I have been quite busy lately, so posts are few and far between. However, I did want to share that last Sunday I preached from Matthew 13:44-52. In this text, Jesus gives us the parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value. The main point I made in the sermon is that the kingdom of heaven is invaluable because Jesus is invaluable.
Jesus is of infinite worth. He is that treasure hidden in a field and that one pearl to be possessed above all others. If Jesus is not of infinite value to us, then we must ask why? Jesus’ worth to us is only measured in proportion to our recognition of how worthless we are before God. In other words, we will only see Jesus as great to the degree that we see our sin as great against God. We must understand that we are sinful people; fully deserving of God’s wrath if we are to see the infinite value of Christ.
The value of Christ is that he gives me something I can’t do for myself and he gives me something I never deserved. When I realize I am nothing and have nothing except in Christ; then I get his everything–his worth, his value, his merit, his wealth, his resources, his riches, his excellence, his perfection, and his significance. These truths are not just the key to my salvation, but my sanctification. By seizing the infinite worth of Christ in my life so I will find that other things in my life will become less valuable to me.
This past Sunday I taught our New Testament Sunday class about the Intertestamental Era. As I prepared to teach, I was reminded about how the various Jewish groups that developed during this time formed their own misconceptions about the Kingdom of God. For the Pharisees the Kingdom of God meant boundary markers of what a true Jew looked like and strict adherence to the Torah. For the Sadducees it meant political compromise and positioning in order to preserve their existence. For the Essenes it meant withdrawal and asceticism as the way to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God. And finally for the Zealots it meant crushing pagan influence and murdering Jews who comprised Judaism. Each of these groups represents who Jesus and Paul addressed as they quoted the prophet Isaiah.
Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. Matthew 13:14-15
And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: Go to this people, and say, You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. Acts 28:25-27
As I think about these groups of Jews living during the time of Jesus who failed to see and understand the Kingdom of God, I cannot help but think of many who profess Christianity and have the same misconceptions about the Kingdom of God. We have modern day Pharisees who believe that entrance into the Kingdom of God is through moralism and obedience to a set of man-made traditions. We have modern day Sadducees who believe that through political action we can usher in the Kingdom of God and make America a Christian nation. We have modern day Essenes who think that separating themselves from the world makes them the true people of God. We have modern day Zealots who think that physical violence against the evils of the world will bring favor from God and gain entrance into his kingdom. However, none of these methods are the means to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us how to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? Mark 8:34-37
Entrance into the Kingdom of God requires a denial of self and a submission to the King and his Kingdom. Entrance into the Kingdom of God means hating my mother, and father, and brothers and sisters, and even myself for the sake of the King and for the sake of his gospel. Entrance into the Kingdom of God requires a spiritual change. It is a spiritual kingdom that requires spiritual eyes to see it. The Kingdom of God is being built not with bricks and mortar, but with the souls of men and women. The Kingdom of God is not protected with swords and spears, but by the Spirit and the Word. The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). The Kingdom of God has come . . . will we see it?
Let us pray and ask God to grant us eyes to see his kingdom, ears to hear his truth, hearts to follow the King, and a voice to preach his gospel.