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.’”
The assigned Gospel lesson for this morning begins with verse 44 of chapter 13 of Matthew. I want to go back a couple of Sundays and remind you of something Jesus said before He launched into a series of parables regarding the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 13:12 and following. “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive.”
In other words, parables are often told in such a way that people who do not have the right doctrine and who do not believe the Gospel do not understand the parables as Christ intended them to understand.
Thus, is the case with the four short and pointed parables in the assigned Gospel lesson this morning. “The Parable of the Hidden Treasure,” “The Pearl of Great Price,” “the Good and Bad Fishes, and “Treasures Old and New” are such parables. What we can say from the start is that, generally speaking, these four are tied together under the theme of “great value.” All four are about something of great value, so much so that Christians ought to take notice and believe accordingly.
In the first parable a man finds a hidden treasure on someone else’s property. Recognizing its value, he sells everything, buys the land, and claims the treasure as his own. The next parable is about a merchant who goes looking for pearls of value and finds the finest pearl of its kind. He recognizes its great value, sells all, and buys it as well.
In the third parable a fisherman casts a big net and pulls on to the beach both good and bad fish. He knows the difference between the two and goes about the business of separating the good from the bad. This parable can be likened to Jesus separating the sheep and the goats on the Last Day. In fact, Jesus uses the parable as an illustration for what is going to happen on the Last Day. “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Thus, clear in this parable Jesus is the fisherman.
In the final parable Jesus tells His disciples, who claim to understand the meaning of the previous three parables, that “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.’”
That is, faithful pastors and teachers in the Church understand the value of both things old and new in the kingdom of heaven. Every faithful preacher and teacher of the Word of God deals in the treasures of the kingdom of heaven, the Law and Gospel, the sacraments, ordinances, and rites of God’s holy house. Things old and new refer to the ancient revelations of God given to the prophets and Apostles of the Old and New Testaments, the forgiveness of sins given new each day, and the new heaven and new earth that is coming with Christ returns.
Of the four parables in the Gospel lesson, the first two are the most troublesome, at least in regard to right understanding and preaching on them. When most read these parables, they see Jesus as the hidden treasure and as the pearl of great price. You just sang a hymn that said that “Jesus, priceless Treasure, Fount of purest pleasure, Truest Friend to me.” But as a general rule of interpretation, when Jesus tells a parable, He is usually the principle character in the parable. I submit that that axiom is true in the case of the parables before us this morning.
But most Christians, people, see the sinner as the buyer of the field and the merchant. They see Jesus as the treasure and pearl of great value. This interpretation appeals to our natural way of thinking because the old sinful nature thinks it can and must do something earn God’s favor.
How many times have you heard someone say that they remember the moment they decided to be saved; the very moment when they decided for Jesus and accept Him as their personal Savior? Free willers look at these parables and see that it is the sinner who finds the thing of great value, sells everything, risks everything, and acquires the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price.
In fact, most of Christendom accepts this interpretation as Gospel truth. For these Christians Jesus the treasure to be found. Once the sinner finds the treasure, the sinner will be moved by the shear value of the treasure to give up everything in order to possess it. But tell me, how many Christians, having “found” the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure go out, risk everthing, sell everything, put everything on the line, divest themselves of everything in order to acquire Jesus? How many of us have done such a thing?
I submit to you that Jesus never constructs a parable, or issues a statement, or preaches a sermon, or teaches a lesson that is contrary to His heavenly doctrine that God is the creator and originator of true Christian faith. He never introduces anything that is contrary to what Bible teaches concerning faith and salvation. Lutherans and other Bible scholars have a name to for principle of Biblical interpretation. The principle is called “the analogy of faith.”
The analogy of faith teaches that we cannot interpret any particular passage, or parable, or saying in such a way as to conflict or deny the Bible’s overarching teaching the salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and that God’s Word is entirely responsible for creation of faith, our conversion, and our new nature.
Here is what I mean. John 15:16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit.” In Matthew 19 a rich young man wanted to be righteous and asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to be truly good. “Jesus replied, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” The rich man went away. He wasn’t the only free willer to think he could do something. Another well intentioned man asked Jesus. Mark 10:17-18 “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” And Jesus can’t be much clearer than this passage. “A person can only come to me only if the Father who sent Me draws him.” John 6:44
Then of course, we have the epistles and they are clear on this matter too. Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
1 Corinthians 2:14, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
“Because in the beginning God chose you to be made holy by the Spirit, to believe the truth, and so be saved. For this purpose He called you by the Gospel which we preach.” 2 Thess. 2:13-14
The Bible also teaches us that we are spiritually bind so in our blindness we won’t recognized the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure even if we stumbled upon it. So Jesus isn’t giving us a couple of parables that teach us that the non-Christian has to go out and find the great treasure, then by rather unsavory means, buy it in order to become a Christian and join the kingdom of heaven.
Remember that third parable? Jesus was the fisherman who recognized the good fish from bad, the sheep from the goats, and separates them accordingly on the Last Day. The fisherman is the actor in the parable and Jesus is the fisherman.
So also Jesus is the man who “sold all” and purchased the land, the church to be His own. He is the merchant sold all to obtain the pearl, the church on earth. In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus was the Sower of the Seed. He was the owner of the field that had both wheat and tares.
Jesus is the one who for a little while gave up all in heaven, became flesh, humbled Himself even to point of death on the cross. He is the one who purchased hidden treasure, the church, and He is the one who sees the pearl of great value, namely His bride.
Oh but Pastor, what about verse four of the sermon hymn? 4. “Hence, all earthly treasure! Jesus is my Pleasure, Jesus is my Choice.” Only a Christian can sing this and it be true. Notice the lyric is in the present tense. Jesus is my choice, not Jesus was my choice. Every time a Christian hears the Word of God and repents, confesses, believes the Christian is taking hold of Christ and His promises. By the time a person confesses Jesus and receives what He continues to give, he or she is already a Christian. The Man who finds and buys the treasure is Christ. The hidden treasure is the church, the baptized people of God – all of YOU who believe and are baptized! The merchant seeks and buys the precious pearl is Jesus. The pearl is the believer — YOU, the individual whom God loved so much He died for you.
Hear again the Old Testament lesson for this morning, a lesson in the analogy of faith. Deut. 7:7 “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers.”
Christ came and found you. Christ bought you with His blood. Christ has sent scribes, pastors, preachers, fathers, heads of a household, who bring forth out of His treasure things new and old. His ancient Law. His new Gospel. The forgiveness of sins.
May the Peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.