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Study Notes:

Matthew 13:44-58
What’s the Real Value?

Summary: The Kingdom of Heaven is supremely worthy and should be pursued at all costs.

The area where we live, in the shadow of Washington DC, is filled with driven people. People with dreams, aspirations; people with a sense of where they want to go, what they want to do, and who have the drive and determination to get there.

So, let me ask you a question: what are your greatest ambitions right now? Maybe you want to write the answer down. Do you have a top three, things that keep coming up in your mind, things you’re regularly coming back to, things you’re working toward or working on? You don’t have to think long because they’re the things you’re building your life around. Go ahead and write them down or list them off.

Now, I don’t want you to show that list to anyone, I just want you to have it for yourself. But take a look at it, and let me ask you another question: did anything spiritual make it on that list? Did anything related to your walk with God, or your personal spiritual growth or the growth of others come to mind when you think about the goals you’re pursuing?

Friends, I want to warn you about the dangers of this city, and the dangers of modern life. Wherever you go, there is a constant pull away from spiritual things. This city and its patterns of life, its employers, its campuses, and everything else too, your devices, the internet, your phone or your game console are trying to keep you busy, trying to keep you focused on things they want you doing and affirming, things they want you looking at and thinking about, and almost none of it has anything to do with building up your soul in Christ.

But now listen to what Jesus has to say about the kingdom of heaven as He continues to tell parables to His disciples here in Matthew 13:

Matthew 13:44 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.

At a time when there were no banks, burying treasures was not uncommon. Later in Matthew 25 Jesus will tell the parable of the talents, and as part of that illustration, the wicked and lazy servant takes his talent – which was a weight of gold – and buries it in the ground. You still hear of people doing this today, stories of people finding everything from gold coins to hundred dollar bills buried in the ground. This man finds a treasure and then sells everything he has in order to buy the field where it’s located and have legal rights to it.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

So, we have this repeated idea of incomparable worth. To a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, a man accustomed to looking at beautiful things, this was the most beautiful, the most praiseworthy, the one worth surrendering all the rest of your collection if you could just have this one.

Both parables emphasize the same idea: that there are things worth sacrificing everything else for. Both the man who found the treasure and the man who found the pearl were convinced that a short-term sacrifice, selling everything else they had, was worth the long-term gain in light of what they would receive. Other people might not understand, they might think the men were foolish, obsessed, or crazy, but these knew what they were doing. There was something greater in store, and they knew it.

So, the question is: how do we interpret this? What does it all mean? Well, there are two major schools of thought here and they both depend on the identity of the man. Does he represent Jesus who gave everything He had to purchase us, or does the man represent us and call us to give everything for the kingdom? I want to suggest the answer includes both – but you have to take the right perspective.

Those who say the man is Jesus argue that we could never buy the kingdom of heaven on our own no matter how much we sold – after all, that’s why Jesus came for us. And I will agree with that 100%. But here’s the problem – this assumes the point of the parable is the cost of the transaction. I disagree. The point of the parable is not how much the field cost, or how much the pearl cost, it’s not how high the price was.

No, the point of the parable is the incomparable worth of the treasure and the pearl. They’re so valuable, so precious, so worthy, that it makes perfect sense to give up everything else you have as long as you still receive them.

In other words, gaining the kingdom of heaven is worth giving up everything else you’ve ever had or thought precious or valuable. Nothing compares to it. There is nothing the man held back, he sold everything he had because the treasure in the field was worth it. That was the one thing that captured his attention. The pearl the merchant found was greater than everything else he had ever seen, and there was nothing he had that was worth keeping, if keeping it would prevent him from acquiring the great pearl. It was exceedingly precious, of ultimate worth, there was nothing else that compared to this one thing that had just been discovered. The pearl doesn’t have to cost $3 trillion dollars, it might just cost $10, but all you have is $7, will you sell off something else to raise the funds you need? Is what you will receive of greater value than what you will give up?

So, if you are taking notes you might want to write: the point is not the price, the point is not even the transaction, the point is the relative value – the parable is encouraging us to see that giving up everything for the sake of gaining the kingdom is an easy choice to make.

And, I think I can prove that to you from Scripture.

First, let me make the point that Jesus is our example. Consider what He gave up to establish the kingdom of heaven. He didn’t sell everything He had, after all, who could He sell it to? But, He did set everything aside, for the sake of redeeming us.

Christ, who was eternally pre-existent with God, set aside His divine rights and privileges and came down to earth. In Philippians chapter two, God tells us that Jesus:

Philippians 2:7 made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 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.

