Worth it All

Posted: June 18, 2012 in Matthew

Matthew 13:44-52, “Worth it All”

It’s amazing how much people will pay for things.  Whether it’s forking over $7 for a 3-minute ride in the mall, or paying $104.1 million for an original painting from Picasso (“Boy with a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)”, sold by Southeby’s in 2004) – when people think something is worth the price, they are willing to spend it.  The obvious question is simply: is it worth it?  Is the experience, the item, the entertainment, etc., really worth all of the money people are willing to spend?  In most cases, probably not…but occasionally, the answer is a clear “yes.”  Family members spend thousands of dollars on their loved ones if they are in the hospital – and there’s no question that they would do it all over again if the opportunity arose.  After all, what’s the value of a life?  It’s priceless.  And that leads us to Jesus’ parables: if physical life is so precious, what’s the value of eternal life?  What is the value of the kingdom of God?  It’s truly worth it all.

Jesus is continuing to teach with the parables.  (Remember a parable is a simple symbolic illustration to make a point – an earthy story with a heavenly purpose…NOT an allegory!).  All of these deal with the “kingdom of heaven.”  As the King of kings, Jesus is uniquely equipped to teach about the kingdom.  He’s done much already in the book of Matthew (specifically in the Sermon on the Mount), but now He has been teaching of the kingdom through many parables. Quick review:

  • Parable of the sower/soils: This wasn’t specifically mentioned as being a lesson of the kingdom of heaven, but it certainly was a picture of how the kingdom begins in each heart & life.  The same seed of the word of God goes out into all the world, but not everyone responds in the same way.  For some, the word is stolen by the devil – for some, people stumble over the word during times of trouble – for some, the distractions of the world choke out the word of God – but for a few, the word takes hold in a person’s heart & much fruit comes as a result.
  • Parable of the wheat & tares: This showed a distinction between who was included in the kingdom & who was not.  It showed the work of an enemy against God, and how people look the same until they begin to bear fruit.  Eventually, the people will be separated.  God knows who are His, and there won’t be any doubt.
  • Parable of the mustard seed / parable of the leaven:  These were very similar, showing how God can bring incredible growth from small things.  We ought not underestimate the kingdom of God.  It may start small, but it will have massive ramifications.  It has immense growth both externally & internally.
  • Why did Jesus teach in this way?  To impart knowledge to His disciples – to conceal knowledge from the hardhearted – to fulfill prophecy.

Where we pick up in Matthew 13 is after Jesus has explained the parable of the wheat & the tares.  Presumably, the multitude has still been sent away & Jesus is speaking only to His disciples at this point.  As the importance sinks in of being found as wheat in the kingdom of God (and not a weed), Jesus teaches the scope of this importance.  It’s not just beneficial as simple insurance against hell (to deal with once and never worry about again); belonging to Christ in the kingdom of heaven is worth truly everything we have to give.  It’s worth us surrendering our lives – and it was certainly worth Jesus giving His life to make it possible.

Matthew 13:44–58 (NKJV)
44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

  • The basics of this particular parable are simple – Jesus’ imagery doesn’t need much explanation.  A man finds a treasure.  What exactly the treasure is, we’re not told.  Some people imagine a treasure chest (like a pirate’s treasure under the “X”); Clarke suggests that the man found evidence of a mine of some sort.  (After all, he didn’t simply take the treasure in a theft; he felt compelled to purchase the entire field.)  Whatever the treasure, the man covers up the evidence of it, is overjoyed & does whatever he has to do in order to buy the field.
  • Can you imagine running into the same experience as the man in this parable?  You would have it made!  No matter how much you had to sell, the price of the land would be worth it, if only you could ensure that you were able to purchase the treasure along with it.  The equivalent would be finding the winning lottery ticket, but in order to get it, you must first buy the house & land that goes with it.  If the ticket is worth $50 million, it’d be well worth the $120,000 you had to get it – even if you had to sell everything you owned.
  • Some have asked the question if this was ethical. Would it be morally right to keep the existence of the treasure a secret while negotiating the price of the land?  After all, wouldn’t that break the principle of disclosure?  According to Jewish customs, it wouldn’t really be a problem. Scholars note that possession is what counted in Jewish law; if a person didn’t know what he possessed, then it’s his problem; not the buyer’s.  That said, the intricate legalities are not really the point.  Remember that a parable isn’t given to provide meaning and explanation for every little element of the parable.  There’s a main point to be taught, and the point here is plain: the treasure was worth everything else the man owned.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

