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Matthew 13:44-52

The Treasure of the Kingdom

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We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel, and what a gift it is to do so with you this morning. If you would like a paper copy, just lift your hand and someone will bring one along to you so you can follow along in the text this morning.

Today, we are concluding a three-week study of the parables of Jesus, given to us in the gospel of Matthew chapter thirteen. These parables give us windows into the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus has been describing to His disciples, (if you have been following along in our study so far). When we talk about the Kingdom of Heaven, when we see Jesus talk about the Kingdom of Heaven which is at hand, we are talking about His rule and His reign over all things, His values, His mission being recognized, honored, and treasured. When we say the Kingdom of Heaven, it is when His reign is honored, valued, recognized, and treasured.

These short stories, what we call parables, often short stories, not always, but most of the time, they allow us to catch glimpses of what this Kingdom reality is like, boots on the ground, in the real world, not just pie in the sky. Sometimes people respond to the King and this Kingdom with joy, and sometimes they reject it. The Kingdom is often unseen, dismissed, unrecognized, or often grows from the most unlikely of places, like a mustard seed that grows into a big plant, or like leaven in flour for the making of bread, of God’s greatest gifts to us.

In our study this morning, Jesus will continue His use of parables, one of His favorite teaching devices. There are forty to sixty different parables of Christ recorded in the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, in Luke, depending on how you categorize them. Often, as you have likely noticed in our study, these short stories use the common elements of the region around Him to contrast the values of rival kingdoms, the kingdoms of this world, and the values of His Kingdom. Last week, we talked about the wheat and the tares, or the wheat and the weeds. We talked about the good soil and the rocky soil.

Here are a few ways the parables help us, (there are many ways that they do), but parables give us pause. They kind of require it. Often, they are simple, not simplistic, but often they are so simple, deceptively simple, that you must pause. Linked to that, parables invite us to reflect, to consider, and then to respond, to dig in a little bit, to chew on it, and parables also reveal truth to those with ears to hear or eyes to see. The hearing that we are talking about, when you hear or read Jesus saying that those with ears to hear, let them hear, He is not just talking about a surface-level kind of hearing. No, this is a deep kind of penetration into the heart. This is a hearing that really grasps and understands. Sometimes parables do reveal truth, but sometimes they conceal truth to those who do not have ears to hear, those who do not want to hear the truth.

The parables we are going to study today, and if you want to turn to Matthew thirteen, we are going to start with verse forty-four. The parables we are going to study today are unique to the gospel of Matthew. This is a wonderful thing because it helps us to understand the perspective that Matthew offers, the emphasis that he contributes among all the gospel writers.

His emphasis, he has a few different ones, but at least this one, Jesus as the promised Messiah and King, deeply rooted in the fulfillment of God’s plan for redemption found in history.

In the Old Testament, the true story of God and His people, we find fulfillment of that in Jesus. There were other teachers at the time that used parables, even today, but Jesus, the Son of God, teaches with a different authority altogether. We hear it said in other gospel accounts, the gospel of John, they said,

“No one ever spoke like this Man.”

John 7:46 (ESV)

Whenever Jesus is teaching, we should sit up and pay attention.

We should listen anytime the Word of God is read. No word that He uttered was frivolous, fluff. No word was unnecessary. I should sit up and listen. Matthew emphasizes repeatedly the ways that Jesus reveals Himself as the hope for those who are lost, the weary, the burdened, the waiting. Is that you today, the mourning? I have many friends in this room who are there. He is the hope for those who are searching for something ultimate, something true. He invites you and me to hear, to recognize, and to treasure Him as that hope, as that truth. Eight hundred or so years before Jesus, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah said this about the coming Messiah.

“Your eyes will behold the King in all His beauty.”

Isaiah 33:17 (ESV)

I hope we can catch a glimpse of that today. We have already sung about it. Did you come here today, searching for something beautiful? Maybe you did, maybe you did not.

