"A Kingdom Worth Everything"
Theme: In these two parables, Jesus teaches us the overwhelming value of His kingdom.
(Delivered Sunday, November 5, 2006 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
We have been studying a very important portion of Matthew's Gospel. I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say that it is a passage that contains the most privileged information that human beings could ever know.
Jesus had been teaching the multitudes many things about “the kingdom of heaven”—that long-awaited kingdom over which He was King, and which was even then at hand. He taught the people in parables—seven in all in this chapter. And when He met privately with His disciples, He explained the meaning of these things. As He had gathered His disciples together around Him, He told them that they were greatly blessed in knowing and hearing the things He was telling them. In fact, He let them know that they were more privileged than anyone who had come before them; “for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (v. 17).
You and I, by the way, are also greatly privileged in hearing these things. To hear them—and to be enabled by God's grace to understand them—is to have our eyes enlightened and to have the Scriptures opened up to us in a new and marvelous way! Jesus Himself said, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old” (v. 52).
These parables teach the followers of Jesus what they need to know about the great themes of His kingdom. He gives this information to them so that they will know how to live faithfully in this world in the light of kingdom priorities. It is a great privilege to hear these things; and it is well worth our time and effort to understand them.
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So far in this chapter, we've studied the parables that Jesus spoke to the multitudes. But now, we've come to a point in this chapter in which the context has changed. We find that Jesus has sent the crowds away and was now meeting alone with His disciples. He had more about the kingdom that He had to say to them. What would Jesus then tell His disciples personally about that kingdom? Having given them these primary insights into the kingdom, what more would He want them to know?
That's where these next two parables come in. They share the common purpose of teaching the followers of Jesus the precious, and inestimable, and overwhelmingly great value of this 'kingdom of heaven'; and of how it is worth every effort they could extend, and every cost they could pay, to lay hold of it. Jesus told them;
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46).
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Think about these two parables with me. Their broad theme is easy to know, because the Lord Himself tells us what it is. Twice, He says, “the kingdom of heaven is like . . .” So, we can be sure that whatever Jesus is telling us in these two parables, it's about the kingdom of heaven.
And the specific thing that He wants us to know about that kingdom is also obvious. He is telling us about its great value. On the one hand, He said that it is like a hidden treasure that a man finds; and on the other, He said that it is like a traveling merchant who finds a pearl of great price. In both cases, the point is clear: the kingdom is of such great value that one ought to be prepared to give up everything that he or she owns in order to obtain it.
But why two parables? I believe that they show us the precious and inestimable value of the kingdom of heaven from two different perspectives. Together, these two perspectives are meant to inspire us to give ourselves fully over to the pursuit of this great and glorious kingdom.
In the first parable, we see the value of the kingdom from the perspective of the citizens of that kingdom. In it, Jesus teaches us that seizing hold of the kingdom of heaven, and fully grabbing hold of our place in it, is worth every earthly thing it could possibly cost us. And then, to spur us on to faithfully and joyfully pay that price, the second parable shows us the value of the kingdom from the perspective of the King Himself. In that second parable, Jesus shows us that this kingdom—and us in it—was something so precious and valuable to Him that He Himself willingly gave everything for it.
That two-fold perspective is what I really hope to impress upon you today. You and I are being called upon to view the kingdom of heaven as the most precious and valuable thing that we can pursue on earth. And there couldn't be anything that would encourage us more to give ourselves over to seizing hold of our place in Christ's kingdom than seeing how much He Himself gave to seize hold of our place in it!
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First, let's look at . . .
1. THE KINGDOM'S VALUE FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM (v. 44).
Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like “treasure hidden in a field”. And in telling this story, Jesus was not speaking of anything surprising. It was common for a treasure to be hidden in a field in Israel.
Throughout its history, that land has been subject to countless military raids. It has changed hands many times. Armies often marched through it, and conquered and plundered its people. And as a result, the people of the land were often forced to leave their homes and wander as refugees or hide for safety.
As you can imagine, it would have been very dangerous to wander through the land with gold and jewels and large sums of money on one's person. One's whole treasure could easily have been confiscated or stolen and lost. And so, since there were no banks or safety-deposit boxes in those days, people on the run would hide the things that were precious to them and their households by burying them for safekeeping.
