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Something of Great Value

Matthew 13:44-52

Rev. Alan Taylor

Pentecost 6, Proper 12, series A
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, Jul 24, 2011 

"Something of Great Value"

Matthew 13:44-52

+ In Nomine Jesu +

The message this morning is based on the Gospel reading from Matthew 13, the parable of the Pearl of Great Price.  Jesus said, "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."

Please pray with me…

"Lord of glory, You have bought us

With Your lifeblood as the price,

Never grudging for the lost ones

That tremendous sacrifice.

Give us faith to trust You boldly,

Hope, to stay our souls on You;

But, oh, best of all Your graces,

With Your love our love renew."

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

It's obvious that both the parable of the pearl of great price and the parable of the hidden treasure have to do with a person finding something of such tremendous value that he's willing to give up everything he has in order to possess it.  This morning we'll be concentrating on the parable of the pearl of great price but the application is the same for the parable of the hidden treasure.

The pearl of great price is an interesting parable on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that it reveals as much about us as it does about God and His kingdom.  Some read the parable and they see Christ as the pearl and humanity as the merchant.  In this understanding of the parable it is the sinner who finds Christ, much as a merchant might find a treasure of unsurpassed value in the marketplace.  Further, when the sinner finds the treasure, in this case a pearl, he recognizes its intrinsic value and, therefore, he is willing to give up all that he has in order to possess it.

Much of Christendom accepts this interpretation of the parable, in part, because it fits their understanding of the Gospel and faith and where faith comes from.  For some, you see, the Gospel of God's forgiving grace in Christ, is a treasure that can be found, if a person only searches diligently enough.  Further, when the person finds the Gospel, there is an assumption that he'll have within him an innate sense that compels him to embrace the treasure wholeheartedly.  Finally, he'll be moved by the shear value of the treasure to give up everything he has in order to possess it.  I'll indulge that mistaken interpretation of the parable for a few moments, if for no other reason than to set up the proper understanding of it. 

Let's consider first the sinners search for Christ, who, in the parable, is supposed to be, according to some, the pearl of great price.  It is nothing more than a dream to think that we, apart from the Holy Spirit prompting us, have any interest in God's wondrous gift of a Savior whatsoever.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Without God's Spirit might long for a god of our making, one who will bend to our will, who will meet our needs and give us some semblance of an inner peace that is otherwise lacking.  But, the treasure we seek, apart from God giving us a renewed heart, is a self-serving treasure, a treasure that affirms what we already thought of ourselves and of God. 

The Apostle Paul wrote, "the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."  Paul's statement not only affirms the first point, namely, that we aren't interested in the true god, without the Spirit working within us, but, it also affirms the second point.  Should we stumble across the Gospel of God's forgiveness and grace in Christ, again, without the power of the Holy Spirit working within us, we would consider the message not a treasure of unsurpassed value, but, "foolishness."  Or, to put it another way, we wouldn't recognize the Gospel as a treasure at all.  Indeed, though Christ's death and resurrection is the power of God unto salvation, it is, nonetheless, "to those who are perishing foolishness."  And yet, it remains God's power to save, for, "since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." 

Is Christ, then, really the treasure in this parable, the treasure we are supposed to have found and loved?  If so, why haven't we been willing to give up everything for the sake of knowing and loving Him?  Well, in fairness, maybe I've been a bit presumptuous.  So, let me ask you, what have you given up for Christ?  Luther wrote, "take they are our life, goods, fame, child and wife.  Let these all be gone.  The victory has yet been won, the kingdom ours remainth."  It's a bold statement.  And it may be that we simply think in smaller categories.  So, let's do that, "what small things have you given up for Christ?"

Our unwillingness to sacrifice everything for Christ, as well as our inability to seek out the Gospel and to recognize it when we find it, are the very reasons that this parable of the pearl of great price has to finally be understood in a Christological sense.  In other words, if Christ and His kingdom are to be at the center of the parable, as they are in all of Scripture, we have to change roles with Him in our understanding of the merchant and the pearl.  Instead of us being the merchant, willing to give up everything we have in order to possess this great treasure, in this case, Christ, it is actually the other way around.  Christ is the merchant who gives up all that He has to buy and possess a treasure, in this case, a lost and dying world.

Now, Christ is not peddling a cheap Gospel here, nor am I.  I don't mean to suggest that we shouldn't be willing to give up everything we have for the privilege of knowing and following Christ.  In fact, the very 1st of God's commandments says otherwise.  "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," to which Luther reminds us "we should fear, love and trust in God above things."  God hasn't called us to a Christianity that knows nothing of sacrifice.  And that sacrifice includes priorities, relationships, likes and dislikes, and yes, dare I say it, even finances.

But, it is not finally the command that will move us to give up our false gods for the true God.  Rather, it is Christ and His love for us.  It is the fact that He looks at us, broken and condemned sinners and He says "I have found my treasure, my pearl," and it is YOU.

It's amazing, isn't it?!!  Though we are sinners before a holy and righteousness God, unwilling even to give up the simplest things for the sublime privilege of knowing and following Christ, God, nonetheless, has given up His own dear Son for us, and in doing so, He has identified us as His pearl of great price.

"It was grace in Christ that called me,

Taught my darkened heart and mind;

Else the world had yet enthralled me,

To Thy heav'nly glories blind.

Now I worship none above Thee;

For Thy grace alone I thirst,

Knowing well that, if I love Thee,

Thou, O Lord, didst love me first." 

In Jesus' name.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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