He Gave Up Everything For Those Who Do Not Give Up Anything

Text:  Matthew 13:44-52

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

How valuable is the kingdom of God to you?  Is the kingdom of God worth more than anything else to you?  What are you willing to give up for the Lord Jesus Christ, His grace, and His rule?  Are you willing to give up your money?  Are you willing to give up your time?  How about your house, your car, or your 401k?  Would you give up your safety, your health, or possibly your life?  My friends the way that we answer this reveals to us our level of commitment and the amount that we are willing to spend on being a disciple of Jesus.  Yes, there is a cost to being a disciple of Jesus Christ; His grace is not cheap for it is of infinite worth.   Is not the kingdom of heaven more valuable than anything else you can have, thus should you not be willing to give up everything to obtain it and keep it?  Is not Christ, the forgiveness of sin, and the kingdom of God so valuable that everything else becomes secondary?

This is what our parable seems to be teaching from today’s Gospel reading. Yes, it is rather obvious in our parable of the treasure and the pearl that a person finds something of such great and tremendous value that he is willing to give up everything he has in order to possess this great treasure, this great pearl.  Indeed, with joy he sells all that he has so that he can buy the field where the treasure is located, for the treasure is surely more valuable than his meager belongings. 

It makes sense to give up things of lessor value to obtain things of greater value, does it not?  Furthermore, the amount that we are willing to sacrifice for something is a visible demonstration of how much we really value that something.  Thus, seriously ask yourself this question today, “Am I willing to lay everything—my material possessions, my time, my money, my savings, my health, my will, my emotions, and my life—on the altar for Christ?”  If you hesitate in answering this question, what is holding you back from fully giving of yourself to Him?  What could possibly have more value than living for Christ and possessing the Kingdom?  Are things like money, time, savings, health, material possessions, and so forth greater in value than Jesus and His kingdom?

If we are honest with ourselves, we will confess that the very good that we want to do, is that which we do not do.  In fact, the very evil that we do not wish to do, is that what we do.  In other words, it seems as if the cost of discipleship is just too great and it is just too expensive for us.  It appears as if our hands, no matter how much we try to release their grip, hold too tightly to our idols.  No, matter how hard we strain, no matter how much we attempt to enact a radical obedience to Christ, and no matter how much we attempt to put God at the center of our lives, it seems as if these attempts only last for a moment.  Yet, over and over in response to our failed attempts, we slap ourselves in the face and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps in order to sober ourselves from our stupor.  Once serious and sober again we fix our eyes on the treasure saying to ourselves, “Self, look at the glorious treasure!  It is glorious; nothing can compare to it!  Now is the time to commit and to give everything up like you mean it!”  Like so many times before, we then attempt to put the treasure into the midst of our hearts and minds hoping that our actions will follow suit.  Everything is fine and well for a time.  The will, the mind, the emotions, and one’s actions have been ‘sold out’ for Jesus that is until they begin to waver yet again.  Slowly but surely, that which was sold out for Jesus is refunded back to ourselves and our own agendas, thus making it impossible to have enough money to buy and maintain the field where the treasure is located.

My friends, if Jesus and His kingdom are the treasure in the parable, we are then truly commanded to find the treasure and love it.  If this is the way it is, how do we find the treasure and just how much do we have to sell or forsake to get the treasure? How do we know if we have given up enough so as to embrace and have the gospel? Once we have the treasure, why do we have such a difficult time keeping it front and center in our lives?  To answer these questions let me spare you the time and the agony by being rather blunt with you.  There is a reason why we fail in our attempts to completely sell out for Jesus.  There is a reason why we are never able to garner enough equity to purchase and keep the field in order to acquire the treasure.  The reason is that our nature is tainted by sin through and through.  From birth we are born with this inclination that turns each and every one of us inward on ourselves and away from the Lord.  We cannot truly love, cherish, and completely sell everything in order to acquire the great treasure.  The cost of the treasure is too great; our addiction to sin is too strong; our spiritual pockets are not deep enough—we are spiritually bankrupt.   