Sometimes, as it was hoped, the homeowner would return to his or her home, find the spot where they buried their precious treasures, dig it up, and take possession of it once again. And if that happened, then all was well. But very often, the owner of the treasures didn't return to dig them up. Perhaps they remained captives, and were never able to return. Or perhaps they were killed, having told no one where their treasure was. And just as often, it was up to someone else—long afterwards—to accidentally discover the long-forgotten buried treasure somewhere in a field and take possession of it.
So Jesus was speaking about something that would have been a familiar thing. We're told that the kingdom of heaven is “like” that buried treasure hidden in a field. We're told that a man—most likely a poor man who worked in a field of someone else; a field that he didn't own—made a discovery. As he was tilling the ground or digging a trench, he discovered a box; and in that box were jewels and gold and precious things.
Jesus tells us that this is a treasure “which a man found and hid”. It was already hidden of course; but once he found it and saw what was inside, he looked this way and that, saw that no one else saw it, and buried it were he found it! He kept his discovery a secret.
Now, you need to know that, according to Jewish law, it was permissible in that day for a man to take possession of what he found buried in the field of another. If he were able to take it as his own, he would have done no wrong and would have broken no law. But if, indeed, he were a poor man under the employment of another, it may be that he would not have been permitted to walk away with that treasure. There would have been only one way for him to secure that buried treasure for himself and to ensure that it would be his. And so Jesus tells us that, after finding this treasure and hiding it again, “for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Imagine this man figuring up the value of the land, and making an offer to the owner. Imagine the man selling everything he owned—literally everything—and scrounging up all the money he could! Perhaps it made it necessary for this poor man to be homeless for a brief while. Perhaps he even had to go hungry for a day or two. Perhaps it made it necessary for him to suffer hardship for a time. Perhaps he even sold some things at a loss, just so he could sell it all as quickly as he could.
But the man would have been happy to suffer whatever it would have cost him. He had one consuming passion, and that was to possess that field. He would have been wise to do so; because he knew that if he had that field, he had riches beyond anything it would have cost him to obtain it. He would have gladly given up everything for that field; because, in gaining that field, he secured to himself a treasure that was of far greater value than the field itself.
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You might say that the man in Jesus' parable would have been a fool not to buy that land—even though it cost him everything to do so. And Jesus is telling us that the kingdom of heaven is like that hidden treasure.
Note first of all that it is a treasure that is, as it were, “hidden” in this world. The people of this world don't look upon it as of any value. All that they are concerned with is what will advance them in their enjoyment of the things in this world—things that are guaranteed to fade away and disappear. The apostle John warned us;
Do not love the world or the things in this world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17).
The world is consumed with “what shall we eat?” or “what shall we drink?” or “what shall we wear?”; and they only see value in that which will secure these earthly things for themselves. And as far as the people of this world are concerned, the pursuit of the kingdom of heaven does nothing to secure these things. But Jesus tells us not to worry about these things,
“For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:32-33).
And notice, secondly, that the kingdom of heaven is a treasure—indeed hidden in this world—but of greater value than anything in this world. It is worth giving up everything in this world that we have in order to obtain.
Do you remember the story of the rich young ruler? He asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved. He told Jesus that he had kept the law from the time he was a youth; but he knew something was missing. “What do I still lack?” he asked. Jesus told him,
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Matthew 19:21-22).
What a contrast he was to the man in Jesus' parable! He didn't sell all that he had “for joy” over Jesus' offer. In fact, he went away sorrowful. It cost more than he was willing to pay.
But when Peter saw all this happening, he looked at himself and his fellow disciples, and saw how they had forsaken all to follow Jesus. He said to the Lord, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” I don't fault Peter for asking this, do you? I think it was a very good question to ask.
Jesus told them,
“Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (vv. 28-29).
And so, the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a hidden treasure; but it is a treasure that's value is far greater than anything it may cost us to seize hold of it.
But that leads us to a third thing to notice about it: it does indeed involve a cost. Jesus told us that, out of joy, the man sold everything he had to obtain this hidden treasure. This, of course, isn't saying that we can “buy” our place in the kingdom of Jesus Christ with our works. A place in Christ's kingdom is absolutely free to whoever wishes it. The Bible tells us, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved . . .” (Acts 16:31).
All that is required to be a citizen of Jesus' kingdom is that we place our faith on Him, and trust in the sacrifice He made for us on His cross, and then rise up and follow Him. But as free as the kingdom is, it also costs. It costs us everything that we are and have. Jesus has already made this clear to us when He said,
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).
