You are the pearl of great price

 

Two Sundays ago, the sermon was on these parables from Matthew 13:

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.

These are usually interpreted as the Kingdom of Heaven being so valuable that we need to do everything to get it, but Pastor Douthwaite pointed out that the Old Testament reading for the day, Deuteronomy 7:6, says that God’s people are His treasure.  And that   .  The one who spent the most valuable thing He had to buy something He wanted was Christ redeeming us (1 Peter 18:20). The ones who are buried and covered are us (Romans 6:4).  Therefore, you are the treasure in the field.  You are the pearl of great price.  Christ has paid everything for you.

From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 7 Sermon:

Today we heard two of my favorite parables of Jesus. Parables that I do not think we can ever hear enough. Parables that teach how valuable you are, how much you are worth to your Saviour. That you are His treasure, you are His prized pearl, for whom He gave everything.

We can never hear that enough, because if there’s one thing, one truth, satan does not want you to hear, it’s that one. If there’s one thing, one truth, satan does not want you to believe, it’s that’s one.

And so he is fighting. Against you, against the church. To get you to disbelieve or doubt your Father’s love for you. And so, he says: A loving God? A God who treasures you? Really? Take a look around. The world is a mess. The Church is a mess. You are a mess. Look at what happened in the world just this past week. Look at the continuing divisions and scandals in the Church. Look at yourself! You’re no treasure! You’re a dirty, rotten sinner.

And he’s right, you know. There is always a kernal of truth to satan’s lies, which is what makes them so effective. The world, the Church, and yes, you, are a mess. And satan’s working very hard to keep it all that way, sowing his weeds – as we heard last week – not only of hatred and division, but also of pride and glory, to keep us in sin, to keep us selfish, to keep us a mess.

And then in addition, he says, you have to fix this mess you’ve created. He is not content with messing things up, he also wants us to keep chasing our tails to try to fix it. Because we’re not very good at that. The world that preaches tolerance as the way to peace just keeps getting more intolerant and unpeaceful. The Church that preaches compromise as the way to unity is just compromising itself into irrelevance. And ourselves? You know the answer to that. Like New Year’s resolutions, we might do good for a couple of weeks, and then we fall again. Pull one weed and another pops up in its place.

And he even uses Jesus’ own parable against us. This parable, which Jesus meant to comfort us and reassure us, satan turns on its head and says: You are the man in the parable. Or at least you’re supposed to be. God and His kingdom are supposed to be this precious and valuable to you. And you say they are, Christian. But you don’t act like it. You are willing to give up everything, are you? I know better. I know your heart. You’d rather deny, you’d rather compromise, you’d rather keep quiet than lose your job, lose face, or lose your precious things. And I don’t even need to try very hard to get you to fall! You’re so weak and pathetic. A little name calling, a little pressure, and you crumble like a stale old cookie. So treasure? You’re no treasure! You’re an old, obsolete, broken down piece of junk that God is burying not in love, but in a landfill.

But here’s the thing satan: If you want to talk about burying and you want to talk about a landfill, well what about Jesus? You see, He was crucified on a garbage heap, yes, thrown out like the garbage by an ungrateful world, and then buried, dead, in the ground. That’s all true.

But satan: why was he there? Why was the Son of God there at all? Was it not because He loved us? Was it not because He was giving up everything for us?

He came down from heaven and was incarnated as a man. He willing gave up His prerogatives as God, willingly not using His divine power to help Himself or save Himself. He left his throne in heaven and the unending song of the angels to be born in a stable. He became obedient to His parents, lived in this fallen creation, and He who feeds all knew hunger, He who provides rain for all thirsted, and He who is joy sorrowed. You tempted Him satan, but He didn’t fall for it, did He? He knew rejection, even in His hometown, even by His “framily” – His family and friends. And then He allowed Himself to be arrest and beaten and whipped and spit on and punched. His head was crowned with thorns and He experienced the utter rejection of the cross – yes, thrown out and buried like garbage.

And you call Him weak, satan. But isn’t that strength to do all that? And you call Him a failure, satan. For having such indignity done to Him. But why, then, is His grave empty? Why, then, is there still a Church – as imperfect as it may be? And why, satan, are you still fighting so hard if you’ve won? Where is your victory? . . . Unless you haven’t really won at all! Unless all you can do is mess things up and try to make us believe you won.

Yes! It’s true isn’t it, satan? We are God’s treasures. If we look at ourselves, as you want us to, we’ll never see that. But if we look at the cross, and all that Jesus gave for us, then that’s how much I’m worth! Then there’s what cleans up my mess. There’s my forgiveness, my life, my salvation, my food. There’s the answer. We confess it every week in the Creed, those words that mean that Jesus purchased and won us from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death (Small Catechism, explanation of the Second Article). Purchased! I belong to Him. And dear friends, so do you.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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