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The Value of the Kingdom

What is the kingdom of heaven?

Written by David Steltz on .

Notes

Introduction

Good morning! I am actually going to be continuing in Matthew 13 today, where Mike left off. I’m not going rogue like I did two weeks ago.

I have to say though, I think I did Mike a favor by leaving the parable of the wheat and weeds for him, because it’s one that Jesus actually explains very clearly! Like Mike pointed out, you not only get the story of the parable itself, you get a glossary of what each key element represents AND an explanation of how to interpret it.

The last few parables that we’re going to look at today are not quite so clearly laid out, so they can be a little more challenging to interpret. It was actually kind of challenging for me to even find much commentary on them! But I do think they are beautiful and profound, and may have a couple of different messages for us.

Parables

Let’s start by reading the whole passage, beginning in verse 44:

Matthew 13:44–52 CSB
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. 46 When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it. 

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It collected every kind of fish, 48 and when it was full, they dragged it ashore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw out the worthless ones. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

51 “Have you understood all these things?” 

They answered him, “Yes.” 

52 “Therefore,” he said to them, “every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom treasures new and old.”

Context

Alright, first of all what’s the context of these final parables?

Jesus has so far told the parables of:

  • The sower
  • The wheat and weeds
  • The mustard seed
  • The leaven

And so far, these parables have been spoken to the crowds of people, who generally are just confused by them. They don’t understand the meaning or purpose, the interpretation of these stories.

And so far, even his inner circle of disciples have been left scratching their heads after hearing these parables. And so far, it has only been in private, away from the crowds, when the disciples ask Jesus to explain them that he gives them the correct interpretation.

Back in verse 36 Jesus left the crowds, went inside, and his disciples approached him. That’s when he explains the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

When we pick up in verse 44, we’re still in the middle of that same discourse. Jesus is not speaking to the crowds here, he’s only addressing his disciples, and he’s continuing to use parables to help them understand the kingdom of heaven.

And I think it’s so cool that after he gets done telling them three different parables, he explains the third one but NOT the first two, and he asks them:

Matthew 13:51 CSB
51 “Have you understood all these things?” 

They answered him, “Yes.”

They understood his parables, they solved his riddles, because of their previous exposure to his teaching. Again and again we’ve seen Jesus teaching people not simply by giving the answers but teaching people how to figure it out, and this had to have been such a gratifying teaching moment for Jesus!

After these guys repeatedly saying “I don’t understand, I don’t understand! Please explain yourself Jesus, you’re not making any sense!” He finally asks them: “Do you understand now?” And they say…YES! How beautiful is that?

Now, the question is…do WE understand?

Value of the Kingdom

Let’s go back and look at the first two parables again. These two, the treasure and the pearl, kind of go together, they are parallel with each other and have the same general message. They are speaking to the value of the kingdom. Let’s read them again:

Matthew 13:44–46 NLT
44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. 

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Now, there are at least two different perspectives from which you could interpret these parables.

When Jesus explained the parable of the wheat and the weeds, he started by first giving them, as Mike put it, a “glossary” of definitions, he explained how various elements of the story map onto corresponding elements of God’s kingdom. 

The sower in that parable represents Jesus, the field represents the whole world, and the seeds and weeds are children of the kingdom and the evil one, respectively.

So, what elements do we have in verse 44?

  • Treasure
  • Man who discovers treasure
  • Field
  • Everything he owns/sells

Verse 45 is very similar, we have:

  • A man looking for treasure (which for him is a pearl)
  • The treasure, the choice pearl
  • Everything he owns/sells

So, what do these map to? What do they represent?

Treasure

Let’s start with the treasure, or the pearl…

What do you think the treasure represents?

Well, Jesus actually says it doesn’t he? He starts this parable like so many others by likening something to the kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure...”

Treasure ≈ Kingdom

Treasure is like the kingdom. Remember, parables are approximations, not equal signs!

In both of these parables though, again, the emphasis is on how valuable the kingdom is. So valuable it’s worth giving up everything else in order to have it.

Men Finding Treasure

What about the man who discovers treasure, or who is searching for treasure?

