THE GREATEST TREASURE IS JESUS
Key Verse: 13:44
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
Today’s passage includes six parables that Jesus uses to teach us about the kingdom of heaven. Every single one of them begins with “The kingdom of heaven is like…” It seems every time I give a message it’s on the kingdom of heaven. I think God is trying to tell me something. He’s also trying to tell you something as well. If Jesus mentions something once, then it’s important. If he mentions something twice, it’s really important. But if he mentions something repeatedly, it means we better take notes. Today’s passage tells us that the kingdom of heaven is the MOST important thing in the world. It is like a treasure that is worth more than we can ever imagine. Let us pray to understand the value of being part of God’s kingdom.
I. The Parable of the Weeds (24-30, 36-43)
Read verses 24-25. Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”
There are two main characters in this parable. The owner and the enemy. The owner has this great field and he takes the best seeds of wheat to plant in his field. Like any good farmer, he envisions a field full of wheat as far as the eye can see, and so he gives the good seed everything it needs to grow and produce healthy stalks of wheat. The enemy on the other hand has a very different purpose. All he wants to do is plant weeds among the wheat. The enemy wants the weeds to destroy the productivity of the field. Weeds produce nothing useful. According to one site on the Internet, weeds decrease yields by direct competition for sunlight, nutrients, and water. Apparently 1 kg of weeds reduces productivity by .75 kg. Simply put weeds are bad. Notice in verse 25 how sneaky the enemy is. He shows up at night when everyone is sleeping and goes away so no one will know who he is.
Read verses 26-29. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.”
When the servants realized that weeds had crept into the field, they told the owner. The owner recognized right away where the weeds had come from. The enemy did this. Right away the servants knew how bad the weeds were. So they offered to pull them up. But the owner said no. Because he knew no matter how careful the servants were, they would end up pulling up weeds and wheat together. I remember having to weed my grandmother’s garden or even our front lawn. No matter how hard you try you end up pulling up good plants with the bad.
Read verse 30. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.
The harvest time was the appropriate time to take the wheat and the weeds together. Then by the owner’s direction the wheat and weeds will be separated. How will they know the difference between the wheat and the weeds? Although they look alike initially, eventually the wheat produces a full head of grain while the weeds produce nothing. Once they are recognized by their grain, each will be placed in its appropriate place. The wheat will be brought into the owner’s barn while the weeds end up in the fire.
Jesus gives us a pretty good explanation of this parable in verses 36-43. It is obvious that both good and evil exist together in the world today. Although this was not God’s intention when he first created the world, Satan slipped in as a snake and sowed the seed of sin and death. Now as Christians we must live side-by-side with God’s enemies. Like the weeds, unbelievers often seek to limit or even destroy the productivity of Christians. How do they do that? They ridicule, laugh at, mock, and even beat or kill those who claim to believe in Jesus. It’s not seen as cool or hip to believe in Jesus. In fact, in this progressive world, you are seen as closed minded and old-fashioned. Rigid and ignorant of new ideas, irrational and dumb.
These days my son Josiah when he gets tired of something I do, takes a deep breath, sighs, and says, “Dad!” When I think about the challenges of life as a Christian, I am tempted to take a deep breath, sigh, and say, “God! Can’t you just get rid of all the things and/or people that make my life so hard?” The more militant ones are like James and John who just want to call down fire from heaven to destroy unbelievers. But Jesus tells us that the time is not yet right for judgment to come. He tells us, “Judgment is my responsibility. Not yours. The time will come for that.” So what are we supposed to do in the meantime?
Read verse 43. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
One day in the kingdom of heaven as sons and daughters of the kingdom you will shine like the sun. This Jesus’ promise to us and it is our sure hope. No one can take this hope away from us. No one can take away our identity as sons and daughters of the kingdom. Therefore, until that day in the heavenly kingdom, we must live as if we belong to the kingdom of God. We must persevere and not give up in living in obedience to God. Ultimately, we will stand out from this world because we will bear fruit in keeping with the faith we have in Jesus. The wheat and the weeds look very similar. The only way to tell them apart is by the fruit they produce. As we learned in Matthew 7, every good tree bears good fruit.
II. The mustard seed and yeast (31-35)
Read verses 31-33. He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
In the parable of the weeds, I got the feeling that the kingdom of heaven is a very far off place. But these two parables tell us that the kingdom of heaven is present and real today. It’s right here.
But sometimes you easily miss it because it seems small.
Jesus’ ministry began like a mustard seed. A mustard seed is very small. He grew up in the lowly town of Nazareth. Nathaniel asks, “Can anything good come from there?” Isaiah 53:2b-3 says, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” He began his ministry with 12 disciples. Mostly a bunch of fisherman, with a tax collector, a political zealot, and doubter sprinkled in. They went from village to village preaching the good news of the kingdom. And although they didn’t look like much, the kingdom of heaven, or his church, began to grow. When Jesus was crucified on the cross his ministry should have come to an end. Instead, after he was raised from the dead, the disciple became apostles who carried the good news to the ends of the earth. By doing so, the kingdom of heaven grew exponentially. Into a huge mustard tree. Jerusalem, Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, India, Egypt, and even College Park, MD.