Did you come here searching for something ultimate, curious about what really is true, what really is good, what really is beautiful, something worthy of giving your life to? I pray we can dig in together in this text with ears to hear, but first, let’s pray together,

Living God, help us to hear Your holy word that we may truly understand. In that understanding, we may believe, in believing, we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, and in following You, we may come to know You with such intimacy that our ears are tuned to Your voice. Holy Spirit, illuminate Your word for us this morning. We pray in Jesus’ name, we all say, amen.

Matthew chapter thirteen verse forty-four. I will be reading from the English Standard Version today. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, hidden in a field, which a man found, and he covered up, and then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” [Some of your translations will say one pearl of great price, or one priceless pearl].

This is something beautiful this man has found. These two parables are certainly linked. They have the same outcome. They have similar points, but they have different perspectives. One, the first one, the man in the field, he appears stumbled upon this treasury.

He was not looking for it, he stumbled upon it. I am going to extrapolate a little bit, that maybe he stubbed his toe on it. The second story, the merchant, he was in search of something. It recalls my favorite band, U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” and here is this man, probably humming that tune as he is looking for this pearl.

The first man stumbles. He stubs his toe. The second man is searching, but they both find something of true, surpassing worth and value and sell all that they have. The first man, the man in the field, I am going to call him Frank, if you guys do not mind. Frank was my great-grandfather, and he is from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, and they have a lot of farms down there, so imagining Frank in his overalls, and he is perhaps tilling the ground. This is probably not a wealthy man.

If you are working in a field, if you’re in a field, you’re likely not a wealthy man. Maybe some means, but not wealthy. He’s walking along, tilling the ground, and he stubs his toe, or he trips over something, and I am imagining him leaning over, and he pulls this thing out of the ground because he must see what it is. ‘Is this just some trash?’ ‘Is this just some rubbish that somebody left behind?’

I am imagining he dusts it off, he looks around, and then suddenly, he sees it. He recognizes it for what it is. A great treasure, something really dreams are made of. It would have been the same for them back then just as it is for us today. This is something we would dream about, running across something like this.

Although it would have been uncommon to stumble on treasure, this would not have been uncommon to have buried treasure. They did not have Bank of America. They did not have First Bank of Galilee. If you had money, if you had wealth, and you were going to go on a trip, you would commonly put it in the ground or hide it somewhere, and perhaps you passed away or you never came back, that treasure would never be found until Frank comes along, working the land, and he stumbles upon this treasure.

The second guy, this merchant of fine pearls, pearls were extraordinarily valuable back in the day, just as they are today, but perhaps even more. Cleopatra, the last Queen of Egypt, just a few years before the first century, it is said that she had a pearl that she wore that was worth twenty-five Denarii. Denarii was one day’s wage, almost four billion dollars hanging around her neck. Pearls were extraordinarily valuable back in the day, so this man, a merchant in pearls was likely wealthy. I think we can extrapolate that here in this story. He knew what he was looking for. He was in the pearl business. In his quest, in his search, he finds the pearl of greatest price. That’s what we often call it, the pearl of greatest value, but the outcomes are the same. They both recognized, the poor man and this rich man, we will call him Thurston Howell III or the first, maybe. Frank and Thurston, cut from different cloths, they both find this treasure, one stumbled, one searched. It was a good deal. Both found that it was a good deal to exchange everything that they had for the value of this treasure and of this pearl. I just love these stories.

Did you notice a little word, joy? If you look at the text there in verse forty-four, the man in the field, Frank, he finds this treasure, and then in his joy, hurrah the Greek word, means to be glad or to rejoice. It was his delight to sell everything that he had, poultry, though it may have been to sell everything he had to get to this treasure, to own this treasure, own this field where the treasure was.