The kingdom is freely available; but it isn't cheap. It will cost you everything you have. It may cost you your reputation and status in this world. It may cost you your friends or family members or neighbors. It may cost you the things that this world considers valuable and worthy. It may cost you your material security. It may cost you your career. It may cost you your peace in this world. It most certainly will cost you your favorite sins. It will most certainly cost you your pride. It will most certainly cost you your self-reliance. It may even cost you your physical life.
But whatever it may cost to follow Jesus, the inestimable value of His kingdom—and of our place in it—is worth whatever price it may cost us. As the apostle Paul—who gave his life for Jesus Christ—once said; “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
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I believe that this first parable is meant to communicate the overwhelming value of the kingdom to us, and to call us to pay whatever price it may cost us to grab hold of our place in it.
And that brings us to the second parable. It's theme is the same. It's basic message is identical to the first one—that is, the inestimable, overwhelmingly great value of the kingdom. It's a value so great, in fact, that it is worth whatever it may cost us of the things of this world. But the focus of this second parable is different. Here, we see . . .
2. THE KINGDOM'S VALUE FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE KING HIMSELF (vv. 45-46).
Think of what we're told. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls.” In the former parable, we're told that the kingdom of heaven was like a thing—a hidden treasure. It was something a man found quite by accident. But here, we're told that the kingdom of heaven is like a particular kind of man. He is a wealthy and important man. He is a man of means. And he is a man who seeks something—not something that he might discover by accident, but something that he deliberately looks for because he already knows its value.
Look over the parables we've studied so far. Usually, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a thing—a “mustard seed”, or a bit of “leaven”, or “treasure hidden in the field”. In the final parable of the seven, the kingdom of heaven is compared with “a dragnet” that draws fish from the sea. In only one other of these parables is the kingdom of heaven compared to a man; and that is the second one; in which we're told, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed seed in his field . . .” (v. 24). And later, we're told who that man was: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man” (v. 37).
And now, once again, we're told that the kingdom of heaven is like a man. I suggest to you that the Lord Jesus is being spoken of to us in this parable. The kingdom is embodied in Him. He is the King. And so, I believe that He is meant to be understood by us as the merchant who seeks beautiful pearls.
The word that is used to describe the merchant in this parable is one that suggests that he is a traveling merchant. It implies someone who is distinguished in that role. He knows exactly what he is looking for. He is a man of taste. He knows the value of pearls; and he has the means to obtain those things which he seeks.
And here, we're told that the merchant found “one pearl”. In the original language, the word “one” is placed in an emphatic way. It is a remarkable pearl. It is “the one.” It is the item for which he sought. It is not just a beautiful pearl; it is an exquisite pearl—a pearl of unspeakable value! The merchant knows the value of what he has found. And he is no fool. Jesus says that once he found it, he “went and sold all that he had and bought it”.
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There are a couple of things that the man of the field had in common with the merchant. Both of them found something precious; and both of them, once they found it, sold all that they had to obtain what they had found. But think for a moment about this merchant. He was a businessman who had the means of traveling. For him to have sold all that he had to obtain this one pearl must have meant that he liquidated an enormous sum—a sum that would have far exceeded all that the man in the field could have obtained.
And think of what it was that the Lord Jesus gave in order to obtain His kingdom! Paul tells us something of the price Jesus paid when he wrote that He...
. . . being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
What human words could possibly express what it cost Jesus to obtain His kingdom? But His having paid that price, Paul goes on to say this about Him:
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 9-11).
The Bible tells us that “for the joy that was set before Him”, He “endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:2). And what was the “joy” that was set before Him? It is the joy of having us in glory with Him! It was in order to obtain us that He paid that great price; so that we might be sharers with Him in the glories of His kingdom! The Bible tells us, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; the prospect of glorifying us and making us sharers with Him in the rich inheritance of His kingdom was the thing that motivated the Savior to give His all! Before He went to the cross, He prayed for us and said, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). And in order to obtain what He desired above all else, He gave everything. He...
. . . loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).
And what Jesus died to bring about for Himself will be accomplished! We can affirm, as the apostle Jude affirmed; “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy . . .” (Jude 24).
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Dear brothers and sisters; I urge you to see these two parables—and the unique focus they both bring—together. They both point to the overwhelming value of the kingdom of Jesus Christ! He saw its value, and gave everything to obtain it and to secure our place in it with Him.
Let's respond to these things as Paul responded to them:
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me (Philippians 3:8-12).
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