Text: Matthew 13:44-52
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
I must admit that I kind of have an obsession with Bible verses like the first verse of our gospel reading today and it’s not really a healthy obsession. Jesus tells us a parable here in the first verse of our reading. It is a parable about a man who finds a treasure hidden in a field. Having found that treasure, he quickly hides it again so that he can make arrangements to purchase the field where the treasure was found. But, this is not a man who has spare cash on hand with which he could purchase a field on a whim. No, instead this man needs to sell everything that he has, everything, in order to raise enough money to make the purchase. And that is exactly what he does. He sells everything, buys the field and the treasure is his.
Jesus tells us right at the beginning of the parable that the “treasure” that this man found is the kingdom of heaven. The man found the kingdom which Jesus has brought into this world and upon finding it realized that it was a treasure beyond any other. It was worth more than anything that he owned or could ever dream of owning. So he sold everything for the sake of acquiring that treasure.
The catch here, and this is where my obsession comes in, is that the implication for you and me is that Jesus is calling us here to give up everything that we have for the sake of acquiring His Kingdom. That is a hard thing to hear. This is not the only place that Jesus says something like that and every time I hear or read things like this from Jesus and I want to explain it away. I know that “sell everything that you have…” is not the kind of thing that people want to hear. Frankly, it is not what I want to hear either. For North Americans like us this might be the most difficult thing that we could be asked to do. I think some people would be much more willing to give up their actual lives rather than give up everything that they have. Even if we don’t think we have much stuff or don’t think it would be that hard to sell everything when it came right down to selling that clothes off your back or the roof over your head it would get pretty tough. Like the rich young man who came and asked Jesus what he must do to be saved, when we hear those words “sell everything that you have” our heart sinks. We know we can’t do it.
It is important, I think, to let those words sink in a bit though. We need to hear these words from Jesus and recognize that our obsession with stuff, with possessions, is not healthy. It is especially not healthy if the things we have in life are coming between us and our Saviour. But, at the same time, we need to realize that Jesus is doing more here than just dumping an impossible heavy load on us and asking us to get rid of all our earthly possessions. There is more happening in this little parable than meets the eye.
In order to really understand what is happening in our gospel reading it is helpful to take a look at our Old Testament reading from Deuteronomy chapter 7. Verse 6 of our Old Testament reading says, “you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession.”
Moses spoke these words to the people of Israel after God had led them up out of Egypt and through the Red Sea on dry ground. Look at what he calls that people. He calls them “His (the LORD’s) treasured possession. You and I, like the people of Israel before us, are God’s treasured possession. We are His treasure.
Notice also that it is not that the people were somehow worthy to be called “treasure.” Moses reminds them that God did not chose them because they were the greatest or most powerful nation. Instead, God chose them because He is faithful to His promise and He loves them. He loves them and has made them into His treasure, His most valuable possession. He has made them His own. In the same way, we are by no means worthy to be called treasure. We especially are not worthy to be called the LORD’s treasure. And yet that is what we are called here. Not because we are worthy or deserving, but because of our God’s unending love and mercy for us. We are His treasure!
If we take that good news and bring it over into our gospel reading today it sheds new light on what Jesus is saying here. Jesus talks about a man finding treasure in a field and selling everything that he has in order to buy that field. We naturally put ourselves in that man’s shoes and take his actions as the lesson we are to learn from this story. But, there is more happening here. What if we are the treasure, just like our Old Testament reading says? If we are the treasure then Jesus is the man who finds the treasure in the field. What did that man do to get the treasure? He sold everything that he owned. What did our Lord Jesus do to make us His own? He gave up everything that was rightfully His, the glory of heaven, His seat at the right hand of the Father, and took on our human flesh. He walked among us and suffered the afflictions that we suffer. He even spent His own life on the cross to pay the full and final price for us. His love for us is so immeasurable that He would pay a price that we can’t even imagine paying. He paid it, He paid it in full, He paid it because you are His treasure.
That changes things, doesn’t it? All of a sudden this is not a parable about what we need to do to make the kingdom of heaven our own, it is a parable about what God has done to make us His own and make a place for us in His Kingdom. This is a parable about the price that God would pay for us.
Does that mean that we don’t need to worry about this whole, “sell everything that you own” business? Not really, no. Jesus says that other places too and we need to grapple with what He is saying. But, it does put what Jesus is saying about our worldly possessions into perspective.
When Jesus challenges us with the words “Sell everything that you have…” he is not calling us to do some great act of dedication or show our commitment to Him with a grand “everything must go” garage sale. Jesus does not need us to sell everything. Instead, Jesus is calling attention to our obsession with earthly possessions and is inviting us to imitate Him. He did sell everything in His possession to make us His own. He even gave His own life. And now, He reigns enthroned in Heaven sitting at God’s right hand.
Jesus does not invite us to sell everything, not necessarily, but He does invite us to recognize that nothing that we could possibly possess on this earth is worth comparing to the treasure that He has prepared for us. In fact, Jesus is telling us that nothing is worth comparing to the treasure that we have right now, the treasure that we have inside of us as He dwells in our hearts through faith. Nothing, not our homes, not our cars, not even the clothes on our backs are worth comparing to the glory of that treasure and what Christ Jesus Himself means for us. None of these earthly things promise treasure in heaven, only Jesus does.
Above all, we ought to see here what a remarkable thing it is to be called the Lord’s treasure. That simple fact alone is beyond comprehension. Our epistle reading from Romans 8 even talks a bit about what it means to be God’s treasure bought with the precious blood of Jesus. It says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” and a bit later, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If we are God’s treasure, if we have been bought with the blood of Jesus, how much more certain can we be that nothing in this life and nothing in the life to come could ever hurt or harm us? We are His treasure. He bought us with a price. Do we need to sell everything that we have to have this assurance? No. But we could if we needed to because we know that all our needs, now and into eternity, will be provided by our loving God because we are His treasure purchased with the blood of Jesus. In Jesus name. Amen