  • Here again, the basics are simple.  A pearl merchant is looking for the best he can find, and he finds one that surpasses everything else.  Like the man with the field, the merchant sells every other possession he had (presumably along with other pearls), in order to purchase the one great pearl, on which his livelihood could rest.
  • Obviously fields were common, but pearls were exceedingly rare in the ancient culture. Today, pearls can be farmed (cultured), but prior to the 20th century the only way of gathering a pearl was to hunt for them by fishing for oysters.  Divers would go to the river bottom or ocean floor and pull them up by hand.  Thousands of oysters could be harvested before a single pearl might be found.  They were so rare, that they were considered by the Romans to be one of the (if not THE) most precious gem in the world.  The story is told that Cleopatra demonstrated to Marc Antony the most expensive dinner in the world when she had a single cup of wine and ground up a pearl within it to drink.
  • If any natural pearl was rare, how beautiful would this pearl have to be in order for the merchant to sell all that he owned?  No price was too great, compared to the value of this single pearl.  It was worth it all!

Of course there are many similarities with the two parables – but there are some differences as well.  Comparisons & contrasts:

  • In the first, the kingdom was like treasure; in the 2nd, the kingdom was like a merchant.  To be sure, the illustration encompasses all of the events, but this is how each begins.
  • In the first, the treasure was found in the field, but we’re not told anything of the motivation of the man who found it; in the 2nd, the man was actively searching for pearls…he was a pearl merchant expressly looking for the best he could find.
  • In the first, the treasure was hidden again prior to purchasing; in the 2nd, nothing is mentioned of hiding the pearl – but rather simply doing whatever was necessary to purchase.
  • In both cases, the worth of the item was beyond compare.  The men sold every single thing they had in order to purchase the treasures that they desired.
  • Obviously we don’t want to make more of the differences than what they are (again, we’re not looking to interpret allegories), but it is worth noticing that there are indeed some differences between them.

The larger question is this: do both parables teach the same thing?  Yes – but with some possible distinctions.  There are two main schools of interpretations regarding these parables: (1) The treasure & pearl are the promises of the kingdom, and the man are those who leave everything behind to surrender all for the gospel of Christ. (2) The man in both parables is actually the Lord Jesus, who gave everything He had for Israel and the Church in order to purchase our salvation.  Before we get to the actual parables themselves, we need to understand that (in themselves) these two ideas are absolutely true.

(1) The kingdom is worth everything men & women can possibly give.  Simply put, there can be no value placed upon the promises of God in Christ Jesus.  Thus there’s no price that is too great or too expensive in order to partake of those promises.  Take a look at Economics 101…an item is typically priced according to two things: supply & demand.  If the demand for the item is low & the availability of it is abundant, then the price is low (i.e. dirt).  Yet if the item is highly sought after & extremely rare, then the price skyrockets (i.e. pearls, diamonds).  When it comes to citizenship in the kingdom of God, we’re talking about eternal life and salvation with God in heaven in the future, and abundance of life and relationship with God here in the present.  Every religion in the world promises salvation, yet obviously not every religion can grant it.  Only one truth can ever really be true, so this path to salvation is exceedingly rare.  Not only that, virtually every single person in the world searches for it.  For those who believe in an afterlife, not a single person desires to suffer for eternity.  Whatever their concept of heaven, that’s what they desire.  Supply + demand = very expensive. … Of course there’s one other factor in setting something’s price-point, and that’s the price that is willing to be paid.  Auctions thrive on this concept, knowing that the more someone is willing to pay, the higher & higher a price something can be sold.  Housing prices often reflect the same thing as what someone’s house sold for on your block is going to go a long ways to determining what your own house can be sold for.  When it comes to the price of salvation, how much is someone willing to spend?  The blood of Jesus Christ.  God gave His only begotten Son in order that we could be saved.  THAT’s the price of our salvation…it is most rare & valuable.  Truly that is worth it all.

