The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Matthew 13:44 “‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Have you understood all these things?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes.’ 52 And He said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.’”
There are four parables in this morning’s Gospel reading. It may seem at first to be a hodgepodge of stories, but this is not the case. In these parables Jesus is teaching us about His work of salvation, the Church, and the Last Day.
The parables are respectively; the parable of the hidden treasure, the parable of the fine pearls, the parable of the dragnet, and the parable of the head of the household. Each parable was designed to highlight a different aspect of the kingdom of heaven. All of them are pretty short and they are strung together in a rapid succession.
The parable of the hidden treasure is about a man who finds something deem believes is of value in an unexpected place.
The parable of the pearl of great price directs our attention to the merchant, what he finds, and what he was willing to do in order to lay claim to a pearl of great price.
The parable of the dragnet takes us to the Last Day and the separation of the good fish from the bad, from the righteous from the unrighteous.
Then finally the parable of the head of the household who brings out new and old things.
The first two parables are similar in one aspect and different in another. They are similar in that there is something precious that a man redeems by giving up all that he has in order to make the thing of great value his own. The difference is that the treasure found in the field is hidden and the pearl is on display for all to see and is for sale.
As for the hidden treasure it seems like a parable built on dishonesty. A man finds something in a field he doesn’t own, then buys the field so he can have the treasure. Seems a bit deceptive. It’s not.
When Jesus told the parable banks, brokerage firms, and safety deposit boxes weren’t common place. For the most part when common people had money and valuables to protect, they hid it and kept quiet about it. One option was to bury one’s valuables in the field so that only the owner of the field and the valuables knew where the treasure was. But as is still true to this day, sometimes the owner would die before telling anyone where the treasure was buried and sometimes the owner just simply got old and forgot where he had buried it.
The law at the time stipulated that if someone found a treasure while cutting through a field, he couldn’t just pick it up and walk away it. There was no losers weeper, finders keepers. But he didn’t have to leave it alone either. He could cover up the treasure for sake keeping, go to the current owner of the land, and offer to buy the field. Under the law the treasure was considered part of the field and property rights. If the owner knew about the treasure, he could refuse to sell or could recover the treasure before he sold the field. If he didn’t know about the treasure, the potential buyer had no legal obligation to tell him. But if the potential buyer was going to legally obtain the treasure, he had to buy/redeem the whole field.
The parable of the fine pearl is simpler. In the parable of the fine pearl, the merchant is out looking for an investment, a pearl. He sees a particular pearl in the market place and recognizes it’s to be of great value. So the merchant sold all that he had in order to buy it. In the first parable the treasure is hidden. No only knew about it and no one was looking for is. In the second parable the pearl can be seen by all but only the merchant sees just how valuable it is and is willing to give up everything to get it.
Some pastors preach that Jesus is the treasure and pearl; and that we make Him our Savior and claim Him as our own by giving our all for Him. Jesus is a priceless treasure that’s where the comparison ends. We sinful human beings don’t have anything that would enable us to purchase His salvation. We are sinful and our righteousness is but filthy rags, as the prophet Isaiah once wrote. And as is the case with most parables, Jesus is always the central figure in the parable. So in the case of both of these parables, Jesus is the One who is giving up all to get the hidden treasure and He is the merchant who gives up all to redeem the pearl.
Two parables centering on something of great value, one was plain as day for all to see, just like the church. The other hidden, just like the church that only the Redeemer could see.
The Church is both visible and hidden. It is visible: You can tell that there is a Church on earth because there are visible signs. There are church buildings. People get together, confess the faith, and worship. They read and preach on the Bible. They create symbols of the Christian religion. They create schools, hospitals in days gone by, and social service agencies dedicated to serve their members and neighbors. It is obvious to the world that the Church exists, just as the pearl was obvious as it is on display in the parable.
The Church is also hidden. Christians are saved by faith and faith that lives in the heart can only be seen by God. Only God sees the hidden treasure– His baptized and believing children. Only God sees the hidden church. He protects it and keeps it throughout history.
But this world will not last forever: Judgment Day is coming. That is the topic of the next parable, the dragnet. The parable of the dragnet is pretty easy to understand, especially since Jesus provides the explanation Himself. The dragnet represents the visible church on the day of judgment.
A dragnet captures everything in its path. It leaves nothing. Whatever the net catches is hauled ashore and sorted through. The parable portrays the Last Day, when the Son of Man returns and brings with Him His holy angels. Then begins the great separation. The righteous will be delivered to heaven and the unrighteous will be sentenced to eternal condemnation.
This parable is the fisherman’s version of the parable of the sheep and goats. The parable of the sheep and goats uses the image of the shepherd. This parable wheat and tares is a parable for the farmers. And this parable is for the fishermen.
Good fish are worth catching and keeping. They are the reason for the net in the first place. Fishermen don’t go fishing to catch worthless fish. The entire enterprise of fishing is based on catching good fish. So also the work of the church. It is ultimately about the sheep, the wheat, and the good fish.
Like the parable of the sheep and goats, the parable of the dragnet offers a very sober warning for the non Christian and a cause for joy for the Christian. As the parable teaches, there will be a final day when there will be a separation between the children of God and everyone else.
After the parable of the dragnet, Jesus asked the disciples, “Have you understood all these things? They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ 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.’”
Here Jesus was teaching the first generation of pastors what their job was going to be. Through the Evangelist St. Matthew, Jesus is still teaching pastors that they are to be about bringing out “treasures new and old.” The Apostles and subsequent pastors are His contemporary scribes. They are entrusted with the preservation and proclamation of His Word. They are to care for His house-His Church. They are to teach what the prophets of the Old Testament were given to preach and write. They were to bringing out the ancient Commandments and Promises. The new treasures would be the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the apostolic writings known as the New Testament.
The pastors are householders, not the homeowners. They do not own the treasure; they manage the treasure that belongs to the master of the house/church. They manage His treasure, not their own. They proclaim His Word, not their own. If they change the message, they have moved into a different household.
The second two parables are entirely dependent on the first two parables. The first two parables point to Christ’s redemption of the world by His death on the cross. The second two point to Christ’s faithfulness to the people of His holy house.
The parable of the dragnet shows us what the net result, no pun intended. The redeemed hidden treasure and pearl of great value is the people of God, the church. Jesus will remain faithful unto the Last Day when the righteous, made righteous by faith and the unrighteous, those who remain in unbelief and sin will be separated.
The parable of the new and old things, points us to the message that we are to proclaim.
The first two parables teach us that we have become Christ’s treasure and priceless pearls because He gave all to redeem us. The third parable is a promise that the angels will gather all those who live and die in faith into our heavenly home. The forth parable commissions teaches that between those two points in time, the time when Jesus gave up all to redeem us and the Last Day, the church is to make use of the treasures old and new so that others will be caught in the dragnet of the church.
The Old Testament lesson was first written for the Hebrews who God had delivered and had adopted as His children. Now it is intended for you. 6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession . . . the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers . . . 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
Jesus kept those commandments on your behalf. That is how He redeemed the treasure and the pearl of great price. He was the price and you are the treasure. You are the good fish who will be gathered together on the last day. And this is the message of new and old things. Your sins are forgiven you.
May the Peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.