When I was like four or five years old … I obviously do not remember the details, but I am told this story. We were on a trip. The trailer behind our car that we were carrying, the axle broke, so we had to pull off into this hotel, and we did not have much money. As a four or five-year-old boy would do, I am looking for something to play with. Back in the day, there were the TVs, the big wooden TVs with the massive back, and they were on a stand. I was playing around with the stand, and I remember this part, underneath the stand, there was like a little crevice. I started pulling out little pieces of paper one at a time. Four or five-year-old boy, I find a lot of cash underneath the TV. It has never happened again. Every hotel I stay at, I try to find cash on the TV, but it did happen to me. Just like the folks that would have listened to this story for the first time, this would have been an unimaginable dream, but Jesus is saying that this story points to a reality, something that is true.

There is a treasure in front of you. My friends in this room here today, these folks that He was teaching then, there too is a treasure of the greatest value in front of you. Do you see it? Do you have eyes to see? Put another way, do you have ears to hear, eyes to see, the beauty that we sang about, the bounty, the hope, the grace that is on offer for me and for you?

This invitation is what Jesus gives us to follow Him. Can you imagine the townspeople … again, I am extrapolating here, the townspeople for Frank, watching as Frank is surveying the old, dusty lot outside of town, maybe even shuffling? ‘Are you sure, Frank, that you want to buy that field, that old, dusty field?’ Meanwhile, I imagine Frank holding his peace, smiling along the way, delighting as he takes the necessary steps to legally own the field, which was not worth much, but for the payoff of the treasure that was buried in its soil, so he was delighted.

He had eyes to see what was under his feet when he stumbled on the treasure. The world did not see it, but he did. Just as an aside, it is important not to get too caught up and speculating about the legalities of first century real estate and ethics. Frank in this story, should he have informed the original owner. Based on all the Jewish customs that we are aware of, the process defined here was both aboveboard and honorable. The principle point of this parable is so clear. This man saw something of surpassing worth, and he turned his entire life around to have that treasure. The pearl merchant, Thurston, had a similar outcome, but a different road to get there. Whereas the man in the field stumbled, this guy was searching. He was on a quest. Maybe he had visited all the finest jewelry outlets in the land, the local Costco. Perhaps he studied. I buy pearls at Costco for Emily. I told her yesterday, (this is an aside), the pearl of greatest price is in this, but she has the pearl of half price, but it is beautiful. It is beautiful. Maybe he had visited all the finest jewelry wholesalers in the land. Perhaps he studied the craft of pearl hunting or pearling, as I found out this week is a thing. One day, he stepped into a market or maybe he even opened a pearl himself, expecting to see a common pearl. Instead, he set his eyes on the most beautiful specimen he had ever seen. This wealthy merchant, much like Frank, saw something of surpassing worth and he turned his whole life upside down for the finest pearl. Both thought it was a good deal, a happy transaction to exchange everything that they had to their name for these items.

This kingdom that Jesus has been describing to His disciples, and through them, to us this morning, do we see it? Do we recognize it? You might even ask, ‘So is Jesus saying that we can buy our way into the Kingdom?’. We must keep in mind that parables are stories used to illustrate a particular point, and it is often helpful to set them alongside other teachings, the whole counsel of Jesus. Do you remember how Jesus began His teaching ministry on the Kingdom of heaven in chapter five? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” or later in Matthew ten, “Freely you have received”, He tells His disciples. It is a gift. This is the upside-down kingdom of Jesus. He delights, I hope you hear this, He delights to give lavishly to those who have nothing, to those who recognize that they are penniless, that they are bankrupt, who recognize their need. It is only when we recognize our need that we see the incomparable worth of Jesus and what He has provided for us in His life. His Kingdom, His death, and His resurrection, which I am so excited to study in the coming months. There is no greater treasure. Friends, I hope you see it.

Frederick Buechner is an author, writer, theologian, minister, and he passed away this week. He has meant a lot to many of us in here, his writings have. He said this,

“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God is what all of us hunger for above all other things, even when we do not know its name or realize that it is what we are starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are, all of us, homesick for it.”

