The Kingdom Treasure

Matt 13_44

Matthew 13:44-46

“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, 46who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

In this section of the Gospel (13:44-49), Jesus presents three parables that deal with the kingdom. All of them begin with “the kingdom of heaven is like….” But the first two deal with the value of the kingdom (vv. 44-46), while the last one deals with the judgment that will happen at the end of the age (vv. 47-49). Let’s focus on the first two that describe the value of the kingdom.

First, the kingdom of heaven is like “treasure hidden in a field” (v. 44). In the biblical times, there were no such things as safety deposit boxes. People would hide their wealth in the ground by digging a hole and burying it. In the parable of the talents, this is what the individual who received one talent did (cf. 25:25).

Jesus describes the kingdom as “treasure” that has been buried in a field, but which was discovered by someone and then “covered [back] up.” The person who discovered the treasure, reburied the treasure. That seems odd. Why didn’t he or she just keep the treasure they discovered? To make a long explanation shorter, the owner of a property owned everything both on top of and within the ground of the property. So in order to legally claim the treasure, the person had to buy the land. But Jesus’ point is not this technicality. His emphasis is upon the value the person estimated the “treasure” to be worth. The person sold “all that he has” in order to buy the field (v. 44). The man was filled with “joy” and because of the recognition of the treasure’s value, the person deemed it worth more than all their other wealth combined.

In the next parable, Jesus uses the imagery of commerce with a merchant who found a “fine pearl” (v. 45). In the biblical culture, “pearls” were among the most prized jewelry since they were very rare (no scuba equipment yet to dive deep enough to easily capture oysters…lol). And like the person in the previous parable who found buried treasure, the merchant also esteemed the pearl to be more valuable than all his or her other possessions. Therefore, the merchant sold everything he owned in order to buy the one pearl (v. 46).

Ok. So we get that Jesus is driving home the point about how valuable the kingdom is. But I think what is most important about these parables is the attitude depicted by the two individuals who were willing to get rid of everything else they had in order to obtain this one precious item. I sometimes wonder if I have that attitude. Intellectually, I can rationalize why it is completely true. But practically speaking, I think about whether my life truly reflects that disposition in my heart. Do I see the kingdom as the “hidden treasure” or the “fine pearl”? Am I willing to forsake all else in order to seek the kingdom?

Obviously, the parables are a hyperbole for emphasis as Jesus is not literally instructing his disciples to dispose of all their physical wealth and belongings. Rather, Jesus is touching on the attitude of one’s heart. Where do we prize the value of the kingdom in our life? Have we put anything else in front of it and added the kingdom on to the side of our pursuits in life.

Let’s not forget Jesus words: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (6:33).

-Jerry Wierwille

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Why Mercy?

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Matthew 12:1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

This passage deals with an incident that happened on this most holy day of the week. The Sabbath was everything to God’s people under the Old Covenant. The Jews had extensive regulations for how to properly keep the Sabbath in order to abide by God’s commandment to keep the Sabbath holy and dedicated to him. The encounter is between Jesus (and his disciples) and the Pharisees over the meaning and significance of the Sabbath. Jesus and the Pharisees saw the purpose and observance of the Sabbath in completely different ways.

After being critically questioned by the Pharisees when Jesus’ disciples picked grain and ate it on the Sabbath as they were walking through a field, Jesus responds by explaining their misperception in what the Sabbath truly was. Jesus did not dismiss the appropriateness for Sabbath observance; that was good and necessary according to the law given by God (cf. Exod 20:10).  However, the Jews had the wrong idea altogether about the significance and meaning of the Sabbath. For them, the Sabbath was about never doing anything that would violate the commandment to not work on the seventh day of the week—no exceptions!

But Jesus offers them two exceptions straight from the writing of the law that they were trying to follow so strictly: David (1 Sam 21:1-6) and the priests (Num 28:9-10). But Jesus then affirms that “something greater” is now here, something even beyond the hunger of David and his men, or the necessity of the priests to offer sacrifices. These reasons to set aside strict observance of the Sabbath pales in comparison to the coming of Christ to bring salvation to all people.

Therefore, Jesus says, “if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’” (v. 7; cf. Hos 6:6) to point out that the Pharisees, while intently reading the law and desiring to follow its every command, had failed to realize the heart of the law. It is not that sacrifice was not important, for it had also been commanded by God, but that “mercy” (or compassion) was MORE important. Mercy and compassion are what truly characterize a servant of God, not external and outward actions only. Strict mechanical obedience to the law is not what God desires; God desires to care for people and to see to their needs.

