Stories that Stick: A Tale of Two Treasures

Sermon by Gabe Fluhrer on November 16, 2015

Matthew 13:44-46

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As you’re being seated, please turn with me in your copy of God’s Word to Matthew chapter 13. Again, a warm welcome if you’re visiting with us here tonight; great to have you. We’re continuing a series here on the parables. We’ll be looking at two of them tonight. You’ll find it on page 819 if you’re using a pew Bible; 819. We’ll be studying Matthew 13 and verses 44 to 46. Matthew 13:44-46. And so let us give our reverence and diligent attention to the reading and hearing of God’s holy, inspired, and therefore inerrant Word as Matthew records it for us beginning at verse 44:


“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”


Thus ends the reading of God’s Word. May He add His blessing to it! Let’s pray together.


Father, we’re going to think about treasure tonight because that’s what Your Son teaches us about here. And we want to be painfully honest before You in our hearts that so often we treasure wrong things. Would You recalibrate our hearts this evening by the Holy Spirit and by Your Word? Would we come to value as supremely worthy above all things, Him who took that twisted crown of thorns for our poor sake on that cross so long ago, even Jesus our Lord in whose name alone we humbly pray. Amen.


Wadi Qumran was a little known place until the late 1940s when a shepherd boy who was off doing what you might do if you imagine what shepherds might be doing at that point in the middle of the desert, namely nothing, and was pretty bored and he found some rocks. And he started tossing them into caves that he found near this Wadi in the Middle East. He and his friends were there. He tossed one into a cave and he heard something like a piece of pottery break so he threw a couple more stones in and he heard more pottery breaking. He and his friends left the sheep for a moment and went down into the cave a little ways and found all of this pottery, some of which they had just broken, with what looked to be very ancient manuscripts. They went back to their tiny little village and told someone there who contacted The Bureau of Biblical Archeology in Jerusalem and thus were discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, perhaps the greatest manuscript find, Biblical manuscripts in history. He stumbled upon treasure by accident.


And don’t all of us love treasure stories? That’s why Indiana Jones is still popular. Some of you don’t know who that is. He was a character a few years ago. It all makes a lot of money at the box office still because we all love treasure stories and more importantly we love treasure hunts. And that’s because something deep inside of us knows that every one of us here is on some kind of a treasure hunt. All of our lives are spent hunting after something and tonight Jesus teaches us about the most important treasure hunt we’ll ever embark upon. Let me just briefly set the context for you here in Matthew’s gospel. We could summarize Matthew’s gospel in one sentence this way. This gospel teaches us about Jesus who was born the King of the Jews but exalted to universal dominion. So Matthew takes us on a journey beginning in the first chapter of this humble, lowly person born in a manger who happened to be the divine Son of God. And from there, Matthew organizes his gospel around five major teaching sections and Matthew 13 is really the longest of those teaching sections. It contains most of the parables we know and love and two of which we’ll be examining here tonight. Remember that the parables are earthly stories which reveal a heavenly meaning. So Jesus employs these stories to stick the truth in our minds and that’s what He does here this evening.


And I want to look at these verses here under three headings tonight. First of all how the kingdom is found. How the kingdom is found. Second, what the kingdom costs you. What the kingdom costs you. And third; why the kingdom is worth it. So how it’s found, what it costs you, and why it’s worth it!


I. How the Kingdom is Found


How the kingdom is found. Look with me there at verses 44 and 45. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up…Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls.” Jesus gives us two different images here, two different people to explain to us how the kingdom is found. And these two parables really have interlocking meanings and one same theme and that theme is the all surpassing worth of the kingdom of Christ. And in Matthew’s gospel the “kingdom equals” is synonymous with “means salvation.” So the point of these two illustrations he gives us is to teach us the all surpassing worth of the salvation that we find in Christ. In the first place, in this first parable, the kingdom is found, as it were, by accident. During this time, you see, there were marauding armies who would descend upon these ancient lands and there was no first central trust of ancient Jerusalem – where to keep your money. So if you had valuables of any kind you would take them and you would bury them in a field. And the rabbis, this was such a widespread practice that the rabbis had laws that they had set down for what to do if you found some of this treasure hidden in a field. So this man may have been digging. It was a familiar image to most of his hearers. He may have been digging for treasure and stumbled upon something beyond his wildest dreams. And so he covers it up and quite in practice with Rabbinic law, goes and sells all that he has to get this field. We’ll call this Person One and we’ll call his name, Sheer Grace. That’s Person One that we meet in these parables.


Jesus Seeks the Lost

And this describes someone that we might meet today. This is a person who was not looking for the kingdom. Maybe it was somebody who got that knock on a dorm room door, who had somebody hand them a Gospel tract while they were out walking around a city, who met a friend at work who all of a sudden began to talk to them about the great salvation in Jesus. The point is, they weren’t looking for Him, and Jesus found them. And then in that sense it therefore describes all of us. We can all say with the hymn writer of old, “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” All of us, all of us can say that, my friends, because all of us have entered the kingdom, have found salvation, have come to know Christ not by any efforts of our own, not when we were looking for Him, but when He found us, guilty, helpless, vile, we, spotless Son of God was He. That’s Person One.


Are You Hungry for Spiritual Truth?

Then Jesus uses another image here with Person Two who we’ll call The Spiritual Treasure Hunter. In verse 45 He describes a merchant who was looking for pearls, one of the most dangerous tasks in the ancient world. Pearl diving was very lethal; many people died doing it. And pearls were kind of like the diamonds of the ancient world. If you were an ancient ruler who really wanted to show how well off you were, you would take pearls and dissolve them in your glass of wine. That was showing off how much wealth you had. That’s how valuable they were. And this merchant finds this pearl and it’s worth more than anything he can imagine, so he goes quickly and sells everything he has to buy this pearl.


And again, this is the person who we might meet today. She’s hungry for spiritual truth. And that by the way, my friends, is the shift that has happened in our society. Some of you remember the threat of secular communism where the worry was that so much atheism was spreading throughout the world that we would be overtaken by that perhaps at some point. Let me assure you now that Mikhail Gorbachev, who was the former leader of the Soviet Union, is professing Buddhism; we’ve decidedly passed a shift and a turning point in how people think about spiritual things in our day and age and the tagline now is we’re “spiritual” but not religious. That’s this person hunting for spiritual truth. Maybe that’s you tonight! You stumbled upon a Presbyterian Church. “Pretty safe place! They’re kind of calm folks; they’re not going to get too in my face.” Maybe that’s you! And you’ve come here tonight and you’re looking for spiritual truth. You’ve tried a lot of different worldviews. You’ve tried them on. You’ve tried the spiritual but not religious route and it’s left you empty and it’s left you searching for answers, it’s left you searching for truth, and you’re just as dry, just as hopeless as when you started. And Jesus says that we’re going to meet people like that and we might be them ourselves. But in both instances, the kingdom is found by God’s sovereign grace alone. Jesus may allow us to search for Him or He may come looking for us, but all we can do once we find Him, in both instances here, is simply rejoice at the great treasure we have found.


II. What the Kingdom Costs Us


What then does the kingdom cost us? In both instances, Jesus uses the same kind of imagery. “In his joy,” verse 44, “he goes and he sells all that he has and buys that field…Finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Again, the point here is very easy to grasp. Both sell a lesser treasure to obtain something vastly greater and it reminds us that again, as I said in the opening, there’s no one alive, no one here tonight, no one listening to my voice who is not a treasure hunter. How do you tell what you’re hunting after? Look at what you order your schedule, your money, your time, all of that – what is that ordered around? It is a treasure of some kind, my friends. We make plans for vacations, for babysitting, for how we spend our money, for what we’re going to invest in, around some kind of treasure. It’s what we’re seeking after. It’s what we value. It’s what we place the greatest amount of emphasis and treasure upon. What is it? That’s what Jesus bids us ask ourselves this evening. And so many times, because of sin, we treasure the wrong things; we hunt after the wrong treasures, don’t we? Our hearts, which should value Him above all things, because of the twisted economy of the fall, treat Him, treat our Savior as little more than a dime store knickknack and not the supremely valuable treasure that He is, that He tells us about this evening.


The Attraction of Worldly Pleasures

And that’s Satan’s way with us. What he’ll do is this. He’ll lie to us. He’ll take the glittering, fading, passing, able to be eaten by moth and rust treasures of this world which are infinitely less precious than Jesus and he’ll make them attractive and he’ll make them look greater than Him, and he’ll say to us through these fading treasures, “This is the way. Walk in it.” And he’ll cause us to spend our lives and our time and give up our families and give up our integrity and give up following Jesus for lesser treasures. That’s his design. That’s how Satan works. But the treasures look attractive and that’s why so many of us, me included, all of us here I think struggle with the claims of Christ. So many times we become treasure hoarders. We’re like dragons guarding our treasure and when Jesus comes and puts His finger on that treasure in our lives that doesn’t need to be there, that we need to value Him more than that, we’re so prone to say, “No, no, no, no! That’s mine! Don’t touch that. Leave it alone. Stay at arm’s length from this part of my treasure.”


And that’s a struggle all of us again face. But here’s the point. What you sacrifice now will determine how you finish. What you sacrifice now for Jesus will determine how you finish the race. We’ve had so many funerals at our church. Don’t we all want to consider this evening how to finish well? And the only way, my friends, to finish well, to finish without a whimper of regret but with a victory shout as we enter into glory is to consider well now what we treasure. And if it’s anything, anything at all more than Jesus, He pleads with us tonight to say, “Forsake it! Let it go!” Come to Him! Make Him valuable! It’s the only thing that will last when you take your last breath and pass into glory! You won’t care about your office. You won’t care about your car. You won’t care about your bank balance. You’ll care that the great Shepherd leads you across Jordan. He’s the only one; He’s the only thing that lasts. That’s His point. That’s why it’s so easy to get distracted in this life with our plenty, with our big screen TVs, with our entertainment around the clock. He doesn’t look valuable. He doesn’t look precious. And all the while His Word pleads with us, “O taste and see that He is good!” Value Him above everything else. That’s what He would say to us tonight.


III. Why the Kingdom is Worth It


Finally, why is the kingdom worth it and any sacrifices we make for Jesus? Why are they worth it? He gives us that here. Notice what He says. They sold all they had to buy it and that mirrors what is happening in verse 44. Notice the word that Jesus uses. “Then in his joy,” in his joy, “he goes and buys the field.” There are two reasons why the kingdom is worth it in these parables. First, the kingdom and its King, Jesus, provide the only lasting treasure, as I just mentioned. He gives us that reality check here tonight. He bids us look into our hearts and just be honest with Him. No more covering up. No more dancing away from the truth. What are you after tonight? We’re all seeking something. Earthly treasures fade.


The Call to Self-Denial

I’ll never forget when I was a senior in high school I had the opportunity to be an exchange student in France right near the German border. And one time we went and saw the aqueducts and the famous Roman Road, two thousand years old. Amazing to see these feats of engineering! And I stood right in the center of one of the roads where probably some apostolic missionary had walked and you could still see parts of the road, even parts of the paintings that had been on that road and some of the colored stone that had been used and the aqueduct soared above the road. And one thing that those ruins shout at all of us is “What’s glorious now, becomes the curiosity of tourists tomorrow.” All earthly treasure is fading! All the empires of the world, the prophet Isaiah tells us, are but as so much dust in the divine scales that He holds in His hand. They’re dusty, they’re fading; they’re going to be gone. And Jesus provides us the only lasting treasure. And the only way to enjoy Him is to forget those treasures, to put them in their proper place. It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what He gives us; it means we put them in their proper place and we focus our time and our energy and our finances on making His name famous, not ours. Making His name glorious, making His name and the worth of His kingdom felt, as it were, in the world around us. That’s the mission that all of us are called upon. That’s the great divine destiny all of us are bidden to come and rest in. That great call from Jesus! That call of self-denial, and sacrifice.


What will it be for you? Maybe it’s a sexual partner outside of marriage Maybe it’s doing that thing at work so you can advance and you know it will cost you your integrity. Maybe it’s making sure you record those right numbers on the tax returns. Whatever sacrifice it is – maybe He’s going to call you to give your life for Him. Don’t we need some missionaries, as our senior pastor said not too long ago, who are willing to go to the hard places and never come back? Who are willing to go to the neighborhoods in Paris where there’s people being taught that if you blow yourself up that gives you treasure! It doesn’t give you treasure! That won’t ever bring you treasure; only Jesus will bring that, not Allah! Somebody’s got to go and tell them. Somebody’s got to go to the hard places. Maybe it’s somebody here tonight. Do we pray that for our children? Do we pray that some of our children will go to hard places to make the worth of Jesus known? For our grandchildren? That’s what Jesus calls us to look at tonight. It provides lasting treasure and it’s the only thing that provides lasting joy.