  • Think for a moment what it is we’re talking about: eternity & relationship with God…we’re talking about the very state of your soul.  If we’re left to our own devices, then one day we are going to come before our Maker and have to give an account for every sin we ever committed against Him.  For every breath He gave us, we’re going to answer for our lies, gossip, blasphemies, and other hateful speech that came from our lips, breathed out by God’s air.  For every day He gave us, we’re going to have to answer for why we didn’t use God’s time appropriately, or to worship Him, or to use it in ways that displeased Him.  For every thought He allowed us to think freely using the minds He gave us, we’re going to have to answer for every lust and rebellion we put up against His rightful rule in our lives.  Left to ourselves, that’s exactly what we’ll have to answer for.  On that day, what will possibly be more valuable to us than our soul?  No amount of money – no amount of hedonistic pleasures – no experiences of past power are going to hold any worth to us at all.  The only thing that will matter is how God will receive us.  And the only Person who can make a difference for us in that day is Christ Jesus.  Mark 8:35–37, "(35) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. (36) For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (37) Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" []  Nothing compares to this.  It’s often been illustrated this way: for how much would you sell one eye?  Yet what would be the price for both eyes?  It would be incalculable!  And that’s only your eyes; not your soul.
  • Note: this does NOT mean that salvation is for sale!  Nothing in the parables nor anything that Jesus has taught would tell us that we could somehow purchase our salvation.  To be sure, that’s what a lot of people do (and even what whole wings of Christianity teach!).  People think that they can buy off God with enough financial giving, or with enough good deeds, or with the right kind of prayers, or rituals, etc.  Whatever their form of payment, they think that if they just give God “enough” of it, that will secure their place in heaven.  (This was the whole point behind the heretical practice of indulgences, against which Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses.)  Our salvation cannot be purchased, because our salvation has already been purchased…by the Lord Jesus Christ.  The only way we can be saved is by freely receiving the gift that God offers us through His grace – and that’s when we lose our life for the sake of Jesus Christ, believing upon Him as our God & King.
  • Question: does that mean we actually have to sell everything we have?  After all that is exactly what Jesus told the rich young ruler. (Mt 19, Mk 10, Lk 18)  No – we want to be careful not to miss the point Jesus was making to the man.  The rich young ruler was self-righteous, not understanding that his idol was his wealth.  The fact that he wasn’t willing to give it all for Jesus made it clear that he didn’t truly understand who Jesus was in the first place.  He didn’t truly understand the worth of the kingdom of heaven.  If God specifically tells you to sell it all, then sell it – nothing can compare to the call of God, and His offer of salvation.
  • Ask yourself today: have you understood the kingdom to be worth it all?  Or have you been holding back?  Too many people treat their walk with Christ like they can sit on the fence, putting one foot in the things of God & the other foot in the world.  Never fully committing to Christ, but just playing around with His presence & promises.  It doesn’t work that way.  The promises of the kingdom are worth far too much for that.  Here’s the thing about fence sitting: it’s not very comfortable, and you can’t really go anywhere.  The person who sits on the fence of their Christianity is really looking in on Christ; not really experiencing life with Him.  Don’t hold back!  He’s worth everything you have to give!
  • (2) Jesus saw the redemption of His people worth the giving of everything. Scholars who hold to this line of interpretation suggest of couple of things: (1) that both parables showing Jesus giving everything to redeem His own, and (2) perhaps the treasure represents Israel & the pearl represents the Church.  Certainly there are some parallels with the idea of Jesus redeeming Israel at great cost, only to hide the nation of the Jews away until after the Church age has past.  (The parallels with the pearl as being the Church are a bit stretched, IMO, having to do with something new being formed unexpectedly.)  Yet even if we look beyond a possible distinction between Israel & the Church, it’s absolutely clear that Jesus gave everything He could possibly give.  When Jesus went to the cross for our sin, He demonstrated how much He loved us by showing how much He was willing to pay.  John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." []  When He died for us upon the cross, He truly gave everything.  He who previously knew no sin, became sin for us – in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21)  He became the propitiation for our sin (1 Jn 2:2), bearing the wrath and anger of God on our behalf, though Jesus had done nothing wrong.  He washed us & cleansed us & made us reconciled with God…all because of what He did at the cross & resurrection.  Truly Jesus held nothing back in His act of redemption for the Church!  As the hymn says, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”

