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Worship Series: Summer School - Lessons from Jesus
Worship Theme: The Parable of the Priceless Treasure
Lesson: 1 Kings 3:5-12 (EHV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: Matthew 13:44-52 (NIV)
Music: My Story, CWS 757 Where Your Treasure Is, You’ll Never Leave Me (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: The Parable of the Priceless Treasure
This past month, we’ve started going through our summer sermon series: “Summer School.” In it, Jesus has taught both his disciples and ourselves some very important points. He has given us a lesson on rest. We heard how Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light. He yokes himself with us and leads us gently, lovingly, and mercifully to rest, peace, and purpose. Then Jesus gave us a lesson through the parable of the sower. We saw how the Lord has planted the seed of faith deep in us. The faith of some has been choked out through various means, while the faith of others connected to God’s Word continues to grow. Last week we learned about the parable of the weeds. Pastor Brohn explained to us how the enemy sows weeds within the church. While we are here on earth, there will always be weeds in the church, but that won’t be the case at the end of time. God’s angels will sort through the good and bad. We can be sure that through his own actions, Jesus will bring us safely into the Father’s barn. Today, we pick up Jesus' next lesson for us. Jesus teaches us about a treasure beyond compare and then helps us set our priorities in life. He teaches us never to let go of this unfathomable treasure.
Jesus begins this lesson with another short parable. He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again. In his joy, he goes away and sells all that he has and buys that field.” So, what’s going on here? Why is there money in the ground that no one knows about? Let me explain. The Dave Ramsey of the ancient world told people to diversify their investments. It wasn’t uncommon for wealthy people to divide their money into three categories. The first category was simply in cash format so it could be used when needed. The second category was precious jewels and the like which were sure to retain value over the years. The third category was a secret hole in the ground. A person would bury wealth as a storage place. If their other stuff was stolen or lost, they still had their nest egg buried away. Or if a person had to go on a trip and didn’t want/couldn’t to take all their wealth with them, they would bury it in this hole. Now, remember, they didn’t have the same type of banks we did back then so this was one of the safer things a person could do with their money. In theory, the hole in the ground full of riches works out pretty well, but every once in a while something would happen to the owner of those treasures. Whether through disease, or war, or murder, the owner’s life would come to an abrupt end. And the treasure would just sit there, unbeknownst to anyone. This picture seems to explain the treasure our unnamed main character stumbles upon and would make a lot of sense to Israelite hearers of this parable.
The man stumbles across this treasure by complete accident and what does he do? He sells everything he has so he can buy the field containing the hidden treasure. Jewish law dictated the treasure would then be his. Now this may raise all sorts of questions. For example, “Was it underhanded or immoral for the man to buy this field from someone else without their knowledge of the treasure?” But these types of questions are looking too far into the details and distract us from our main point. Parables were meant to push a single topic and there are only so many points of comparison between the parable and what they are representing. The finer details are not meant to match. Later on, we’ll talk about a parable concerning a catch of fish. The net will be the gospel. The fish will be us. We’re not supposed to compare every detail between the parable and real life because then God would be catching us (the fish) to either sell us or eat us. Look for the big point shown in parables. That’s what parables are meant to do.
That is what God does here in our first parable. He pushes a point. The treasure hidden in the field are God’s acts of salvation. It’s the power of his reign found in the gospel message. And this treasure, the message of a Savior who takes away your sins, is worth more more than anything else we have. It is to be treasured. We should be willing to get rid of everything else rather than part with this glorious treasure. Jesus gives us another short parable to drive home the exact same point. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls. When he found one very valuable pearl, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” The gospel message is the pearl. The knowledge and trust in Jesus who died in our place for our sins is more precious than anything.
Let me give you yet another example. Those of you who know me, know that I really enjoy collecting cards. When I was about 11 years old, I found out what my favorite cards were. There was this 5 card set called 2002-2003 Topps Chrome Shaq Attack Shaquille O’Neal refractor cards. Each of the 5 cards contained a piece of the jersey Shaquille O’Neal wore in the NBA Finals. Each of the 5 cards were numbered to 34 so there were only 34 copies of each card made. Most importantly, each of the 5 cards were really ridiculously super shiny. Now, how was I going to get these cards? After years of searching I found 2 of the 5. All of a sudden, someone listed a complete set of them on ebay. I didn’t have the type of money to buy them so I did the only thing I could. I started selling some of my other valuable cards so I’d have enough money to purchase this treasure that had been revealed to me through ebay. After about 2 months, I had raised just about enough money to buy the cards and the listing was still on ebay, but I didn’t quite have enough yet and then somebody bought them. I was so mad. I was willing to give up my other cards just so I could purchase this treasure and I couldn’t do it. I hadn’t had enough. Years later as I graduated from MLC, my dad gave me a graduation gift and guess what it was? He had been the one to purchase them and later gave them to me free of charge.
