Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sermon: Matthew 13: 44-46 Hidden Treasure

I wonder if you’ve ever heard of a man called Terry Herbert. He had an unusual hobby - metal detecting. He’d been doing it for eighteen years when back in 2009 he discovered the largest ever found collection of gold and silver items in a field in England. There was around 1500 gold and silver pieces, valued at £3.285 million. He would share the fortune with the owner of the field.

He’s a real life example of one of the stories Jesus told in our Gospel reading this morning. The two stories are, in some ways, very same - they are about a man, and something very valuable, something precious - either treasure or pearls. So let’s look at them a bit closer.

In the first story, we’re introduced to a man who is out digging in a field. As he’s digging, he comes across something he’s not expecting. Just like Terry, it’s treasure, hidden in the field. There were no banks or safes when Jesus was telling the story, so the only thing to do with your valuables was to hide them in a field. Perhaps the owner had forgotten about them, perhaps he had died. Either way, the treasure lies hidden until it’s found by this man. Instantly he knows how precious his find is, and knows he must have it.

The second story sounds the same, but it’s a little different. While the first man found his treasure by accident, the second man has been hunting for a long time, knowing exactly what he’s looking for. Look at verse 45 as the second story begins: ‘a merchant looking for fine pearls.’

Think of some of those daytime TV programmes; Bargain Hunt or the like, where people are trying to find things to get the best price at auction. Or you might have noticed in June that the Antiques Roadshow rolled into Enniskillen with members of the public bringing their antiques to be valued. The experts knew what they were looking at.

This man knows his business, dealing in pearls. He’s bought and sold many pearls in his time, perhaps even making pearl necklaces. He has seen many pearls, but then he finds a very special one - ‘one of great value’. He knows he must have it.

The first found it by accident; the second found his treasure after a careful search, but in both cases, it was a life-changing discovery. Did you notice what they both did after finding their treasure?

Verse 44: ‘When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.’ And again in verse 46: ‘When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.’ They have the same reaction, selling all they had, giving up everything else, in order to get the treasure or the pearl. Would you do it? Would you give up everything for some treasure? It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Why on earth would they do something like that?

For each of them, having found the treasure, nothing else compares, nothing else matters. We see it in the joy of the man selling everything he has in order to buy the field - he can give up everything else knowing that it’s worth it in order to gain the treasure. You see, it’s not crazy, it’s a sure investment in what really counts.

Now why does Jesus tell these two stories, and what is he telling his hearers and us through them? Remember how he starts each of the stories: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like...‘ These stories are a picture of the kingdom; they point us to what it’s like being part of God’s people. So what is the treasure? What is the pearl of great price? These two parables point us to the greatest treasure we can know, to the living Lord Jesus.

Some people stumble upon Jesus, finding him almost unexpectedly, like the man finding treasure in a field. It might be a very sudden thing, like the young man Saul, who was involved in stoning to death the first Christian martyr, Stephen. On his way to Damascus, suddenly Saul meets with Jesus, and is turned from being Jesus’ enemy to being his friend.

For others, becoming a Christian and finding Jesus comes as the end of a long search, exploring many different religions and spiritualities, before discovering the great glory and value of the Lord Jesus. Just think of the long journey to discovery Peter had as he spends time with Jesus, listening to his teaching, watching his miracles, before eventually it all fell into place.

Either way, getting to know Jesus, and trusting in Jesus, is a life-changing event, because of how precious Jesus is. How precious to know and love the only Son of God, the one who gave up highest heaven in order to come and rescue us from our sins and redeem us to live with him; the life-giver, who gave his life so that we might live; the living one, who has defeated death; the glorious one who gives us all his blessings and the assurance of eternal life; the one who loved you so much that he died for you.

When we find Jesus we discover great joy, because Jesus is more precious than anything we can own or buy or give our life to. Truly nothing compares to knowing him. It’s what Paul says in Philippians 3. Paul was tremendously religious, very strict in following the Jewish customs, a background to be proud of, second to none, yet here’s what he says: ‘But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.’ (Phil 3:7-9)

Paul says that nothing else matters, compared to knowing Christ - Jesus is the great treasure, the pearl of great price, and we can experience the joy that comes from knowing him. More than that, we will want to share this joy as we ourselves find Jesus and as we help others find him.

My goal, for the time the Lord keeps me in this parish, is to make sure that as many as possible, inside and outside these church walls, will come to find the only treasure that really matters, and come to know the Lord Jesus, and grow in our relationship with him.

Perhaps today you have found that treasure - rejoice in your salvation and celebrate as we share in the bread and wine, the reminder of his love for us. Perhaps, though, you haven’t yet found him. You might be searching; you might not be bothered at all - my prayer is that you will find Jesus, or rather, be found by him, so that you too might share in this joy, as your life is transformed.

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 4th September 2011

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for the insight. I am going through the parables of Christ this summer.