    • As great as the cross is, in the demonstration of what Jesus gave to redeem His people from sin & death – please don’t forget that what Jesus gave is far greater than even that.  His very incarnation shows the extent to which Jesus was willing to sacrifice. Jesus shared eternal glory with the Father, and yet willingly set it all aside to humble Himself and come in the form of a bondservant (Phil 2:7), all the while knowing that our Creator God was going to be reviled and rejected by His creation.  Almighty God, worthy of all glory, humiliated Himself on your behalf simply in the act of becoming a man…much more going all the way to the accursed criminal’s death on the cross.  THAT’s how much God loves you through Jesus Christ!

So which is it? Scholars are somewhat divided here…allow me to suggest that both may be true regarding the parables.  The key would seem to be found in Jesus’ own description of kingdom of heaven.  Remember that Jesus is the King, and WE are the Kingdom.  In vs. 44, the kingdom is like “treasure” that was found & purchased; in vs. 45, the kingdom is like “a merchant” that was looking for pearls.  The treasure might be US – the people of God, the Church.  Jesus gave everything He had to purchase us, sacrificing His life for the entire world, specifically purchasing us from the grave.  Jesus bought the whole, the treasure which encompassed it all.  On the other hand, when the kingdom is described as a merchant, it is the kingdom which is described; not the King.  When we discover the grace of God that is offered to us through Jesus, there’s nothing that we have that does not pale in comparison in order to receive His promises.

To be sure, Jesus does not give us the actual interpretation – so we must be willing to hold lightly onto whatever conclusion to which we come.  In either case, the idea is plain: the totality of our redemption into the kingdom of God is worth it all…JESUS is worth it all.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.

  • The third parable seems to be little like the previous two.  Whereas before, the kingdom’s worth is demonstrated by the sacrifice that is given, now the story turns back to the idea of who is included within the kingdom.  Speaking to His disciples (which were full of fishermen), this parable would have made a lot of sense!  They were well accustomed to throwing their nets overboard & sorting through the catch they brought up.  Jesus says that the same thing is true regarding the kingdom of heaven.
  • Notice the dragnet caught “some of every kind.”  This isn’t like bass-fishing where you go out with a certain kind of bait looking for a certain kind of fish, one-at-a-time.  This is ancient commercial fishing.  A huge net is cast over the side of the boat & what was caught, was caught.  This is what Peter, Andrew, James, and John (and likely others) did every day.  In fact, Jesus demonstrated two miracles along these lines, allowing the disciples to bring up a supernatural catch in which their nets were so full, they were about to break.  Likewise here in the parable.  The net is cast overboard, and all things are brought up – everything was gathered. Though everything was gathered, only a portion was kept.  Presumably the fish that were good to eat were put into the vessels, whereas the other fish that were not good (or other bits of junk) were tossed aside, no good for later sale.
  • To those who had been listening to all of Jesus’ parables so far, this one ought to sound rather familiar.  It’s a very strong echo of the parable of the wheat & tares.