Frederick Buechner, The Clown in the Belfry

So true. Let’s continue reading if you would with me at forty-seven. “Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad so it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous. [Some translations will say the “wicked from the righteous”] And throw them into the fiery furnace, and in that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Now, if you were here for our study last week, you will notice a lot of similarities to the parable we studied about the wheat and the tares, the wheat, and the weeds. See, we live in this time where Jesus has inaugurated this Kingdom, but we are living in between, what we call the already and the not yet. His Kingdom will be fully consummated later. It is at hand now, but we live in a time where the wheat and the weeds are growing together.

The good fish and the bad fish are drawn up together. I’m no fisherman. I’ve fished maybe twice in my life. I would like to learn the craft, but I did look this up. This is a kind of fishing called dragnet fishing. Anybody been a part of a dragnet fishing expedition? One guy, all right. It is still active today. Literally, it is what you think it is. You throw this massive net outside, and you pull it up, and it grabs everything from the ground all the way up, and you must sort out all the bad from the good.

Jesus is teaching here to a bunch of guys, many of whom may have just come from a fishing expedition using a dragnet, so they would have been acutely aware of what Jesus is referring to here. In this already and not yet time, there are those who reject the King in His Kingdom, and there are those who do not want to hear the truth, do not have eyes to see or ears to hear, but there will come a time, he says here, the end of the age. We do not know when that is, but there will come a time when history will be wrapped up and judgment will come upon those who have rejected the King and His Kingdom. This is a sobering account, but we cannot just gloss past it. Jesus, perhaps more than any other in the New Testament, talks about judgment in hell, but not in a threatening way.

This is an invitation. Do you see it? Do you see the treasure, the Kingdom that is available to all who would come? It is available to you. Do you have ears to hear? Do you have eyes to see?

Verse fifty-one, “‘Have you understood all these things?’ and they said to Him, the disciples, ‘Yes’. [Now, as an aside, I just want to be a fly. I wish I was a fly in the room when Jesus asked this question to all these disciples, because we have a lot of examples where Jesus does say, ‘Did you understand this?,’ or they didn’t understand it, and He had to restate it multiple times, but Jesus says, ‘Do you understand these things?’, and I am just imagining Peter there, eyes going from side to side, ‘Yes, and what about you, John, James? Jesus, what is for lunch?’

Let’s move along, but I think there’s something beautiful here. They understand this one. They understand that Jesus is talking about something perhaps simple, but so profound. There’s a treasure here. Yes, they understand, and He said to them], ‘Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’”

What is Jesus saying here? Who is the scribe? I think in this case, Jesus is talking to these disciples. They are the scribes. They are the ones who have had the front row seat to Jesus as He has been teaching about the Kingdom, and for us today who are studying the word, you and I are the scribes. We are the ones who are hearing about this Kingdom, and I hope for many of us in here who actually tasted that treasure, we have seen it, we have recognized it for what it is, and we have a role to play, so as the scribes of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are to go into our storehouses, the treasure that we now have and pull out from it, treasures that are old and new, the old story of God and His people in the Old Testament and the new things that Jesus is bringing in the New Covenant.

There is such good news here. Friends, here, when it says that there are wicked and there are righteous, there is good fish and there’s bad fish, I am the wicked fish, except for Jesus. Because of that treasure, I get to pull out from my storehouse when I talk to my friends or family. We are far from the faith and say, ‘Look at this treasure. Do you see it? You have eyes to see. Do you have ears to hear?’