What do you think the men who find treasure represent?

This is where it gets a little bit more fuzzy.

Response to the Gospel?

The most common approach is to understand the man in the field and the merchant and his treasure as people from all walks of life who discover the truth of the gospel and recognize its value. Such people are willing to give up everything else for such a valuable treasure, because they are wise enough to recognize it and even seek it out. Such people are then equally wealthy, equally rich with heavenly treasure, regardless of where they came from, what their social status was, what kind of baggage they carried, what kind of stuff was in their lives before. They left it all behind to pursue the hope and freedom of the truth.

As Proverbs says:

Proverbs 11:4 CSB
4 Wealth is not profitable on a day of wrath, 

but righteousness rescues from death.

And later, in chapter 16 Jesus will reiterate this truth:

Matthew 16:26 CSB
26 For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?

This interpretation also correlates with some previous parables, in that it speaks to the importance of responding to the Gospel. About how important it is to value the truth once it has been revealed to you, rather than squander it or deny it.

The burden of truth, of understanding, is our obligation to act upon it. To make a decision. Jesus alluded this back in verse 12 of this chapter, and we find a similar statement in Luke, as an explanation for yet another parable:

Luke 12:41–48 NLT
41 Peter asked, “Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?” 

42 And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 43 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 45 But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 46 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful. 

47 “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

So, yes, the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great worth can certainly be used as an illustration of how important it is that we not take the kingdom for granted, that we value God and his word above all else. To do anything otherwise once you have been given the truth by the grace of the spirit, would be simply foolish.

Those Who Don’t Know

As a side-note, I want to mention that for those of us who do understand, at least to some extent, the value of the kingdom and have the gratitude and joy and peace that comes with embracing the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, let’s not forget that just because there are many who have not embraced it, that also does not mean they have willingly rejected it yet!

For many, dare I say most people, rejection of the gospel is only a willing decision when it is out of ignorance; for either never hearing the gospel or only hearing it ways they don’t understand.

Even for those who do understand and still reject, WE are not the ones to judge their hearts, that’s God’s job. We certainly aren’t the ones to beat them over the head until they repent! Rather, we ought to have nothing but compassion for those who can’t see, and reach out in love, and through relationships and trust and open, honest conversations in which you can speak the truth of God, of what he has done in your life and what he has revealed to you. And pray that the spirit will use your words and your relationships to plant seeds of truth that,  when watered by the everlasting life-giving water of the Holy Spirit can grow to an ever-increasing, ever-maturing understanding of the good news.

God’s Love?

Alright, now I mentioned there may be another perspective from which to interpret this parable. And this is actually how I’ve always looked at these parables until studying it with Mike and realizing most people don’t see it that way! So, it may not be as likely of an interpretation but in the end it still makes the same point.

Let me ask a question:

What is the kingdom of heaven?

It’s not a castle…it’s not a building…though there is a physical reality to the kingdom, it’s not centered around geopolitical borders or military strength or wealth. If those things are a part of it, it’s to serve a higher purpose.

Months ago, Mike talked about the concept of “Treasure” in heaven. What is heavenly treasure? How can we be storing it up now?

How else but by becoming fishers of men, of being workers of the harvest, helping to populate the kingdom of heaven with more and more believers.

The “treasure” of heaven is people!

And in the same way, I would say that first and foremost, the kingdom of heaven is people too!

It’s the redemption and sanctification of the whole of creation, bringing it back under the sole jurisdiction of the throne of Yahweh, of king Jesus. In particular, though, all creation groans because of the sins of humanity, and we are the ones to whom God came to redeem so that the rest of creation may follow.

In that sense, WE are the kingdom of heaven, in the same way that WE are the church!

So, in this parable, if WE are the kingdom, then we are not the man finding the treasure or the pearl, are we?

If WE are the kingdom, then God is the one valuing us so much, loving us so much that he would give up everything to save us, to reclaim us, to purchase us back from the sin which enslaves us.

If WE are the kingdom, then this parable speaks to how profoundly valuable we are in God’s eyes, even though we have run away and hidden from him.

How beautiful is that?