This is what Christ does for us. We can’t afford the good news on our own. We can’t take away our own sins. We can’t force God to give us salvation and peace. We can’t buy our admission into heaven. But Jesus can. He lived the perfect life in our place and paid the price for us and then gave all of that to us free of charge. This wonderful message is revealed to us through the Gospel, the good news. Whether you stumble across the message on accident like the man who found treasure in the field or whether you were seeking for the message like the merchant seeking pearls doesn’t matter. This treasure is yours in Christ and you should be willing to give up any other treasure if it means holding on to this greatest of all treasures.
Who gets this treasure of treasures? Our final parable for today explains this. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When the net was filled, they pulled it onto the shore. They sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw the bad ones away. That is how it will be at the end of the world. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous who are among them. And they will throw the wicked into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The gospel message is like a net that is used to catch fish. This dragnet is not the type of net you cast out trying to get a certain kind of fish. This is not a small net. And this dragnet certainly has nothing to do with tv shows or police stations. This a large net you would actually drag across the bottom of a body of water and whatever you catch you catch. It could be 1 fish, or two fish. You could catch a red fish and a blue fish. You could catch a whole bunch of fish of a bunch of varieties. Anything could get caught in this net. From a Christian perspective, the dragnet of the gospel is used to bring people to Christ and you will get all sorts of people in that net. You will get people you wouldn’t expect who believe. You can also get people who look like they believe the gospel and follow it, and yet don’t believe. In the end, just like we learned in the parable last week involving weeds, the good fish will be separated from the bad fish. The angels will separate those who hold onto the promises of Jesus so they will enter into heaven from those who have rejected Jesus’ good and perfect promises so they will enter into hell. There is no in between.
These parables bring up questions to ask ourselves. The question isn’t whether you have been given the treasure. That is a certainty in Christ. Every single one of you has been given this remarkable treasure. The question is whether you care that you have it. Does it mean anything to you or do you toss the gift away? These parables have shown us that the gospel message is a treasure which we should be willing to give up everything for. If the cost of discipleship to Jesus was everything, we should be willing to pay it. But are we?
To illustrate this point I have yet another story for you. A man sits on the curb of the road. He is completely destitute. He has no money or food. He has no way to help himself whatsoever. Everyone is just walking by and no one is stopping to help him, when suddenly a man stops and opens his wallet. He counts $168 dollars before deciding what to give to the beggar on the curb. He takes $1 dollar out and leans over to give the beggar not the $1, but the other $167. Then with a smile on his face, he puts the $1 back in his wallet and strolls off. The beggar stares, eyes transfixed on the money he was just given. He’s overwhelmed with joy, but then suddenly he’s not. His mind wanders to that last dollar in the man’s wallet. So he gets up, beats down the man who was so generous to him and steals his last dollar. Are you horrified? Good, because that we are just like the person beating down the generous benefactor. God has given us 168 hours in a week. Now God wants us to set Him as our priority throughout all those hours and show that with our words and actions, but so many of us view church as the only hour we are supposed to value him. 167 hours for me and only 1 for God. On top of that, spending time with God’s Word for an hour in church seems too much for many of us to give and we make sure to take that from God too. We have other things to do like work, hobbies, house projects, and simply relaxing. We often put God last, if he even makes it onto our list of priorities. What a far cry from the parables we’ve looked at that show us people willing to give up everything for the Gospel message.
So how do we change? We’ve learned in our parables that not putting God as a priority can be dangerous to your faith. Losing your faith can lead to weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell. But loving the Lord and being willing to put him first leads to us understanding the wonderful treasure we’ve been given. The more you make him a priority, the more he gives you in return. Give it a shot. Remove some of the barriers and spend some time with God’s Word, whether it’s here or somewhere else. Give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to work on your heart. Being a Christian does not mean you will be perfect. You don’t have to be because Christ was perfect for you. But the Holy Spirit will create that love for Christ in you. And you will grow throughout the process. The more time you spend in God’s Word, the more you will hold dear this priceless treasure of the good news. You may even start wanting to share this treasure with others. Whenever you share the gospel message of Jesus saving us from sin and death, you don’t get poorer like you are giving your precious treasure away. Instead, you both become richer as you realize the extent of your treasure. As you grow in understanding, you’ll be able to share older teachings and newer teachings, Old Testament and New Testament, something you learned long ago and maybe something you learned just five minutes ago. You will understand this is a treasure worth clinging to. You will see Jesus has given us a treasure beyond compare. Amen.