Taking a step back and examining this parable, we have concluded several things: the 'treasure' could represent the Lord and the 'man' could represent us. If this is true, then Jesus is teaching us that when people (i.e., you and me) see the Lord and His kingdom (i.e., the treasure), they must do all that they can to obtain Him and seek Him. The Lord and His kingdom are so much more valuable than a treasure. The Lord and His kingdom are certainly worth all our time and energy. Because of its worth, we need to sell all our earthly desires and forsake all other agendas so that we can obtain it. However, we have also concluded that we can’t purchase the treasure, we don’t have enough spiritual capital and we don’t have the ability ‘sell out’ for Jesus.  Thus, we find ourselves at an impasse.  The treasure is good; it is expensive.  We should want the treasure, but our abilities and vision are clouded by idols and we simply don’t have enough religious endurance to obtain it.  This leaves us with two options.  Option #1 is to simply despair, quit the faith, and go home.  Option #2 is to try and convince ourselves that we ‘can’ obtain the treasure through rising to a supernatural dimension of radical obedience, where we are on “fire for Jesus.”  However, as you and I know this is nothing more than foolish self-deceiving pride.  Therefore, if despair and hopelessness are the only options, what do we do with the impasse?  How do we cope?

Thankfully there is another option for there is a different lesson in the parable that can be assessed.  Take a second and look at these short parables. What if the 'man' represents Jesus, the 'field' represents the world, and the 'treasure' represents us? What if we have to change roles with Jesus in our understanding of these parables?  In other words, instead of us being the one having to give up everything we have so that we can possess the great treasure, it is actually the other way around?  If this is the case, then Jesus is teaching us that He is seeking us out; we are His treasure!

Baptized Saints, unfortunately much of Christianity in America accepts a faulty understanding of this 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.”[1]  Alas, understanding the parable from the interpretation of us having to purchase and acquire the treasure, puts all the work on us; it leads us to spiritual bondage; it leads to either hopelessness or deceptive apathetic pride because it doesn’t work. As it has already been stated, we will never have confidence that we’ve done enough to get and keep the treasure for we do not have deep pockets spiritually speaking, but rather are spiritually bankrupt.

On the other hand, seeing the parable from the perspective of Jesus seeking you and me out doesn’t change the fact that the Lord gives commands, but rather it shows that the one who gives these commands is also the one who keeps these commands for those who cannot.  Yes, Jesus is the one who sought out lost and condemned sinners and gave up everything, the glory of heaven, to purchase and forgive sinners.  Think about that! Jesus gave up everything so that he could purchase us—that is you. At the cross, you were purchased. At the cross you were dug out of the ground. At the cross Jesus grabbed a hold of his dirty and muddy treasure—you—and, getting dirt and mud all over himself, proclaimed, “This is my treasure!”  You, who have ears, hear: the tremendous sacrifice to acquire you was Christ’s crucifixion and damnation on the cross on your behalf.  At the cross Christ purchased you as His own.

“But, how can I be a treasure,” you may ask, “for I am sinful through and through?”  That is the radical nature of the Gospel and the blessed hope of Christ.  Christ, who is rich in mercy and abounding love, did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.  He did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many—for you.[2] While we were still sinners, Christ died for us—for you.[3]  In a word, Christ gave up everything for those who do not give up anything.  Yes, God the Father did not spare anything to ransom you and me from the condemnation of our sin.  Christ was liquidated; His blood was spent to purchase you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. 

This is no cheap gospel; it is not cheap grace.  It is an expensive gospel, priced at the value of Christ’s shed blood; spent on you and for you.  Yes, “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited form your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”[4] 

“Though we are sinners before a holy and righteous [Lord], unwilling [many times] even to give up the simplest things for the sublime privilege of knowing and following Christ,”[5] Christ, nonetheless, has given up everything and in doing so, He has identified us as His treasure, a pearl of great price. 

This is the good news of our parable for us today, the good news of Christ who search out for us, redeems us, and knows us by name.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

[1] Andrew Taylor, “Something of Great Value” http://lcmssermons.com/index.php?sn=2335 (22 July 2014).

[2] See Mark 10:45.

[3] See Romans 5:8.

[4] 1 Peter 1:18-19 (ESV).

[5] Taylor, “Something of Great Value.”

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So very true. So often we have good intentions to sacrifice, to witness, to leave our comfort zones, but fail. I think it is important to ask God to show us opportunities and needs, and ways in which the gifts and talents He has given us may be used in service to Him