It is a good question for all of us. These parables are simple, not simplistic, but they are simple and profound. They are sobering, and they do not really leave any room, I do not think for novel interpretation. Not only do they give us windows into the Kingdom of heaven, like I mentioned at the beginning, they give us windows to peer into our heart, our own heart’s disposition. Do you see yourself as the man in the field or the merchant on a quest? Both of whom saw something, recognized it, and treasured it. One stumbled, one searched. If you recall, I mentioned earlier, Jesus is concluding a whole series of parables about Him and His Kingdom, and I think it is at least worth noting that He did not end this section of teaching with a comprehensive list of rules now to follow. He did not end with an academic white paper about the Kingdom and all its intricacies. He did not end with a list of possibilities to choose from. He draws a clear line in the sand and ends by giving us stories that compel us to answer this simple question, ‘What do you treasure?’ Do you see? Do you recognize Jesus as King? How worthy? It is what we were saying earlier. As Isaiah put it, “Do you have eyes to see the King in all His beauty?”

This morning, I would like us to reflect on just that one simple question, something to chew on for lunch or throughout this week, ‘What do you treasure? Who do you treasure?’ It is certainly worth acknowledging the fact that we are called to treasure many things in life. I should serve and delight in my family, in my wife, children, my church, and my neighbor. I should value good work in my vocation.I should delight in the good gifts of God and His majestic creation, coffee, and bread, but the Kingdom of God requires that the treasures in our lives should be ordered in a particular way, the way that the created world was intended to work and to flourish, the order of our loves. We have said this before, Augustine named it that, our first allegiance, our priority is to God. The Westminster Confession says the chief end of man, our telos, the aim of our life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Ordering our loves, ordering what we treasure with God at the top leads to joy. I see that with The Westminster Confession. I see that here in the text here, “With joy, he goes and sells everything he has.”

In the Ten Commandments, most of us are familiar with these, the Lord graciously gives His people two lists. It was divided into one table and the second table. The priority is our love for Him. “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Then, the second table is how we are to relate with the world. Everything flows out of a fountainhead of treasure in Christ and His kingdom above all other things. What do you treasure? Where I spend my time, where I direct my attention, how I steward my resources reveals who or what I treasure, or at least the orders of my loves, the order of my treasures. This is just one rubric.

It can be overly simplistic, but I think it’s a good place to start, where I spend my time, where I direct my attention, where I steward my resources. Put another way, has the treasure of Christ, so captured, your heart, is it so captured my heart that we could say along with the apostle Paul, if you remember this from Philippians,

“But whatever gain I had…”

[and he had a lot]

“…I counted as loss…”


“…For the sake of Christ, that I may know Him in the power of His resurrection.”

Philippians 3:7-10 (ESV)

That I might treasure Him, if we put it in those terms. Paul is an interesting example of someone who stumbled, or really, ran smack dab into the treasure of Christ.

If you know a little bit of his story, he had theological credentials. He was a Pharisee among Pharisees, trained by the finest teachers at the time, yet he persecuted those who followed King Jesus, but one day, not in a field like Frank, but on a road to a city called Damascus, he stumbles or runs right into the living Christ, and he sees the superlative value, the supreme worth of the treasure that is Jesus in His Kingdom, and he changes his whole life. He turns his whole life upside down for the sake of that treasure. Christ is both the Giver of the treasure and the Treasure Himself. I hope you see that this morning.

I imagine in a room like this, there are those who are searching. Maybe you’re on quest. You have been reading. You have been looking around, searching for a long time. Perhaps you’re here today, longing for some rest from that search.

There might be others who stumbled upon something, maybe something we have said here today in our songs or our creedal confession or in our sermon. You are wondering whether this Jesus of the Bible is the real deal, something worth giving your life to. This is not pie in the sky, self-help, thin veneer of hope we are talking about. I hope you do not hear that. This is real life, here and today.

The living Christ is here to meet your deepest need in this room. Do you see it? Do you see the treasure that we have been singing about? Jesus says to all those, the stumbler, and the searcher alike, ‘Come and see the treasures of My Kingdom.’ Even more than that, He says, ‘Let me give you the treasures of My Kingdom. Let Me give you Myself.’