Look around you. The kingdom of heaven is right here. God’s church is his kingdom on earth. There are probably 80 of us in this room. Compared to our campus we are small. But God is using us to advance his kingdom – one person at a time. Next week we will hear from testimony sharers who are growing through the Bible study. One of the Bible students sharing next week studies with Joshua Kim. When you first look at him, he is like Jesus. There is no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. From a worldly perspective he is not powerful or rich. He is a mustard seed. From God’s perspective, however, he is a son of the kingdom. In God’s eyes he is great. God has great vision to use him to advance the kingdom.
Likewise, the kingdom of heaven works in each individual personally. This is the parable of the yeast. It only takes a very small amount of yeast to influence an entire batch of flour. It only takes one word of God to grab someone’s heart and begin to influence their whole life. This is the power and grace of God. I think it was about 5 years ago that Adriana started Bible study. She was a young, lost, and tired student. But once she committed herself to Bible study, her life changed as did Jesus’ influence over her life. What began with Bible study, then included conferences and testimonies, then had her moving into the prayer house. She actually graduated and got a job. She’s now teaching others in CBF/HBF/JBF. The outward commitments to church are just a reflection of a growing and maturing faith in her heart. Now she is no longer lost or young. She is still tired! And she’ll admit that she is still growing. Like most of us, there are still aspects of our life that God is molding and changing and training. Although writing messages are like dying, I find it so amazing that passages of the Bible that I have known for a long time always convict my heart in new ways. It’s as if I am reading it again for the first time. I am always learning something new from the Bible. God’s word is the beginning of God’s influence in our lives. And it is why it is so important that we teach God’s word to others. When people hear it, it becomes like a small amount of yeast that eventually expands and influences the person’s entire life.
III. The hidden treasure and pearl (44-46)
Read verses 44-46. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
Many years ago in ancient times there were no banks. No Bank of America, no SunTrust, no Chase. So people would often hide treasure in a field. They would literally bury it. Unfortunately, sometimes people forgot where they hid it. Or some would die before they ever retrieved it. For whatever reason there was treasure in this particular field one day. As this man walked through the field somehow he found it. Instead of stealing it, he puts it back and then sells everything he has. His Toyota Camry, his favorite sweater, his apartment, his Nike shoes. He empties his bank account, cashes out his retirement plan, and uses everything to buy that field. At the end of the day he has the clothes on his back, the field, and a priceless treasure. The merchant in search of the pearl does basically the same thing.
Here the treasure and the pearl represent the kingdom of heaven as it refers to our relationship with Jesus our king. It is the saving grace that we receive that allows us to enter his kingdom and be called his sons and daughters. It is what causes us great joy like the man in the field who in that moment thought of giving up his whole life for the precious treasure. Some may ask, does this mean we can buy our salvation? The answer is of course no. What this parable teaches us is not that we can buy a relationship with Jesus. But that a relationship with Jesus is valuable, more valuable than anything in this world.
The Bible clearly tells us that this saving grace, this relationship with Jesus does not cost us anything. We cannot work to earn it or buy it. All we have to do is believe in Jesus and his death and resurrection for our sins. One pastor told a story. He went on a business trip for the church. He bought gifts for his kids. When he came home, he gave his wife a gift, too. It was a brand new Bible. She looked at it and said, “You got this for free, didn’t you?” In fact, he had. But just because it did not cost me anything doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Grace is freely given, but it is also costly because it was paid for by the blood of Jesus. Though it is free to us, we should never underestimate its value and its importance to us. If called to, we must be willing to give up everything even our own life for it. Jim Elliott did just that by giving his life for missions. It is why his words, “He is not a fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”, are so powerful. He gave his own life, not to earn the kingdom, but because the kingdom was already his and he knew it was more valuable than even his own life.
Salvation cost us nothing, but does it mean it is worth nothing to us? Imagine someone came up to you on the street and gave you a diamond. What is the first thing you would do? I would take it to a jeweler and find out if it was really a diamond. If it was, then I would have it appraised. Once I realized the value, I would get a case for it (one that my kids couldn’t open). I would buy some insurance on it. I would have it cleaned. I would place security around it with motion sensors and I would hire a security team to respond if anyone tried to take it. I would do everything to care for it and protect it and keep it. Once God has revealed the value of our salvation to us, what do we do in response? We have to be willing to follow Jesus, to go where he leads and to do what he says. By doing so, we proclaim that we are serious about Jesus and we understand its value. This is what it means to be Jesus’ disciple.
In his book “The Cost of Discipleship” Dietrich Bonnhoeffer talked about costly grace. He wrote, “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field. For the sake of it, a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy, for which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble. It is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel, which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly, because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”
Jesus is the hidden treasure, the pearl of greatest value. By grace, you and I have been given the greatest gift of all. Let us pray to live a life that reflects the value of this gift. Let us live a life that is worthy of Jesus.
Today Jesus has reminded us that there is a future kingdom of heaven that we can focus on as we persevere in this life. But he also reminds us that the kingdom is closer than we know, and more powerful than we often recognize. Though we appear few, let us remember the power of God to advance his kingdom and change people’s lives. By this power let us live as disciples who give everything to follow our lord and king. Let’s read the key verse.