Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Proper 12A Sermon -- Matthew 13:44-52 (LSB Proper 12A)

July 24, 2011 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

[Jesus said:] “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. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Jesus tells three more parables about the kingdom of heaven: the Parable of a Hidden Treasure, of a Pearl of Great Price, and of a Dragnet. These describe what Jesus has done in this world. They are illustrations describing what He has done for you who have been made part of His people. Jesus’ action to bring salvation to the world is often called “redemption”. It means that a purchase has taken place, a buying of something. In this case, the purchase is of you, of your bodies and souls. That purchase has made you Jesus’ people, His possession.

That act of redemption that Jesus accomplished is a continuation of what had taken place throughout the Scriptures. This morning, you heard words about the Lord and His possessions in the Old Testament Reading. Speaking to the Exodus people, Moses talks about their identity: “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, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” The Lord had selected the children of Abraham to be His own. That favor had been granted to them beginning with the call of Abram from his homeland. Abram had been given a promise to be made into a great people from whom a Redeemer would come.

The Lord’s promise had been handed down from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Jacob’s children. But as they were enslaved in Egypt, the promise looked impossible to fulfill. Yet, just at that time, the Lord acted. He made good on the promise. Moses reminds the people of this: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Purchase and deliverance had taken place. The Lord had taken the Hebrews from Pharaoh’s ownership to be His own. He had made them His people. And He had done so “with a mighty hand,” by the plagues and leading through Red Sea, actions that only He could do.

This redemption foreshadowed what the Lord would do centuries later. That was accomplished in the actions of Jesus. For He also would deliver people “with a mighty hand”—through death and resurrection. By such actions, Jesus “redeemed you from the house of slavery,” from the hands of Satan and death and sin. Like the delivery of the Hebrews from Egypt, this took place “not because you were more in number than any other people”. This action was not done out of calculation. Rather, it was the fulfillment of a great promise, an action based in the love of you, even when you had no intrinsic value.

Jesus’ Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price help to illustrate this. Think of the first parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. . . .” To the eyes of others, the field looks ordinary. There is nothing in it that should attract the attention of prospective buyers. It is a field like all others. But in that field is something valuable. It is hidden, not evident to others. So what does the man in the parable do when he finds out about that hidden treasure? “[He] found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The purchase price for that field is everything that the man possesses. But he gladly gives it up in order to make that entire field and the treasure hidden in it his own.

So it is for you. Jesus has purchased you, the hidden treasure. Not only did He buy you, He bought the entire field—the cosmos—where you are. It is all made to be His. And what was the cost? It was the selling of everything that He had. Jesus gave Himself, laid down His life, as your purchase price. Nothing was held back. Jesus was all-in for you. And through that sacrifice, you have been made His own.

Jesus’ second parable confirms this: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” This parable takes the matter of redemption down to the individual level. Jesus’ words describe more than the purchase of an entire creation. Perhaps one might think that all the universe was so great that it was worth Jesus’ life, an even exchange, so to speak. But what about one pearl? That is the term used by Jesus. One pearl is worth everything that a man has? It seems ludicrous. But Jesus has given everything for you individually. You would not dare to say that you are of equal worth to the Son of God. And yet, He sold all that He had to purchase each of you. Every single one of you has been graciously and compassionately valued by Jesus that He has offered His life for you. The value is not some sort of greatness found in you, but has been placed upon you.

Something is worth what anyone will dare to spend on it. Despite your sin, your imperfection, your failures, Jesus has given Himself for you. “Lord of glory, You have bought us, with Your life-blood as the price,” the hymn famously says. Yes, that is how Jesus “sold all that He had” to redeem you. That message the Church takes out into the world. The Church acts like the dragnet spoken of in the third parable told by Jesus: “The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown in to the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.” The message of Jesus’ purchase and redemption of sinful humanity attracts people, bringing them into fellowship with Him. It is the message that has reached your ears, revealing your true identity as the Lord’s own people, His treasured possession.

What Jesus accomplished for you is the fulfillment of what had been promised. He accomplished His Father’s will for you, a will that goes all the way back to prior to the world’s creation. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” You have been called to salvation according to the Father’s purpose. You were foreknown to be made into the image of Jesus. You were justified by Jesus’ death. And you will be glorified in His resurrection.

Purchased through Jesus’ work—the mighty hand of His dying and rising—you are the Lord’s people. His sacrifice is the giving of all He had, the expression of the Lord’s great love for you. With the life of the Son of God given for you, there is nothing in creation that can remove the identity which has been granted to you: “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.”

You are the Lord’s treasured possession, redeemed by Him to be His own. So He forgives your sins, restores you to righteousness, and puts you on the path to resurrection. That is His will, a will expressed in giving all He had to make you His own: “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? . . . Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” This great action has been made known to you, so that you may believe what the Lord has made you and receive the fulfillment of His will for you. Hearing and believing what Jesus makes known, you are “trained for the kingdom of heaven.” The truth about your identity and the way of life that Jesus has given you is the new and old treasure that has been made yours.

So you have been made part of the kingdom of heaven. You have been purchased and made the Lord’s own people. The dragnet has gathered you up. At the close of the age, when the great sorting takes place, you will be the righteous kept by God for all eternity. It is not something that you accomplish, but has been done for you. That is the great truth Jesus reveals. Hear and receive it: “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” He has done what He said He would do: you have been justified by Jesus’ death. He will fulfill His promises to you: you will be glorified through Jesus’ resurrection. So live now as the Lord’s holy people and look forward to the eternal life He has desired to be your own.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

No comments: