Parables of Kingdom Power and Price | Matthew 13 (Mville)
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 13:31–13:52
Good Morning! We are back to school, but never left the book of Matthew; the Gospel account revealing Jesus the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. While more than simply a good teacher, Jesus ministry on earth had an intense focus on teaching people about the character and nature of God, His kingdom, His values and how we are to live in response to who God is. The last two weeks we have seen Jesus teach complex and countercultural ideas on the nature of God’s kingdom by using small stories with attributes familiar to His audience. While Jesus intended meaning with each of these stores/parables is specific, the response to them varies depending on the condition of the heart of those who hear them. For those who follow Jesus the parables lead to greater understanding, for those indifferent or opposed to Jesus they cause greater confusion. Today we have five parables showing the kingdom’s power, the kingdom’s value, and what life looks like for those who understand the kingdom.
Matthew 13:31-33 31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
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. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Four times we see Jesus say the “Kingdom of Heaven is like…” each instance is used to correct to easy misconceptions about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is exponentially more powerful than it appears and more valuable than you think. But in his correction, why didn’t Jesus compare the kingdom to the mighty cedars of Lebanon, or say it’s like the great temples of Athens, or it’s growth and power will spread like the conquering armies of Rome where you can easily see their progress by each new city under their occupation? Because the Kingdom of Heaven does not look like the kingdoms’ of men. Our kingdoms are defined by what we can see, what we can control, and what we can possess. God’s kingdom is different.
Verse 31-33 Kingdom Power
Again we have a parable with seed and a sower. When there is a sower there is purpose and intentionality in what is being grown. But why is Jesus comparing the kingdom to things that are small? He doesn’t want his followers to be consumed with what the kingdom appears to be now, but by the promise of what is to come. Size doesn’t matter to God. He is able to make something great, big, mighty, strong, stable, and a refuge; from something the world sees as completely insignificant and infinitesimal.
The mustard seed compared, to the greatest kingdom the world had seen Rome would have looked incredibly insignificant. Here we are looking at popular culture and saying, where is the kingdom of God? How can it compete in such a forest full of robust trees already established already bearing fruit of their own sort, already blocking out the sun with their shade already covering the ground with a thick canopy. Jesus shows us while things in the kingdom start small they will not stay that way. It will grow in ways you cannot imagine from the surface. Nothing about a mustard seed says “Big tree!” Mustard seed is small but becomes a large 10 foot tall tree. On that tree birds come and don’t just make a pit stop, but actually build their home there. They are secure in that tree. Jesus teaching is mixing something old and with something new, let’s look at God’s promise in Ezekiel 17.
Ezekiel 17: 23-24 23 On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. 24 And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”
Birds represent the nations. The kingdom is going to include refuges from every tribe. Christianity may not be the dominate force in our current culture but do not mistake that for the kingdom of God failing to grow or even shrinking. There is rapid growth in Africa, China, South America, Korea, and Eastern Europe.
Things looked even bleaker for Jesus followers. It’s great to be reminded that the people Jesus is talking to are people in “the Kingdom”. When they look at their world they see their religious heritage of Judaism encompassing every aspect of their civil and social lives, if they look beyond their context they see Rome dominating every corner of the known world where spiritually they have their cults of the pantheon of “gods” they worship. They are not a silent majority or even a significant minority, in their eyes they are it. “Jesus you’re talking about a kingdom, but we’re not seeing more than a small camp out.”
Jesus is giving them hope. Jesus doesn’t talk about how it is a seedling, or when it is just sprouting, or during the first big wind or storm. Or the first fall when the leaves come off or winter when it looks dead. He says it’s a seed now but it will be a great tree. Don’t worry or be discouraged about the process, trust the final product. I say it’s going to be a tree. It will be a tree. We can look back and see Rome is no more, those religions are no more, at some point the US will be no more and there will be one kingdom high and lifted up. We struggle with believing God works with small beginnings because we despise what is small and insignificant. But that is precisely how God the sower has chosen to work to show it’s His work.
1 Cor 1:72 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
Even if we cannot see the growth happening Jesus tells us another parable about leaven and flour or dough so we can understand how the kingdom continues to work, spread, and change the world. Bakers would take a part of baked bread that had risen and put it into flour to prepare it to rise when it was time to bake. Again Jesus is intentional in his language he says “Three measures of flour” It’s the amount Sarah used in making cakes for Lord’s servants in Gen 18, Gideon in Judge 6:19 and Hannah in 1 Sam 1:24. Dough will not change its self or make itself rise. Change has to come to it. A tiny piece of leaven has the power to change an entire lump of dough. The leaven is hidden in the dough. It is working below the surface. On the outside the progress cannot be seen but the effects are undeniable. Test the dough in a fire and it will rise! What is previously unseen cannot be ignored when the dough is baked for its purpose.
Again Jesus makes an interesting choice in speaking about leaven to describe God’s kingdom. Leaven had a negative connotation in Judaism, holy bread was supposed to be unleavened so the very fact Jesus would talk about leaven is suspect. Even in the NT leaven was a connotation for the infectious nature of sin.
1 Cor 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
The kingdom of Heaven is infections. The very people Jesus used to leaven the dough of the world are those the world would reject and despise. Tax collectors, fishermen, those of ill repute. Kingdom power is on display when what the world has rejected is used to change the world. Leaven does not stay contained. It cannot let that which it comes in contact with remain unchanged. The lump of dough becomes defined the leaven. The Kingdom of God has the ability to permeate the whole world. It will not be limited it will change what it seeks to change.
Why do we struggle with this? Because we rely merely on what we are able to see. We are captivated by what is plainly seen in front of us. So things are going well we are excited, things aren’t clearly going as well as we think they should and we can easily get discouraged or worse even disillusioned.
We live in a part of the country that doesn’t have an abundance of big influential churches so when the biggest and most influential starts bleeding how easy is it to get discouraged or think wait it has all this going for it, was what was happening real? How do we respond? We are called to faith and faith is….
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.
First two parables are about the influence of the kingdom. The kingdom of Heaven will not arrive and leave the world unchanged. While appearing small it has the promise of overshadowing all other kingdoms and acting as a refuge and shelter people from around the world. But what does it matter how powerful something becomes unless what is becoming is of ultimate value?
Verse 44-46 Kingdom Value
The fullness of the Kingdom is hidden. Not uncommon for things of value to be buried to protect them and keep them from being stolen. While common law at the time said if you found treasure you could keep it, there could of course be disputes. Buying the field was the surest way to secure possession of the treasure.
When found and understood the kingdom is seen as so valuable possession, becomes obsession. Nothing else is seen as valuable compared to the kingdom of God. This isn’t a moderate, middle of the road, balanced, picture of Christianity. This is zealous, radical, life changing, life giving, all consuming desire for joy that can only be found in one place. It is a completely natural and unrestrained redirection of all affections. How is this possible? That is the power of the value of the kingdom. It brings joy that leads to action!!! There is a song I hate on the radio that says “It’s more like falling in love, than something to believe in, more like losing my heart, than giving my allegiance.” No, it’s all of those things, love, belief, giving your heart over, AND pledging allegiance. It’s giving over everything, why? Because it’s worth it!!.
Chad and Jamie Dimon, have literally sold all they have, walked away from both of their professions to go and serve the kingdom with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in the DR Congo in West Africa. They have completely reoriented their lives. They aren’t rash people with romantic ideas, they have nearly completed what will be a 2 year process and are making plans for the long haul.
These aren’t out their people, they are right next to us people. I am not saying to live this out you have to go quit your job and sell all your stuff. There is kingdom work right here in Snohomish County, there is kingdom work to be done right where you work and live. How can I say that, because God determines the times and places we live in and he has placed you in specific fields. It doesn’t have to look the same for everyone but it does have to be a wholesale change in your affections, desires, goals, and actions. .