49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

  • There is an end to the age. For as many centuries & millennia that this planet has been spinning along in space, there will come a time when everything changes, and the end will come.  For all the talk about 2012 & the Mayans, it may well be 2012 – or it may not. J  In actuality, the Mayans just got to the end of their calendar system – it has nothing to do with the timeline of God.  There WILL come an end.  The Bible is very clear about that much.  To be sure, there’s a lot of debate over exactly what will happen during the end days – the Bible makes a very strong case for the Church being removed from the world at any moment (the Rapture), ushering in a 7 year period of tremendous tribulation upon the earth during which multitudes of Jews and Gentiles come to faith in Christ, whereas other untold multitudes follow the one known as Antichrist.  After that time, the Lord Jesus will come back in power & glory & physically reign upon the earth for 1000 years.  There will be one final rebellion from Satan, which is quickly dealt with & then begins the Last Judgment.  Whether Jesus is talking about that entire period of time, or just the very end (after the Millennial Kingdom) is a subject of debate, but there is no disagreement about this: the end IS coming.  One day everything we know now will be changed, and we will give an account to God.
  • The angels will gather all.  Just as in the parable of the wheat & the tares, Jesus sends the angels forth among all the world to gather in all of the people to be judged.  Not a single person is left out from their date with the Almighty.  Jesus made it clear that there is a resurrection of life and a resurrection of condemnation (Jn 5:28-29).  ALL will be gathered.  It is appointed to men to die once, and then face the judgment (Hb 9:27).
    • What’s the point?  The point is that ALL are going to be gathered.  It’s not that only Christians will be brought before Jesus Christ, and Muslims are going to go before Mohammed, and Hindus are going to go before Vishnu, etc., each according to his/her own god/faith/belief system.  ALL of humanity is going to be gathered before the Lord God Almighty – not one is going to be left out.  You have a 100% chance of being brought before God…you want to be ready!
  • The people will be separated.  At that point it’s going to be too late to negotiate, or quickly finish up any last-minute business.  Just like the fishermen immediately start separating the fish once the net is brought up (despite any protests from the fish!), so will people be separated in to the categories of just & wicked.  IOW, that determination is made prior to the point of judgment.  They are already either just or wicked at the moment that they are gathered in by the angels. 
    • Not only do you want to be ready, you want to be ready as soon as possible!  You want to know that you’re ready for that day of separation.  You want to know far in advance that you will be counted as one of the just.
    • Question: CAN you know this?  Praise God, yes!  You can have incredible assurance that you counted as the just.  How so?  By being justified by Christ Jesus. …
  • The wicked will face judgment. Regardless of all the voices out there proclaiming that “This life is all there is, so we may as well eat & drink & be merry, for tomorrow we die!” – there is indeed existence after the grave, for both those in Christ & those outside of Christ.  Yet it’s only those in Christ who will face true life in eternity as it is meant to be; the rest will face an eternity of death and torment and pain when they are judged by God.  Jesus pulls no punches in His description of Hell.  It’s awful, and absolutely meant to sound that way.  Who likes picturing a furnace of fire – a burning lake of sulfur in which there is outer darkness & people weep & wail & gnash their teeth in torment?  Who likes imagining a place in which the anguish never ends as the worm never dies?  Who could possibly want to be in a place populated by the Devil, Antichrist, false prophet, and multitudes of demons for all eternity, all experiencing the same torment?  That’s awful!  That’s terrifying!  And that’s the point.  Jesus soberly paints the picture of hell for what it is.  He wants us to know exactly how awful hell is so that we would understand how desperately we need heaven.
    • Again, the kingdom is worth it all.  Here, we have the negative side of things whereas before it was the positive.  With the treasure & the pearl we see how much someone was willing to give; with the dragnet we see how much there is to lose.  What Jesus offers in the kingdom of heaven is truly worth everything in all the universe to give!