So, like the man buying the field, like the merchant buying the pearl, Jesus set aside everything He already had – and what was the result? What did He gain?

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 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, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul puts it like this to the Corinthians:

2 Cor 8:9 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.

Establishing the Kingdom of Heaven, securing our salvation – was worth the cost to Jesus. Great gain came from His momentary sacrifice and we should be grateful He was willing to endure it.

Peter reminds us:

1 Peter 1:18 … you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, … 19 but with the precious blood of Christ…

There is no doubt that our salvation was purchased by Jesus. He laid down everything for us. But I also want you to notice this:

Matthew 13:44 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.

Selling everything to buy the field and gain the treasure brought the man joy. Not because of the price he was going to pay, but because of the relative worth of what he would receive. Make a note in the margin of your Bible here. Make a note of Hebrews 12:2.

Heb 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus had joy as He endured the cross because He knew what He was going to receive: the pleasure of the Father and the salvation of people.

OK, so in light of all of this, I have no problem understanding that Jesus is the man who gave everything to buy the field and the pearl. But I also want to make the point that Jesus is our example who encourages us to see things the same way, He is calling us to follow Him – He wants us to understand the relative value of the kingdom of Heaven.

If you’re able, turn over to Hebrews 12 in your Bible – I want you to see what it says before we’re told Jesus joyfully endured the cross. Look at Hebrews 12, verse 1. After telling us in Chapter 11 about all the great men and women of the faith that have come before us, the author says:

Heb 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Brothers and sisters, the point made here is: let go of everything else in life and run full throttle after the kingdom of God. Look to Jesus and follow Him. You won’t regret it.

Paul put it to the Corinthians this way, he said:

2 Cor 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,

In other words, the cost of following Christ, the cost of receiving the Kingdom is nothing compared to what you receive. You don’t buy your salvation, you don’t earn your salvation, you receive your salvation as a gift, but you esteem it’s relative worth as greater than anything else you could possess. This is why the man sells all that he has to gain the treasure in the field, this is why the merchant sells all his other pearls: because they are nothing compared to what is going to be received and the loss of what he has seems like nothing compared to what he gains.

Brothers and sisters, do you agree? Do you see the relative value of the kingdom of God? Do you believe that God has a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory for you? Does that excite you? Do you desire that? Do you see the joy that is set before you?

Matthew, the man who is writing all of this down did. Do you remember? We saw his story back in Matthew 9. Matthew was a tax collector, he had a great job as a contractor working for the Roman government, he made good money, had his own house, life was good. And then one day, Jesus walked by, looked him in the eye, and said “Follow Me.” And there was so much power and conviction in that command that Matthew left everything behind – he found the field, he found the pearl, he found the thing that was worth more than everything else he had, so gave it all up and followed Christ.

The apostle Paul had a very similar experience. He had status, position, recognition, and comfort, but one day Jesus stopped him in his tracks and said, “Follow me.” And Paul gave up everything else he had for the sake of gaining Christ. There was nothing worth holding onto in light of all he was receiving. He would later say:

Phil 3:7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 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

Now, let me ask you, does that sound like a man who was willing to sell everything else that he had in order to buy a field where he found a treasure? Does that sound like a merchant who was willing to sell every other pearl he had found for the sake of this one pearl in front of him? Friends, I say it again – the point of these parables is not the cost of the transaction, it’s the relative worth of the treasure and the pearl compared to everything else in life.

But not everyone sees the value of the treasure or the pearl, not everyone is willing to say the treasure or the pearl is more valuable than everything else.

Back in Matthew 8 we read about the disciple who told Jesus, I’ll follow you, but let me do it later, after my father dies. Now, you have to know that the man’s father wasn’t on his death bed, it was a way of saying, following You sounds like a good idea but I’ve got a lot of other things going on right now, let me get these taken care of and then we’ll see what we can do. And Jesus said no, come now. He said, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead.” In other words, sell all you have and buy this field, put THIS first.

Many of you know the story of the rich young ruler – he came to Jesus asking, “What do I need to do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus told him, sell all that you have and give to the poor and follow Me. And it says the man went away sad because he had many things. Well, the man who discovered the treasure had many things too. The merchant who found the pearl had many other pearls. But the man and the merchant saw the greater relative value of their discovery and were willing to part with anything else in their life for sake of getting what they found. Sadly, the rich young ruler was not.

My friend, are you trying to get as much of the world as you can with one hand, and hold on to Christ with the other?