Phil 3:7-8 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
With the field it doesn’t say if the man who found the treasure was seeking it. With the pearl the merchant was searching for something. Bible is clear, on our own no one seeks for God. (Romans 3:11) However, we are not all apart from God. Ecc 3:11 says 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
If you are seeking it is because God put it into your heart. The merchant is seeking for something of value, something real, something specific. Both the man with the treasure and the merchant completely divest themselves of all that they have to acquire something they find to be of greater value. But a difference in the merchant and the man who found the treasure is we could make a mistake with the first parable and say “well he got the treasure and now he can use that treasure to get something he really wants”. With the parable of the pearl the pearl IS what he really wants! The prize is not in profit that could be had but in the possession of the pearl. You get to be with God!! Not, I get to have stuff God can get me.
There is also exclusivity to having one pearl. It doesn’t say he finds a string of pearls or some pearls and some rubies and some gold. There is one, and only one. Jesus is clear he is the way the truth and the life, no one come to the father or enters the kingdom except through Him. One pearl, one God, one kingdom worth trading everything for.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
Pearls have a great value. Something is only as valuable as what someone will actually pay for it. We see the value of the kingdom not by what we are willing to pay for it but what was actually paid for it.
We screw up value all the time. “This painting is worth 6 million and it just sold at auction for $500k, you know what the value is? $500k.” We undervalue the kingdom because we know we’re willing to give up very little. Our words say what are ideals are, our actions show what our values are. We are to readjust our value system to the values of the kingdom.
When the kingdom is found it should be of greater value to you in such a way that everything else pales in comparison. The response to the kingdom is a natural one. In the last two parables neither the man with the field or the merchant with the pearl have to be convinced of it’s value. They don’t have a realtor or salesman trying to show them. That is what gives me as a pastor great freedom and peace, that I am not in sales, my only hope for anyone it they would become supremely captivated by the kingdom of heaven because it has been revealed to them.
You say ok, I am in! I want the field, I want the pearl. I am ready to pay the price!
Here is the problem, we can’t give it all up. We won’t. On our own we will keep one foot in the field and one hand on our stuff. We’ll desire the pearl but we won’t make the necessary sacrifices to obtain it. The truth is we don’t have enough even if we gave all we had. That is the lie of religion that if some how you can give up all the right stuff, make your life right you can purchase the field. The problem with that is you don’t have enough give up to purchase anything. We don’t have assets spiritually, we only have debt. Because of our sin we owe God. All we have to give is sin. And he takes it. And in exchange he gives us his righteousness.
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We can’t “sell all we have” and acquire access to a valuable kingdom. We are spiritual debtors daily making withdrawals from a pay day loan place incurring more debt. We need to see our desperation.
Isaiah 55: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
The reason God can give us that gift freely is because the price was paid by Jesus on the Cross. Jesus Paid the Price for the Kingdom. That price was nothing less that the royal blood of the king’s own Son. Jesus bleed so we could enter the kingdom. Not begrudgingly or reluctantly but with the same joy and zeal of the man who bought the field. Hebrews 12: 2 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
Phil 2:5-8 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
This shows the character of the God we worship and the king we serve. He is God, he didn’t have to give up anything, He could have easily forsaken us, but He is full of mercy; to the point of taking on our punishment as his own, on the cross. He is gracious to the point of giving us the field and the pearl we did nothing to earn. We understand our value to God the more we understand the price that was paid for our souls. 1 Cor 7:23a You were bought with a price; We live in response not to what we would pay for our entrance into the kingdom, but what WAS paid for our entrance into the kingdom.
Verse 51-52 Kingdom Life
How do we live in light of a powerful and valuable Kingdom? We don’t have to guess at the application of these all these parables. If we’ve experienced the power of the kingdom, if we see the value of the kingdom we will naturally respond with sharing it with others. We will study God’s word not to merely be students, but to understand the treasure, the value of the kingdom in such a way as to reveal it to others. To host people unfamiliar to the power and treasure that is the kingdom, and bring out what we value. We are students who become teachers are trained for the kingdom who know how to see the Old Testament and the New Testament pointing to Jesus. That is why this week we’re going to start our small groups with a survey of the Old Testament. Old redemptive history pointes to Jesus “new” reveals the kingdom at hand. Disciples are teachers. You can’t teach what you don’t know. Know Jesus, Trust Jesus!