Again, I don’t know which perspective Jesus was coming from when he told this parable, it could have ben neither or both and the underlying message is the same. Either way, the thrust is the value of the kingdom, and either interpretation can be validated as theologically sound by other teaching, and even other parables.

The fact that we are incredibly valued by God is a basic truth evident all throughout scripture.

Genesis 1:27 tells us that we were made in the image of God, that we were created with divine purpose, to care for creation as God cares for us. And even though humans rebelled, God continued to show love and mercy again and again and again and again.

I could probably read 100 different verses to make this point, but I won’t. I just selected a few that stand out, and are probably quite familiar to many of you.

David reflects on this truth beautifully in Psalm 139:

Psalm 139:13–16 CSB
13 For it was you who created my inward parts; 

you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 

14 I will praise you 

because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. 

Your works are wondrous, 

and I know this very well. 

15 My bones were not hidden from you 

when I was made in secret, 

when I was formed in the depths of the earth. 

16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless; 

all my days were written in your book and planned 

before a single one of them began.

John 3:16 of course:

John 3:16 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

And Paul writes:

Romans 5:8 CSB
8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Christ refers to us as his “bride” because he treasures us and covets us and was willing to lay down his life for us.

So, the treasure is the kingdom, and we should value the kingdom not reject it, and WE are the kingdom, so we should value ourselves and each other for the same reason God values us, because we’re all his children, and the only way to see the value of the kingdom is through the lens of God’s word through the work of the spirit in our hearts and minds.

Whew! All that in one verse.

Possessions

And there is still another piece to these parables that we haven’t looked at yet! We’ve looked at the treasure/pearl, and the people finding and buying the treasure/pearl, but we haven’t talked about their possessions! What, if any, significance does that have for us? What do their possessions represent?

Our Possessions

Well, when you think of it from the perspective of how WE ought to value the kingdom, it could literally just be possessions. Material wealth that gets in the way, distracts us from God because we value our money and our stuff more than him.

What else could it be that we need to be willing to give up, to leave behind?

  • Comfort
  • Pride
  • Social Status
  • Family Relationships
  • Anything and Everything

That doesn’t mean we can never have nice things, or be comfortable, or enjoy wonderful family relationships. Those can all be wonderful gifts from God. It’s when we value gifts from God more than God himself, or value anything in creation, which came from God, more than God himself, from whom creation came. That’s when it becomes idolatrous. Adulterous.

He illustrated this through Israel many many times throughout the Old Testament and the prophets, but the most poignant example that came to my mind was that of the prophet Hosea. Hosea is one of the “minor” prophets, though some of the minor prophets have some of the most crazy stories I think!

In his preface to his book Be Amazed, Warren Wiersbe writes this:

When you compare them with the books written by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, the Minor Prophets are “minor” only in size. However, when it comes to their messages, what the Minor Prophets wrote is of major importance. In fact, their messages ought to fill us with wonder.

We should be amazed as Hosea describes God’s jealous love and Joel pictures God’s glorious kingdom. Jonah and Nahum both deal with the wicked city of Nineveh and amaze us with God’s gracious long-suffering. Habakkuk watches the enemy approaching and invites us to be amazed at God’s righteous judgment Malachi amazes us with his revelation of God’s contemptuous people, weary of serving the Lord.

Too many sleepy saints have lost their sense of wonder. The Minor Prophets shout at us to awaken us and invite us to open our eyes and be amazed at what God is doing in this world.

Hosea was a man who’s whole life was used as an “action sermon,” as Wiersbe puts it. God told him to marry a woman who either already was a prostitute or became one later, and prostitution is a symbol of idolatry. To make things even worse, she runs away with another man, and God tells him to go get her back!

Hosea chapter 3 tells the story of Hosea’s humiliating redemption of his wife Gomer:

Hosea 3:1–3 CSB
1 Then the Lord said to me, “Go again; show love to a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and nine bushels of barley. 3 I said to her, “You are to live with me many days. You must not be promiscuous or belong to any man, and I will act the same way toward you.”

When we value anything in our lives more than our relationships with God and each other (the building blocks of the kingdom), we are demonstrating adulterous disdain for God’s love.