I have done funerals this past week where I asked about the individual’s church involvement and was told, “Well… he was a Baptist, but wasn’t that active with the church.”

And then, I have participated in services for people who everyone knew Christ was the center of their life. Everyone knew they had found a treasure, they had found a great pearl.

I want to encourage you to live in such a way that someone can preach your funeral well. You do that by cherishing Christ now, and making that obvious in all areas of your life. You do that by valuing the treasure, valuing the pearl, valuing the Kingdom of Heaven and your place in it above everything else in life.

So, may I ask the hard, probing question here: What are the things that you won’t give up to get more of Christ? What is filling your hands so that He cannot? To reference another parable, are there cares and concerns growing up in your life that are choking you? Things that are smothering your soul, things you won’t give up for the sake of receiving more of Christ? Have you acquired a big enough pearl? Are you satisfied with what you’ve got?

What do you do with the hard things Jesus says like:

Matt 10:37 “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. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Does that sound anything like, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field?

Friends, Jesus can say hard stuff like this because He knows the value of what you are being offered. He knows the Kingdom of Heaven is better than money, which is gone before you make it. It’s better than your job, or a house, or a bigger house, or a vacation house. It’s better than a car, which just costs you more money in maintenance and gas and tires and which does nothing but go down in value as soon as you buy it.

Do you realize that the Kingdom of Heaven, which Jesus is inviting you into, is more valuable than your sense of identity, whether you get that from your sexuality, your accomplishments, or anything else? Do you believe that getting the Kingdom of Heaven is better that getting riches, or rank or revenge?

Are you smitten with the Savior and His kingdom? Or is this all just something that is tolerable? You can go along with it, but it’s not really worth getting crazy about.

Friends, Jesus is making the point: it is worth getting crazy about! What God is offering you in the Kingdom of Heaven is of greater value than the sum total of EVERYTHING else in your life. The man who bought the field didn’t regret what he gave up to get it. The merchant did not experience buyer’s remorse. Pursuing the Kingdom of God comes with incredible guarantees, for while on the one hand, yes, God is calling you to be willing to give up everything by comparison, He’s also generous in what He gives.

Make note of:

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

And,

Luke 18:29 So [Jesus} said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

God will not be a debtor to any man. You will never regret giving up everything to follow Him, just look at all He has already laid aside for the sake of saving you!

We have to move on to the next parable:

Matthew 13:47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

The parable is similar to the wheat and the tares that we saw last week. The world is a mixed bag and judgment is coming. Everyone gets caught in the net and examined by the fisherman. But notice, this isn’t catch and release, it’s catch and judge. If you’re counted worthless, you don’t just get released back into the lake to live however you want to live you face judgment.

51 Jesus said to them, “Have you understood all these things?”
They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”
52 Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

Everything Jesus was telling them fit with the things they had learned from the Old Testament, and they should have the ability to see how He fulfilled God’s promises and prophecies. They should be able to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven from the Scriptures everyone already knew and accepted, while explaining them with new insights. And notice how Matthew does that – as you read his gospel you see him quote the Old Testament time and time again, saying “this was to fulfill.”

Matthew 13:53 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there. 54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him.

People reject Jesus because he seems too common for what is happening; they think He’s acting too good, too big for his own britches. As a side note – their question “where did He get all this from?” show the false nature of so-called apocryphal gospels showing Jesus doing miracles as a young boy.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Everything we’ve seen earlier this morning was concept, this is practical application – here we see people who don’t see the value of the treasure or the pearl, here we see worthless fish caught and separated out, here we see people unwilling to believe and therefore, unwilling to act. The Father’s love is ready to receive them, the blood of Christ is ready to cleanse them, the power of the Holy Spirit is ready to renew them, but they will not, and there will be consequences for that unbelief.

We close by asking the question: where do you stand on all of this? Do you see all that Christ has done for you? Do you understand and value all that He offers to you? Are you smitten with your Savior? Is His kingdom worth more to you than anything else in this life? Or is something holding you back? What is it in your life that you’re not wiling to sell for the sake of the treasure, for the sake of the pearl? What are you pursuing, or holding onto instead? Do you really believe, honestly believe, that what you’ve found on your own is greater than what is offered to you in Christ?

One last thing: did you notice how the treasure and the pearl were found? The treasure was found, almost by accident it seems, the man was not a treasure hunter, his life was suddenly interrupted and instantly transformed. The merchant though was on the lookout, searching for something bigger and better, something more. Either one could be true for you – maybe you were looking, maybe you weren’t but God has shown you something of incredible value today, what will you do about it?

Let’s pray

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