Matthew 13:44-53 New International Version (NIV)
The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl
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.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
The Parable of the Net
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
Often you will hear how people like Jesus and the message of the Old Testament, but the God of the Old Testament sound too intense, too strict, He is all about judgment and wrath; give me gentle Jesus meek and mild over wrathful Yahweh! The problem is that Jesus makes it clear and a clear understanding of the gospel makes it clearer that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.
We hear this often; “when I read Jesus and think this was a good guy with a message of love and tolerance.” Or “I believe in a God of love.” The problem with this idea is that if we simply have a God of love, then He is unjust; because there is a lot of sin and evil in this world and therefore if he does nothing about the injustice and sin in this world He is a good who is too weak to do so or too cowardly to do so.
Tonight as we deal with this parable of Jesus we can see this interaction coming into beautiful light as Jesus paints us a picture of salvation; incredible joy coming out of wrathful punishment. So let’s dive in.
Jesus starts off with;
The joyful treasure of the kingdom
Jesus starts off with a picture of treasure and pearls of great price; one is stumbled upon the other is sought after but in the discovery of each we find that the discoverer is willing to give up everything they have to attain what they have found.
Now, this is a clear description of what it is like to discover the wonder of the gospel. I love the fact that Jesus paints the picture of both seeking and stumbling upon it. because this is what faith is like; to some, it is an accident, and to others, they seek out meaning in life and in this deep seeking they discover the gospel. Both cannot say that the discovery is theirs. Even the one who seeks out the pearl will inevitably say that they stumbled on the pearl of great price. Well, even people who seek out life's meaning and discover the gospel once discovered will realise that they did not discover it by their own intellect or power but it was a great prize.
The implication for both is that in the discovery everything else become nothing in the attainment of the prize. They, willingly and joyfully, part with everything they have to gain that which they could not earn.
This is the beautiful reality of grace, once you see that Jesus gave up everything in love to redeem you, you will discover that your entire life, everything you have is small in exchange for the reward you gain in Christ. What is it to give up what you did not ever own to gain what you could not ever earn? Think about it; your life and the things in this life; they cannot be yours really. You did not and cannot make yourself; the opportunities you have are a gift, and although you might work hard to attain stuff in life it remains an illusion that can go away in a moment’s notice. So, if you live for your stuff you are deluding yourself; therefore surrendering it is not so bad especially in light of what is offered in Christ; the gift that you could not earn. It is a love and acceptance that could never be earned but it is given to you in Christ!
In fact, this becomes more evident in the next parable that Jesus tells;
2. The fiery judgment of the kingdom
Jesus jumps from this image of incredible undeserved joy to one of stark judgment; a picture of fish being separated the good fish from the bad. He explains this as the reality of the end of the age; that the wicked will be separated from the good. This is a stark contrast from the previous parable but is incredibly powerful and hopeful none-the-less.
Jesus is reminding us that God is good; that He will bring His justice to all, and we can look forward to the end of the age of evil people getting their just deserts. This is an incredibly powerful hope to us who live in an endemically unjust world. We see all around us wicked people thriving and getting away with corruption and evil. This is what is at play in the development of the Old Testament; God establishes Himself as the God over Israel; and establishes Himself as a God who will bring justice and goodness to the world. He is a just God!
Slowly in the unfolding story of the Old Testament, we see God pouring out His anger at the sinfulness of mankind. Think back to stories of Babel, or Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, throughout the stories of the Old Testament, we see this reality that God will be just He rules with justice and will not let the sins of mankind be left unpunished!
Again; this is a beautiful and powerful picture to carry you through the injustice of life; all evil will be held to account. So don't worry about the injustice you see out there; they will have to stand before God and He will not let the wicked go unpunished.
Justice and I mean real justice, is a beautiful and powerful picture of the kingdom of God. It gives us great hope to endure this life. left only as justice; if Jesus gave this parable without the first two and did not connect it with what he says next; would leave us trembling because real justice would mean that we are doomed. In other words, if the Old Testament had never been completed by the New Testament, if Christ had never come we would have no guarantee that God will pour out the treasures of His love on us and we would have no hope to know that His justice would not be poured out on us as well. This is why Jesus binds these parables together in my third point tonight:
3. The storerooms of treasures in both
Jesus links these two realities by asking his disciples did you get it? do you understand, to which they replied; "Yup, of course." Jesus, realising that they didn't understand says, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
In other words, the second parable is explained in the first and the first parable gives expression to the last. To put it another way; the justice of God in the Old Testament is given clarity and perfection in the New Testament and the New Testament is given context by the Old Testament.
In fact, it is once we see the grace of God in Christ Jesus that we can go into the Old Testament and see what God meant by his perfect justice and mercy. The tension of the Old Testament; which is how can an all-loving God let sinners off the hook, and how can a perfectly-just God simply let sinners go free?
Justice and mercy are antithetical to each other; they contradict each other. Either you show mercy at the expense of justice, or you uphold justice at the expense of mercy; you cannot do both. God does, however, in the Old.
In fact, this is seen most clearly in one of my favourite interaction in the Old Testament; Moses says to God in Exodus show me your glory, or in more modern terms, show me who you are in your entirety! God hides Moses in the cleft of a rock and passes by and declares in Exodus 34:6-7, "The LORD, the LORD God, is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion and faithfulness, 7maintaining loving devotion to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. Yet He will by no means excuse the guilty; He will visit the iniquity of the fathers on their children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
God is saying to Moses; I am Yahweh God and if you want to know me I am the one who is both perfectly just and perfectly forgiving; perfect merciful and yet perfect in upholding justice. This tension of being is held for the whole of the Old Testament and give greater and greater clarity. In fact, the more the Old Testament progresses the more clearly we see that God is perfectly just and yet radically merciful. The reason for this is because the whole of the Old Testament is progressing toward the revelation of Christ and Christ came to fulfil the demands of the righteousness of God so that we who are guilty could rightfully receive the mercy of God.
Many of us avoid the Old Testament because God seems to radically wrathful, but it gives clarity to His incredible mercy to us. To put it another way; do you want to know how much God loves you do you want to know what God thinks of you? Well, he abhors sin with unrelenting anger, He abhors your sin with unending anger, but because he loves you with an unrelenting love, He would not let the wrath of His anger fall upon you rather, He chose to pour it out in all its fullness on Christ (the only one who did not deserve His anger) so that the demands of His justice could be fulfilled.
Church, we should tremble at the wrath of God in the Old Testament; of the demand of the Law, but as Jesus says; anyone who has become a disciple of the kingdom will bring treasures out of the Old and the New. The wrath of God becomes a display of the grace of God for all who are his and the treasure we have found becomes richer and deeper and worth more. Look and see how much you are forgiven and you will see how deeply you are loved!