Sermon Text: St. Matthew 13: 44-52 and in particular these verses:
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
One of the perennial outdoors children games is “Hide and Go Seek”. One child is “it” and counts to certain number, and everyone goes and hides, then “it” seeks after all those who are hiding. There was always a certain excitement in hiding of both not wanting to be found and then actually being found. After awhile, if I hid too well, it felt like it was taking forever and then I wanted to be found because hiding was both boring and scary. Scary because there could be the kid who hid too well: “Where’s Billy? Everyone else is has been found.” “Let’s play ball!” “Oh, let’s leave him!” “We just can’t leave him!” “Billy!!!”
The Bible begins with Hide and Go Seek. After Genesis chapters 1 and 2, all about the creation of the heavens and the earth and plants and cattle and people, the Lord God gives to the man a garden. The Lord tells the first husband and wife that they may eat of all the trees of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for on that day, you will die. In chapter 3, the woman is tempted by the serpent and so eats of that one tree, not trusting in the Lord above all things, and so does her husband. Remember what happened? The Lord God was walking in the cool of the day, calls out to the man, Where are you? Adam responded, I was afraid so I hid. Hide and Go Seek but this was no game. Adam was found out.
In the game, the child who is “it” is kind of like God, powerful, in so far as “it” is the only one free to go searching but the Lord is all powerful and all knowing, He knew where Adam was hid. The Lord’s question was and is the probing question of the Law: Where are you? Where are you in life? Where are you this day? People think they can hide in plain sight but from the Lord no secrets are hid. We know the Lord’s question that day was one of the Law because of Adam’s answer: I was afraid and so I hid, because he was naked before the living God. Adam was looking only now to himself as the serpent’s false promise duped him: you will be like God. Adam’s faith was now in himself, not the Lord, looking to Him alone.
It is scary, say after gossiping and lying, to be found out. Too many think just being found out is bad, no, it is the deed of gossiping and lying that is bad, and though seemingly a peccadillo, a small sin, it can lead serpentine like to greater temptations and sin. Yet the Lord’s question was also one of grace as He allowed the crown of His creation the dignity to answer and confess. I was afraid and so I hid. Yes, the Lord punished Adam and his wife, Eve but He also clothed them. Adam and Eve had made clothes for themselves out of fig leaves but what we do to cover up is insufficient for any wrong we think, say or do. All the self-made pious and religious works of man will not cover-up wrong. Later the Lord Himself made clothes for them, not of plants but of skins. Only the Lord can cover us,
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Finding us in the nakedness of wrong, He has clothed us in the garments of righteousness, of our baptism in into Christ, His death and resurrection, found, hidden and bought.
These two parables of the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price are about hide and go seek. The treasure and the pearl were hid, lost and now found. It is funny in the game that children will purposely go hide, in a sense, to get lost for awhile. But when it is not a game, when a man or a woman purposely hides, they are lost, in a sense not wanting to found, as in the children’s game, but also wanting ever so to be found. The kingdom of heaven is a like a man who finds a buried treasure and a pearl of great price. In both parables, the man sells all that he has to buy it.
These two short and yet crazy, wild parables someone finds a pearl or a hidden treasure and sells all he has to buy it. Can you imagine one of these guys getting home? “Hi, dear.”
“What’s new”, asks his wife.
“I bought this perfect pearl,” he says with a smile that won’t quit.
“That’s nice, dear, how did you pay for it?”
“I sold everything we have to buy it! The house is not ours!”
I do not think dinner that night would be pleasant…at least Jack’s magic beans were eventually fruitful.
The man finding the treasure calls up his wife:
“Hi Hon…Where am I? Oh, the Simpson farm…What am I doing here? I bought it…Yup, all 1,280 acres…Why? I found buried treasure on the farm, so I covered up again and bought the field so I can have it…Yes, that’s how much I wanted the buried treasure…yes, honey, I sold everything we have…No, I don’t need a psychiatrist.” And in the hidden treasure parable the guy “in his joy” literally bought the field, he bought the farm, to have the treasure.
One interpretation of the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, the treasure and the pearl represent God’s grace in Jesus Christ His mercy is priceless, in terms of worldly treasure, a pearl of great price, etc. So the disciple needs and seeks God’s grace. No doubt about that but that is not what the parable is about. It’s worth our all, everything. It’s true. So sell all that you have to buy God’s grace?!? Can we buy His grace, His mercy? You better start coughing up the money now. Now there’s a new stewardship campaign. Sadly it would work to bring in money, gilt with guilt, but it does not work in terms of God’s grace in His Son. Grace which is gift. We cannot buy God’s grace in Jesus Christ. In fact, the only way I am downright joyful in buying something is when I can get it a half-price! Not an exorbitant price. Anyone visiting in the Middle East knows about haggling in the suqs (marketplaces), you try to get the price down and the men in the parables do not haggle. No half-price sale in these parables. What’s going on here?
Another interpretation: The Lord said of Israel that they are his “treasured possession”, out of all the peoples on the earth. Why did He choose them? Because they were the fewest of the peoples on the earth. He loved them. He found them. He freed them out of Egypt. The Lord keeps covenant with them. In His parables about the reign of heaven it is about the reign of heaven in and with His beloved Son Jesus Christ. He goes seeking, searching and finding, as in another parable like a shepherd in search of his lost sheep. The hidden treasure and the pearl are His disciples: you. Treasured. Remember that at this time of the Gospel narrative, things are going against Jesus and the 12. He tells them: I found you. You did not choose Me, but chose you that you go out and bear much fruit. With joy I brought you to Myself. I dug you out. Then we hear of joy in a parable about the lost sheep. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner repenting than 99 who do not. The shepherd carried the 300 pound smelly sheep home to himself. The shepherd just could not leave the one sheep behind, he could not leave Billy. What was of great value, one life, is found, paid for, dug out. Notice that the Lord’s currency exchange is not the same as the United States or any country for that matter. In the first parable, the man bought the farm to have the hidden treasure he found. In the parable of the wheat and weeds, Jesus said that the field is the world. “He bought the farm” is a grim saying about dying. Jesus bought the farm, the world, He so loved, to have us, not with silver or gold, but His own precious blood. Priceless. So is the price of one life: yours and your neighbor’s life. He is risen! “Oh wondrous thought, He found me when I sought Him not!” He catches the fish in His net and yes some will be unclean and unrepentant. As if He is saying: “Fear not, again as in the parable of the wheat and the weed, I will sort it out. I have caught you alive because you were buried and My will and My word is to catch others alive. Spread the net. I take care of the birds of air, and are you not worth more than they? I paid salvation’s price for you out of My love which does not die, but is alive as I am the resurrection and the life.”
Look at what the Lord values…I have heard many times in the news that in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States spent much in terms of, “blood and treasure”. It is true, but it is blood that is our treasure. Christ’s blood is our treasure that buys us, not finally with silver or gold, but with everything He had. The Father treasures His Son’s blood. We want a bargain in using our treasure and rightly so. Yet, if you want a good idea of what the old Adam treasures: see TV commercials, see e-bay. He found us but not at a bargain.
Truly, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52And 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.”
This verse is unique in all the 4 Gospels. Some have suggested that Matthew included it because it described him to a tee, the former tax collector now a scribe in the reign of heaven. Matthew brought out new and old, both testaments, all of Scripture, Law and Promise is the Lord’s treasured Word to us all. When we grow up we realize that our parents’ commands were good because they loved us. Golden rules are His Law. His golden Rule is in and through Jesus Christ reigns in our life by His forgiveness, by grace alone. Without mistake and without mistakes in His Word in the Scriptures toward us so that we believe and live in Him. Found. Nothing in all creation can take us away from the One Who has found us and dug us out and made us alive. God’s law finds us out. His Gospel has found us. We live as found people, conformed to the image of His Son, looking like Jesus because He first loved us. In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!