“The kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven, you will hear that a lot in this message. We are still in the same chapter of the book of Matthew that we’ve been in the past two weeks.
At the beginning of the 13th chapter of Matthew, Christ had gotten into a boat to address the large crowd that had gathered to see him, to hear him preach. Parable after parable – of the sower, the weeds and the wheat and the mustard seed. Christ leaves the boat and the crowd.
What would he do now……..It was now time to teach his disciples. After he explains the parable of the weeds to his disciples, he gives them three more. Three more parables. Why these parables, why not just say sin is bad, God is good….
Because it isn’t that easy. These parables Christ spoke of have to be chewed on and wrestled with. It takes time for them to sink into our soul and become a part of our being.
Several of Christ’s parables being with, “The kingdom of heaven.” That phrase appears over 30 times in the book of Matthew. Which begs the question, “What exactly is the kingdom of heaven?”
I researched this very thing. I did not find a definition that I liked. I did find some learned, scholarly definitions that I frankly didn’t understand. I believe that the kingdom of heaven exists when we live with the freedom that comes with faith.
When we acknowledge and live knowing that everything comes from God. Everything good comes from God. Everything we have comes from God. Our intellect, health, family, provisions, good looks, everything comes from God.
That freedom allows us to do for others without worrying about how much stuff we have. Christ begins, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid, then in joy goes and sells all that they have and buys that field.”
Keep in mind that this is a first century setting. There were no lockboxes, safes or banks to deposit or keep your valuables. To go and bury something valuable during a time of war or oppression would have been fairly common for those that had wealth.
This is a short, one-verse parable. It appears that the individual that found the treasure wasn’t looking for it, wasn’t searching for it, but found it nonetheless.
Such things happen, you know. Did anyone meet their spouse by a chance encounter? Or did you meet them immediately after making the decision that you were getting married right now?
Did it just happen? Just happened to meet them, maybe by chance. Or maybe you knew them or of them and didn’t feel much of anything for them initially. Maybe you still don’t – just kidding.
This happens, we find things when we aren’t looking for them. I did not set out to be a preacher. I would have scoffed if you would have told me 10 years ago that this is where I would be. It just happened.
We don’t always go looking for God, but God is always looking for us. Maybe you have always attended church, that was modeled for you as a child and you are committed to do the same.
Or maybe you read or heard something that got your attention that stirred something in your soul that would eventually bring you to faith.
God uses people, places and the circumstances in our life to turn us back to him. The individual in this parable stumbles across a treasure hidden in a field. It wasn’t laying on top of the soil on the surface. It was buried underneath.
Once it is found, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field, to possess this treasure, the kingdom of heaven.
That treasure might be different for each of us. It would be God’s endless treasure of grace, it could be the forgiveness, the healing of deep and painful wounds or the Almighty himself.
Whatever your treasure is if meets you at your deepest poverty, in the deepest areas of your soul. It is what brings spiritual riches.
It is God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that provides, nourishes and empowers us. That is true treasure.
Christ would provide another example of the kingdom of heaven. “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant of fine pearls, on finding one pearl of great value, the merchant went off and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Christ transitions from an agricultural realm to the business one. There no second thoughts by the merchant. No, I’ll think about it, I’ll get to it eventually or when it is convenient – those things that we humans are good at.
The last parable of these three short parables begins, “Again the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind. When it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.
So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Christ goes from a farming example of finding treasure in a field, to a merchant finding a great pearl to a parable that would resonate with fishermen in the first century. Being a fishermen was a common trade in Christ’s time. It was hard work.
This last parable is rich in symbolism. The net cast out into the sea could represent God’s word being spread throughout the world. It caught fish of every kind. People from all walks of life were brought to faith – young and old, rich and poor, black, white, people of all ethnic backgrounds and skin color.
When the net was full. At the appointed time that only God the Father knows, the net was full and brought ashore. The good fish, or God’s people, those that put their faith in Jesus Christ were put into baskets.
I don’t think that we will be put into baskets, fish are put into baskets. The basket represents heaven, where we all hope to be someday. But the bad fish were thrown out. Those that were evil, those that rejected God time and time again were thrown out.
Last week I talked about the how the weeds were gathered, bundled up and thrown into the fire. In today’s scripture Christ states, “The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The scripture from this week and last ends with this painful and damning language. But it is true, the collecting of weeds to be bundled and burned and the bad fish to be thrown into the furnace of fire represents hell.
Our triune God works endlessly, tirelessly to bring us back to him. There is no joy in seems anyone stumble and fall once, let alone their entire life. God gives us the choice with what we will do with him. We can deny and reject him or follow and embrace him. The choice is ours.
Given that choice, let us be the ones that went beyond what lay on the surface of that field and find that treasure and embrace it. Let us be the merchant that finds that fine jewel that is Christ and never relinquish it. Let us be the ones that brings the kingdom of heaven to this church and community.
Pastor Shawn LaRue
Author of Incomplete