to put down Roman rule and establish Jerusalem as the power center of the world. They expected Him to have no toleration for His enemies and to bring many blessings upon all Jewish people.
What are the mysteries already revealed in the parables we examined so far? The parable of the sower showed that the kingdom would not come as a military takeover, but through the proclamation of a message to which only a small percentage would even respond. (See: The Parable of the Sower) The parable of the tares among the wheat showed that in the coming kingdom there would be toleration for the enemies of God, though eventually there will be judgment upon them. The parable of the Mustard Seed showed that the kingdom would not start as a large force, but instead as a very small entity, but it would become a very large entity that would be a blessing to all. And the parable of the Leaven demonstrated not only the small size of the kingdom in the beginning, but also that the kingdom would expand through its internal influence, not an outward oppression of its enemies. (See: The Parables of the Kingdom)
So what do the parables we read this morning mean?
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, 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. Egypt to the South, Babylon, the Medo-Persian Empire, to the East, and Assyria to the North. Every time these nations would go to war the land of Israel was caught in the middle. People learned how 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 here. We are not told specifically why the man was in this field – was he renting it? a hired hand working it? someone walking through it? or?, but the inference is that he stumbled upon this treasure. It was not something for which he was specifically searching. He is filled with joy over his find and not wanting anyone to steal it, he hides it again and 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 outright. 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, and if the owner had been aware of the treasure either he would not have sold the field or removed the treasure prior to the sale. Third, the man went to great expense – 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 mystery revealed in this parable? That the kingdom of God was something that had to be personally appropriated. They expected to be part of the kingdom simply because of their blood relationship to Abraham. We see this same thing again in the next parable.
The Parable of the Costly Pearl
Here we find a merchant, here a wholesale dealer, who is specifically looking for very high quality pearls. When he found one that was extraordinary, he sold everything he owned to purchase it.
The people would have also understood this illustration very well. Pearls are not so expensive now due both to the fact that they are not as rare (in large part due to cultured pearls) and that it is not as dangerous to get them as it was then – divers risked their health and their lives in getting them. But in that time, 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 several million dollars today. This merchant found an exquisite pearl and sold everything he owned in order to purchase it.
The point of the parable is the same – the kingdom of God is something that has to be personally appropriated to receive its benefits. You are not going to be part of it based on your genealogical history. This was the mystery being revealed.
The difference between the two parables is that in the first, the person stumbles onto the treasure; while in the second, the merchant had been diligently looking for it. This is the way in which salvation comes to individuals. Some have diligently been searching for the truth before they find it in Jesus Christ. Others have just been living their lives without much thought to eternal things when they, from the human point of view, stumble into 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. They “sold all they had” with nothing held back. The same is true in salvation. There is a transaction that takes place.
Now I know that sounds a bit like salvation being purchased or earned – which is not true. The Scriptures are clear that the purchase price is beyond us and has been paid for us by Jesus Christ. We cannot earn it. We cannot buy it. But there IS a transaction that takes place in salvation. The old is exchanged for the new. Look at Isaiah 55:1-7 and see how the Scriptures described the free gift.
“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, yet there is a purchase transaction made? Read farther.
“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 bad for God’s good. Return to the Lord and He will have compassion and grant pardon. It is a simple matter of turning from your path of sinfulness that leads to death, and turning to the Lord and He will 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.
But doesn’t becoming a Christian mean that you will not be able to take part in some of the world’s pleasures? Doesn’t being a Christian mean forgoing sex outside of marriage, drugs, drunkenness, profanity, lying, boasting, stealing, cheating, revenge, envy, anger, murder, greed, selfishness, etc.? Wouldn’t giving all that up be considered a cost, a work? If you want to consider those things as something of value you can, but the Apostle Paul considered everything, including even those things that “were gain to me” as “loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:5-7). 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 treasure 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 are not a believer, someone who has 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? Believers – 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 should put things back into reality.
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 too is an illustration they would have understood perfectly – especially 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 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 has the same point as the parable of the wheat and the tares except for the emphasis is not on the fact that the good and bad are now mixed together, but rather the emphasis is on the judgment at the end when the good and bad will be separated. The explanation of the parable at the end is the same as that in the wheat and the tares.
Beloved, God is longsuffering and not willing that any should perish but that all should repent (2 Peter 3:9), 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 simply swims away from it thinking itself to be free. But slowly, the net draws around it and only as that net closes together do the fish become excited and start thrashing about, but by then it is too late.
The scriptures warn in Romans 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. On the larger scale, I have no doubt at all that extreme fires, floods, storms, and hurricanes as well as medical epidemics we have seen in recent years is a warning to our nation, but more importantly are those individual warnings as men begin to reap the consequences to the sin they 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, and drugs. Emotional turmoil comes from destroyed relationships and aggravated by modern psychology’s push for people to be autonomous saying it’s okay to use and abuse others for one’s own satisfaction. Mental breakdowns come as men push aside God and pursue their own vain philosophies resulting in the worship of science as the savior of mankind as well as the return of pagan earth worship.
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 everyone 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 camaraderie 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, 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 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.
Hell was not made for man, but for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), but every man and woman that rejects God’s grace will also end up there. The devil does not rule there for it is the place of his punishment. This is a place where you are eternally shut out from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9), and therefore anything that is good, and shut in a place filled with demons and everything that is evil.
Many have reacted to this and tried in various ways to discount the reality of Hell. Some reject this doctrine outright saying God is too loving to have created such a place, but Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, is describing it. God is too holy and just not to have created a place such as this. Others come up with some plan by which those in Hell can work their way out of it. But Scripture describes the judgment after death as final. Still others say there may be some punishment for awhile, but those people will eventually be annihilated, i.e., cease to exist. But Jesus described Hell in Matthew 25:31-46 using the same terminology as He did for Heaven. Verse 46 specifically says, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Heaven and Hell are both real, Heaven a place of eternal joy for the righteous, and Hell a place of eternal misery for the unrighteous.
When we know someone who has suffered from some horrible illness and they finally die, we often take comfort in saying, “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. Now 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).
What is the value of the kingdom of heaven? Everything! There should be no higher pursuit than making sure that you are part of it and then serving within it. God is holy and just, and He will punish those who will not follow Him. Hell is a real place. But God is also loving from which extends His grace and mercy, and He has provided the means by which all men and women can escape the doom of Hell and gain the joy of heaven simply by turning to Him. But you cannot do that and hold onto doing things your own way, but what cost is that in view of the value of Life in Christ and the utter contrast between heaven and hell? If you do not personally know Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, then you have been warned that your destiny is eternal Hell unless you follow the advice given Isaiah 55:6, 7 which was read earlier, “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 last two verses are for those of you who are Christians. In Matthew 13:51 Jesus asks the disciples if they understood what He was talking about. They answered that they did. Then in Matthew 13:52 Jesus says to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
We will look at this in more depth next week, but in brief Jesus tells them that since they have understood both the Old Testament and these new truths about the kingdom of God, 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 – that God has provided a way of salvation to people who are currently on the path to Hell. Christian, are you spreading the message – both the warning and the hope? I pray that you are.
(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click here)
For comments, please e-mail Church office