God’s Possessions

Meanwhile, God, on the other hand has given us everything, even suffered humiliation and torture at our hands just to win us back. God loves you, values you, and has purchased you. He gave himself to us so that we could become his. Brothers and sisters, let us not take that for granted by prostituting ourselves to the world.

And if you’re hearing this whole message and understanding for the first time, you must consider how you will respond. If you still aren’t understanding and can’t wait for me to stop rambling, please be honest and talk to one of us to learn more! If I can’t explain it maybe someone else who thinks differently can.

Field

Alright, there is one last piece to these two parables that we haven’t looked at yet isn’t there?

What is it?

It’s the field, in the first parable!

Now, I am not sure if there is intentional significance in the field, as Mike brought up last week, it’s not always necessary to find meaning in every single piece of a parable. This one is so concise though, that the field could have some significance to us.

If we’re seeing ourselves as the person buying the field, and if the kingdom of heaven is the treasure in the field, then what is the field in which we ought to be finding the treasure?

How do we “seek first the kingdom” of God? Where do we look?

Well, we look to God of course! It’s through spending time in prayer, directly speaking with God, asking him questions, asking for wisdom, and then finding your wisdom and understanding in his word, spending time soaking up the truth of the Bible. 

I promise you that nobody has ever genuinely probed the depths of the Bible so extensively that they could say “OK I understand it all now!” 

As with even creation itself, the more you look the more you find and the more you understand, the more you don’t know! And that goes back to the concept of healthy awe and wonder which should permeate us as we open our eyes to God.

And we must not do it alone! We must be seeking truth in community with each other, and storing up treasure in the kingdom by bringing more people into it.

Judgment Again

Continuing on in Matthew, we come to one last parable about the Kingdom. There’s one more parable at the end, but it is describing the disciples themselves. This is the last one in the group of parables of the kingdom.

Let’s read it again, starting in verse forty-seven:

Matthew 13:47–50 CSB
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It collected every kind of fish, 48 and when it was full, they dragged it ashore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw out the worthless ones. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This parable is circling back to the theme of judgment, and is very parallel to the parable of wheat and weeds which Mike covered last week. So, I’m not going to spend too much time on this, but I will share a few thoughts.

Just like with the wheat and the weeds, it’s about collecting everything at once and sorting out the good from the bad. Separating the evil from the righteous. The seed of the woman from the seed of the serpent.

We know that God is the ultimate, perfectly just Judge. He judges people not on their outward appearance, what humans can see, but on the heart, the internal decisions a person makes.

And he is NOT a harsh, bully of a judge. In fact, he is so lenient that sometimes the people of Israel accused him of not even caring about sin!

When he speaks with Moses on Mount Sinai, Moses pleads to see God’s Glory, and God agrees to let him see just a small part of him, and after a lot of dramatic preparation, we read this:

Exodus 34:5–7 LEB
5 And Yahweh descended in the cloud, and he stood with him there, and he proclaimed the name of Yahweh. 6 And Yahweh passed over before him, and he proclaimed, “Yahweh, Yahweh, God, who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding with loyal love and faithfulness, 7 keeping loyal love to the thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and he does not leave utterly unpunished, punishing the guilt of fathers on sons and on sons of sons on third and fourth generations.”

Now, verse 7 can be a little perplexing, and I don’t want to get to deep into it, but I would summarize it as God saying that he is going to allow for limited, relatively short-term consequences for sin, but that his love and forgiveness would be unlimited in the long-term.

What I think is most significant is how God chooses to describe himself first and foremost as compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding with loyal love and faithfulness.

God is not an angry God, and he does not enjoy punishing his children. In fact, the only true recipients of God’s wrath are those who threaten his children, and he wants all humans to be his children! Peter says this is why we are still waiting for final judgment!

2 Peter 3:8–10 LEB
8 Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that one day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. 9 The Lord is not delaying the promise, as some consider slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will disappear with a rushing noise, and the celestial bodies will be destroyed by being burned up, and the earth and the deeds done on it will be disclosed.

Whew! 