Are there times when you are challenged to not act as a Pharisee, to not be quick to judge or claim being right? Is our heart the same as God’s heart? Is “mercy” more important than “sacrifice”? Our fallen humanness will tell us to make sure we are doing what is “right” and are not at “fault” or culpable of any criticism. We don’t want to be viewed as an accomplice or advocate for unrighteousness. But compassion isn’t about tolerating sin; it is about reaching out and helping someone where they are at, so they know that someone else cares about them. That is God’s heart. Let’s not miss it like the Pharisees did.

-Jerry Weirwille

When God Responds

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Matthew 8:5-10

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6“Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.

In Matthew 8, Jesus is recorded as miraculously healing several distinct individuals that represent three classification of people who were viewed with lesser status in Jewish eyes. The first is a leper, who is considered unclean for a Jewish man to touch (vv. 1-4). Next is a servant of a Roman centurion, who was a Gentile foreigner and likely part of the oppressive Roman Empire, which Jews considered to be their enemy (vv. 5-13). Lastly, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law (vv. 14-15), which is unique as women were not looked upon with much recognition or significance in Jewish society. In addition, the passage also reveals that Jesus healed numerous other people who were demon-possessed around Capernaum as well (vv. 16-17).

In verses 5-10 when Jesus is approached by the centurion, he concedes to the centurion’s request to come and heal his servant. Jesus’ agreement to come to the centurion’s home is quite a startlingly turn of events in this passage as a Jewish person would be deemed ceremonially unclean if they entered the house of a Gentile (cf. Jn 18:28; Acts 10:28). But nevertheless, Jesus humbly agrees to go and heal the man (vv. 5-7).

But the centurion replies quickly to Jesus expressing his “unworthiness” for Jesus to make the effort to come to his house. Rather, the centurion reveals a keen understanding of Jesus’ authority to speak with the power of God. The centurion explains that he knows what authority means because he speaks, and someone obeys, and the task is accomplished. In the same way, he claims that Jesus only needs to speak the “word,” and according to the authority of his “word,” the centurion’s servant will be healed (v. 8).

This proclamation amazes Jesus because the centurion understood the power and authority of God that Jesus represented. And in response to the centurion’s understanding of this reality, Jesus declares, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith” (v. 10). What an unsuspecting pronouncement—that Jesus would confess such a great faith from this Gentile that superseded any he had seen in all of Israel. The emphasis here is that even a Gentile, who was not considered a member of God’s people, will see the power of God at work when they trust in Jesus, God’s Anointed.

What the passage can teach us is that God’s power flows in response to the exercising of faith (trust) in God as the source of all power and in Jesus as God’s Messiah. If we want to see God’s power at work in our lives, it begins by recognizing that God moves when we believe and trust in him, knowing that he is able to do even what may seem impossible in our eyes. Our trust in God doesn’t make God move; rather, God responds when we trust in him. And we must also trust in his character—that he responds as the good and loving God that we know he is.

-Jerry Wierwille

Call to Action

Matthew 7

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I have been taught that a good speech should always end with a call to action.  What this is depends on the type of speech.  A speech given by an election candidate will usually end by telling people they need to vote.  A product placement speech or demonstration will end with a way to buy the product.  Often a sermon will end with a life application.

As we look at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, we see that Jesus ends with a call to action.  He has given us some other actions to take throughout this passage, but let’s look at this final section and see how we should respond to this sermon.

Let’s start by looking at Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, an in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

So, making the assumption that the goal is to be in the kingdom, Jesus says our action is to do the will of God.  This is obviously more than actions that we do.  Many times in chapters 5-7, Jesus talks about our thoughts, attitudes, and reasons for doing things being as important as the actions we take.

Jesus continues in verse 24 by saying, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  Again, the key here is to act on the words that Jesus has spoken.

The call to action is to put all the things that Jesus taught into action, which includes our thoughts and attitudes.  I encourage you to spend some more time reading through Matthew 5-7, and reflect upon seeking God, his righteousness, and his kingdom.  As we seek these more, the actions will follow.

-Andrew Hamilton

Know Your Audience

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Matthew Chapter 1

I remember in high school English classes the teachers talking about knowing your audience.  I really enjoyed math and science classes, but English and literature classes were a different story.  I really didn’t like figuring out the audience, the theme, symbolism, etc.  However, I now know that in at least some cases, the teachers were correct.  You gain a lot of extra understanding when you know the primary audience for a book.  I say primary audience in this case because I firmly believe that all of the Bible was written to everyone who will take the time to read it or listen to it.  However, the author had a primary audience they were writing to at the time.

Each gospel was written for a different primary audience.  Matthew was writing to the Jews who had a good knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.  They would have learned the prophecies regarding the Messiah and were looking towards the fulfillment of those prophecies.