How to Find True Happiness

Doesn’t everybody want to be happy? Don’t you want to be happy tonight? Isn’t that why there are so many booming industries around us in our comfortable, Western world, because everybody wants to be happy! We’re looking for joy. We’re looking for something that lasts. We’re looking for something that will get beyond the temporary joys that we experience. We want it to keep going. Maybe as you gather with family and friends next week and there’s just that wonderful moment – it may not be that way for you; it may be the hardest part of your year coming up. But for some of you it may be that you sit around that table and you feel that deep sense of belonging, that deep sense of satisfaction, and you think to yourself, “This is great.” And God has given you a gift and we ought to rejoice in that. But then it fades, doesn’t it? Then another week happens, then disappointments, boredom, friction, trials, relationships that go sour, spiritual life that’s not what it’s supposed to be, financial hardships. All of that sets in and again and again and again you say, “I just want to be happy!”


And what you’re seeking after, as we look together tonight at our own hearts, what you’re seeking after reveals the treasure map of your hearts, tells you what you’re really after. And God, as it were, wants to recalibrate us and say quite literally, “X marks the spot for lasting joy.” The only way, the only way beloved to find lasting joy is to come to the cross of Christ, ironically. The only way to find joy, to be really happy, is to give up doing life your own way, to give up relying on your own supposed righteousness which is really no righteousness at all. According to the prophet Isaiah, it’s like “filthy rags.” To give up going after a million other treasures and come after the one, supreme treasure, Jesus Christ, that’s the only way to find joy. His cross, His death on that tree, His perfect life leading up to His death on the tree, all of that my friends needs to sink in deeply to us and it’s then and only then that you will find lasting joy, no matter what comes upon you in the providence of God. No matter what hardships come, no matter what disappointments, no matter what burdens, no matter what boredoms come, if you’re at that cross, if you’re in Christ, if you know Him and He knows you then joy, joy, joy is your lot and not sorrow. Even in the midst of sorrow, even in the midst of your worst experience as a human being – joy because of Him, because of His work, because of His sacrifice. He is the one in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. His sacrifice, Peter tells us, is more precious than silver or gold that perishes. The reason why these main characters could give up everything in these parables is because of the joy they found. That’s why they could do it. They found a greater treasure that brought them lasting joy.


It reminds me of a story I read not too long ago. In The Atlanta Journal-Constitution number of May 17, 1987, there was a story told about a man named Rob Cutshaw. He lived in the western part of North Carolina in Cherokee County which is not too far from where I grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. It’s in the western part of North Carolina close to the Tennessee border, a little town named Andrews. Rob Cutshaw was a rock hound and as usually happens, he didn’t have a lot of money. He would find rocks, he’d dig them up, and he’d sell them for a little bit of cast to feed the family and spent most of his life broke. He went on a dig one night and he was cutting wood and then digging and cutting wood to make extra money, and he found a giant blue rock that he described as “pretty and big.” And Rob kept this rock and he put it in his closet and it was just this beautiful rock. He’d take it out to look at it from time to time but he forgot about it. And then he looked at it and he thought to himself, “You know, I think I could probably get about five hundred dollars for this rock and if I need it for the power bill I might do that.” But then he put it away and God provided extra money for him. Finally, he took it to an appraiser and said, “Just what is this?” The appraiser’s eyes got enormous and he was speechless. He quickly called somebody else and said, “Wait here,” and then another man arrived and then another and a whole crew was there eventually. And unbeknownst to dear Rob Cutshaw from Andrews, North Carolina, he had discovered the largest sapphire ever found, the Star of David sapphire. Its estimated value now is about 3.25 million dollars.


So often, my friends, Jesus is like that sapphire in Rob Cutshaw’s closet in our own lives. We don’t know His worth and so He stays hidden, undervalued, under-treasured. What Jesus calls us to do from this parable tonight is, as it were, to cash in on Him, to right now, tonight, give it all to Him, find Him supremely valuable, declare His glory by living for Him instead of the lesser treasures of this world, my friends, so that when Monday morning comes we can get up, and by God’s grace alone and with the full assurance that no matter what faces you tomorrow, with an uncertain future staring down at all of us with maybe yet another one taken home to glory this week with this uncertain future facing us, when we declare His glory, when we live for Him alone, when we run that race with the joy set before us with Christ, when we pass through to the other side there’s not a saint that goes to that Celestial City of heaven who does not see that banner snapping in the breeze which reads, “Jesus Christ Was Worth It!”


Let us pray.


Father, we do thank You that You have given us Christ who is supremely worthy. O Father, recalibrate our hearts. Help us. We are so, so prone to love other things besides Christ. Make Him valuable to us. We can’t do it; we freely admit that. We are all seeking wrong treasure. Make Him our great and supreme joy tonight. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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