51 Jesus said to them, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”

  • It’s hard not to wonder if the disciples were lying! J  Certainly they understood all that they could understand at the time.  Jesus’ teachings would get much clearer the more time they spent with Him, and the more time they spent with the Holy Spirit after Jesus was raised from the dead.
  • Notice Jesus wants them to understand.  He is their Lord, but He is also their teacher.  Even though they understood imperfectly, Jesus DID want them to understand.  (Likewise with us.)

52 Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

  • Jesus concludes with one final parable, not addressing so much the nature of the kingdom but its relationship to the rest of Scripture.  Although from the disciples’ perspective there was much new in the parables that Jesus taught, it was really further revelation on the prophecies and teaching that already existed throughout the Scripture.  Jesus made it plain earlier that it was given to the disciples (and thus to us) to “know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (vs. 11) – meaning that what was hinted at in the OT was now being made clear in the New.  For centuries, there had been an abundance of teaching within the psalms & prophets concerning the kingdom of God – now there was clarity as Jesus taught about its nature, who was to be included, and how it was to be fulfilled.
  • The interesting here is that Jesus identifies the “scribes.”  Scribes were a certain class of rabbis within the Jewish culture.  They studied the Scripture intently & were considered theologians among theologians.  They were the teachers of the people, instructing them in the intricacies of the Jewish law.  They passed along the ancient tradition.  Yet for those who would come to faith in Christ as they themselves received instruction “concerning the kingdom of heaven,” they would be teaching vastly more than they ever taught before!  Like an owner of a house that demonstrates the old and new, seeing the value in all of his items, so the converted scribe is able to use everything within the Scriptures to teach people about the kingdom (and specifically its King).
    • The fact that the disciples were being entrusted with this instruction & NOT the traditional Jewish scribes is also telling.  The disciples had the responsibility to teach others about the kingdom gospel – they needed to bring it out to others.  So do we.
  • The kingdom changes everything – JESUS changes everything.  What was old is now new…not making the old “bad,” but showing how it is all fulfilled in Christ.  Truly this is something that is worth everything that could be given!

Conclusion:
It’s worth it…it truly is worth it ALL.  Jesus demonstrated this fact when He became a man & gave His life for you & me.  We, who only deserved to have His unfiltered wrath poured out upon us, instead received the most marvelous offer of grace imaginable: reconciliation with God & adoption into His family.  Jesus gave His blood – His life in order that we could partake of this.  Obviously Jesus understood its value, and thought it was worth it.

Do we?  Certainly we can ask this question of people who haven’t yet surrendered their life to Christ (and we will), but we must also ask it of those of us who have asked Jesus to be our Savior.  Do we understand the value/worth of what it is we’ve been given in Christ?  Our salvation isn’t some commodity to be held up along with our other possessions (“I’ve got an iPad, a Ford, and oh yeah, my faith as well…”) – the gift of God’s grace surpasses ALL of those other things.  Being found as a citizen of the kingdom of God is more valuable than anything this life has to offer – it’s worth the surrender of our life itself.  God forbid that we would take it for granted!  God forbid that it would be something we could be comfortable in, thinking that once we’ve been “saved,” we never have to worry about Jesus again.  Jesus is worth it ALL.  If you haven’t surrendered your life for the kingdom of God, perhaps you need to ask if you truly understood it in the first place.

This morning, ask yourself the same question Jesus asked His disciples: “Have you understood all these things?”  Do you understand the weight of eternity – of the value of your soul – of the blessings of God through Christ and the horrors of hell without Him?  If you do, and you haven’t yet responded to Jesus, then you need to respond today.  Please don’t make the mistake of agreeing with your mind, but not making any response with your heart!  Turn to Jesus right now in prayer, and tell Him that you believe that He is God who died upon the cross & rose from the grave, and that right now you surrender everything you are to Him as your God & King. 

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