The first chapter of Matthew starts with the genealogy of Jesus.  This is the first step to showing that Jesus is the Messiah they are looking for.  Several prophecies are fulfilled in this.  The first is that the Messiah is a seed of Abraham (Gen 22:18).  The Messiah is a descendent of Isaac (Gen 21:12) and a descendent of Jacob (Num 24:17), and a descendent of Judah (Gen 49:10).  Then, skipping a few generations, the Messiah is from the line of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10) and David (Jeremiah 23:5).  All of these names are listed in the genealogy of Jesus recorded in the first seventeen verses of Matthew.

They may not have each known every one of these prophecies, but the people who first read or heard the gospel of Matthew probably knew at least some of them.

After we finish looking at the genealogy, Matthew moves on to the birth of Jesus.  Compared to the gospel of Luke (which was written primarily to the Greeks), the account of the birth of Jesus is very brief.  Why would this be?  It goes back to the primary audience, and what was necessary to show Jesus is their Messiah.

Matthew basically tells that Mary was going to have a baby, Joseph was told about it and listened to what an angel said to him, and Mary remained a virgin until Jesus was born.  Matthew then quotes an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

We can read scripture and learn tons without understanding who the primary audience was at the time each book was written.  However, understanding the audience, culture, etc., can add a whole new dimension to our understanding.

-Andrew Hamilton

Facts of Life

Matthew 10

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Ok, so I am going to age myself this week.  An old sitcom that was popular when I was young had a “catchy”/ jingle that would get stuck in my head every week when it was on.  The Facts of Life.  The chorus was:

You take the good, you take the bad,

You take them both and there you have

The facts of life, the facts of life.

 

There’s a time you got to go and show

You’re growin’ now you know about the facts of life,

The facts of life.

 

When the world never seems to be livin’ up to your dreams

And suddenly you’re finding out

The facts of life are all about you, you.

 

It takes a lot to get ’em right

When you’re learning the facts of life. (learning the facts of life)

Learning the facts of life (learning the facts of life)

Learning the facts of life.

 

If we we all think back and think about how we thought our lives would be, we would probably admit that things are nowhere near what we had dreamed if we are honest with ourselves.  In our reading today (Matthew 10) Jesus was speaking to his disciples and charging them to go out and share the gospel to the world.  He knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  The disciples had a long and challenging road ahead of them.  In fact, sharing the message and living for him would be one of the hardest things the disciples would ever do.  It was the disciples “Facts of Life” message from Jesus.  As we consider our relationship with Jesus, we might find times that make us angry, confused and end up with doubts and hurt.  What I take from these verses is the challenges may be great- and they are.  We may have teachers, family members, coworkers and friends that challenge, mock us or walk away from our lives. But the reward is greater.  

Let’s focus on what Jesus says in verses 21-23.  The Message Version says: “When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family.  There is a great irony here:  proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate!  But don’t quit.  Don’t cave in.  It is all well worth it in the end.  It is not success you are after in such times but survival.  Be survivors!  Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.”   

So don’t cave in! Don’t be discouraged.  As the song lyrics state:It takes a lot to get it right when you are learning the facts of life. The fact is Jesus loves you and desires your commitment, love, praise and life.  He wants you to face these challenges in life and the end result is the ultimate prize. It does take work and the road may not always be easy but he is there and his love and promise is worth it.

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-Emily Moyer

Empty

Matthew 27-28

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Sunday, May 7

 

Empty … What does that word mean to you? Is your wallet empty? Is your plate empty? Is your gas tank empty? Do you feel empty? Empty is usually a word that gives us a feeling of loneliness, a feeling of defeat. It is a word that can be almost painful to say. Emptiness can paralyze our thoughts, it can stop us in our tracks.

 

Matthew 27 tells us about Jesus being beaten, mocked, crucified, and buried. This seems like a good reason to lose hope and that is exactly what some did. We all know how painful it can be when someone close to us dies. The disciples watched the man they had been following for years die on a cross. They watched as the Messiah they had spent their lifetime waiting for hung on a tree and they saw him breathe his last mortal breath. I can only imagine the emptiness they felt that Friday and Saturday.

 

The good news is that in chapter 28 empty takes on a new meaning for all who follow Jesus. Our hearts are full of hope because the tomb is EMPTY!!! Matthew 28:6, 7 says, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen…!” (NASB) The disciples found hope in the emptiness of the grave. We find hope in the emptiness of the grave. For the believer, the empty tomb provides the fullness of our hope!

 

-Bill Dunn

Bio – I am a husband, dad, and a pastor. I am also a longtime St. Louis Cardinals fan. Our family has a dog and some fish. We spend our spare time (which there isn’t usually much of) as a family and try to show the world the love God has shown us. If I have the chance to be outside, that is probably where you will find me.

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/matthew-27-2016/)