Ultimately, I think the best way that I’ve come to understand God’s judgment is through the lens of his role as our Father.

He judges, disciples, disciplines, and rebukes. Those are all corrective and instructional actions for our benefit because he delights in us! As Proverbs says:

Proverbs 3:11–12 LEB
11 Do not despise the discipline of Yahweh, my child. 

Do not be weary of his reproof 

12 because whomever Yahweh will love, he will rebuke, 

as a father delights in his son.

We can see this back in Deuteronomy, when God was speaking to Israel in the early days of their covenant:

Deuteronomy 8:5 LEB
5 And you should know with your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so Yahweh your God is disciplining you.

We see this even in Revelation, where the ascended Jesus is addressing the lukewarm church in Laodicea, he chides them but comforts them at the same time:

Revelation 3:19 CSB
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent.

God may allow for consequences for our actions, but all his judgments are for our sake, not to appease his own wrath.

That to me is a very different mindset than a father’s role as being a "punisher." 

For earthly parents and caretakers, I think there is something to be learned from that. I don’t want my children to see me as an angry enforcer of rules, but as a patient, loving protector. When I take corrective action with my children, it should be in the way that will benefit THEM the most, NOT whatever will appease my "wrath" or frustration in the heat of the moment. Though when i do make decisions to either instruct or protect them at any given time, that doesn’t mean they’re going to like it! And it’s the same way with us and God.

Hebrews 12 speaks to this:

Hebrews 12:11 CSB
11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God’s judgment is ALWAYS merciful, even if it doesn’t seem like it from our perspective. This has been true since Adam & Eve were exiled from the garden, and it will be true in the final judgment, because God is, always has been, and always will be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth.

Alright, that’s my two-cents on judgment!

Storehouse of Truth

Let’s move on to the very last parable of this section.

This one comes after Jesus has confirmed with his disciples that they’re picking up what he’s putting down. “Do you get it?” He asks, and they say “YES!” and he response with “Therefore..”

Matthew 13:52 CSB
52 “Therefore,” he said to them, “every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom treasures new and old.”

This is like a graduation moment! Up until now, Jesus has been THE teacher, and now he’s saying that they now understand enough to be teachers themselves, in a storehouse of truth, teaching from the treasures of the Old Testament as well as the New.

The word translated “teacher” in the CSB is literally the word “Scribe.”

This is quite a contrast to how Jesus has described other Jewish scribes, isn’t it? It’s actually encouraging to hear Jesus say that some scribes will actually get it, and his disciples seem to be included in that category.

It’s quite the implication...that his formally untrained disciples are now officially more qualified than the elite, highly trained scribes and pharisees, to serve as spiritual leaders and teachers of the law in Israel and beyond.

I’d say that’s a pretty momentous occasion, for both Jesus and his students!

Summary & Conclusion

The next verse, verse 53 gives us one of those important transitional, organizational phrases, “When Jesus had finished...”

Matthew 13:53 CSB
53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he left there.

Which means this marks the end of a major section of teaching! Next week, we’ll embark upon the next major section of narrative. 

Meanwhile, we leave this section deeply impressed with Jesus’s teaching on the significance and value of the kingdom. There is nothing more important to God than having us be a part of his kingdom, and there should be nothing more important to us than being a part of his kingdom. His kingdom is life. Anything outside it is death.

Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:3:

John 3:3–5 CSB
3 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 

4 “How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” 

5 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

He’s referring to the spiritual rebirth, the spiritual baptism made possible by his life, death, and resurrection. After his ascension, the disciples received the holy spirit, passed it on, and it has spread like wildfire ever since! 

Jesus opened the gate to the kingdom for us, all we have to do is trust him, believe in him, and follow him through.

Colossians 1:13–14 CSB
13 He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. 14 In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

So, let us then

1 John 1:7 CSB
7 If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Benediction


The Value of the Kingdom

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North Country Fellowship Church
NCF was started in 1987 to minister to the growing population of Fort Drum and Jefferson County. Located in Carthage, just minutes away from Ft Drum, Lowville and Watertown, it is a blended congregation of local and military folks, single soldiers, young families and grandparents.