There are others in this room who may have found the treasure of Christ years ago. I am one of those, that perhaps has forgotten its beauty. That is me from time to time. We have lost our sense of wonder and awe. The edge has worn off to dullness.In the book of Revelation, John calls it abandoning the love you had at the first. Does that describe you perhaps this morning? Do you have ears to hear? Do you have eyes to see?

Scotty Smith said it these ways,

“You can know the lyric of the gospel, but not hear the music.”

Scotty Smith, Searching for Grace


“To all of those who may have neglected or forgotten the riches that we have in Christ, not shame on you, rather grace for you, for me today.”

When we gather here on Sunday morning, what we are doing here in this room, I hear your voice and you hear mine. When we sing things like, ‘I rejoice in my Redeemer Greatest Treasure, Wellspring of my soul,’ you hear me sing that. I hear you sing that.

Listen, this is one of the most important things that we do in the week, because we are literally pulling out of the storehouse the treasures, reminding one another of all that we have in Christ. When you found something and you delight in it, you cannot help but share it with others. I hope I am being honest. I am being honest here. When we go on vacation, we take all these pictures so that we can share it with the world. There’s a certain delight in being able to say, ‘Did you see that magnificent vista?’ turning to my wife. There’s a completed joy when I turn to her, when I take a picture and post it on Instagram and others get to see that. When you delight in something, your joy is completed when you get to share it, when you get to pull out of the treasures that you have in your storehouses. When I come here on Sunday and I am beaten and worn down from the week, or maybe the week ahead, maybe when you come in here, wells empty, reservoirs dry, maybe you have come in here today doubting on the line of despair. It is part of our job to do what Jesus said here.

When you are a scribe of the kingdom of heaven, you were to pull out the treasures, old and new, treasures like this. Do you remember what He has done for me or for you and lavishly pouring out His mercy on a rebel like me, reconciling me to a holy God by laying down His life for me on the cross? There is a treasure. Do you remember, brothers and sisters, the treasure of your adoption into the family of the King? Do you know that you are a son or a daughter, that we can call God Father because of what Christ has done? That is a treasure.

Do you remember the treasure of the yoke Jesus provides to all who are weary? Do you remember the fact that we had another yoke before knowing Jesus, the yoke of the world, which says better, faster, stronger at all costs, and Jesus says, ‘No. Put my yoke on you. My burden is light and easy, and you will have rest for your souls’. That is a treasure, and we come here today on Sunday mornings, and we tell one another about the treasures from the storehouse.

Do you remember the treasure of comfort for those who mourn? “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” Do you remember the treasure of resurrection, hope that is yours today? Yes, we rightly grieve the death of loved ones, many of us in this room today. Disease is not the way it is supposed to be. Death is not the way it is supposed to be, but the treasure that you and I who are in Christ, possessed today, is the true story of a Man who rose from the spiced tomb, vanquished death, and right now, is presently sitting at the right hand of the Father and will return soon to wrap up history. We will see our loved ones again. We will see Jesus face-to-face. There is another treasure from the storehouse. We need to see them.

Christ is both the Giver of the treasure, and He is the Treasure itself. Jim Elliot, missionary to the people in Ecuador said this, (He lost his life while serving there.)

“He is no fool who gives what He cannot keep in order to keep what He cannot lose.”

Jim Elliot (from The Shadow of the Almighty by Elizabeth Elliot)

Friends, whether you are looking for it or not, the invitation of the treasures of the kingdom are here for you, searching, stumbling, dry, dull.May we all leave here today, delighting with Isaiah because we have indeed had the eyes to see the King in all His beauty. Let’s pray.

Lord, we give You thanks this morning for Your kindness to us. You didn’t have to come after a rebel like me, but You did. Thank You for Your mercy and for Your grace that sustains us even now. Open our eyes to see. Open my ears to hear. Wake parts of my heart up that have not tasted and recently seen the treasure that is You and Your Kingdom. Holy Spirit, wake me up to all the beauties, all the riches that are available to us through Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His name, we all say, amen.

(Edited for Reading)

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