Matthew 13

Bill McFarland

February 17, 2008


Some years ago I visited a family in Carroll County, AR.  They had a farm down by the creek that ran through that area, and it was a lovely place.  I commented to them when I made the visit that they had a beautiful place.  The fellow confided to me how they came into possession of it.  He said, “I had always passed by this place and always had admired it.  And one day I heard that they were going to put that place up for sale.”  This is what I remember about how he said it, “I didn’t let my shirt hit my back until I got down there and made them the best offer I could make, and they sold it to me.”   

There is something about which Jesus recommended a similar course of action.  It is something that he mentions here in two little stories in Matthew 13.  Matthew 13 is a chapter in which Jesus provides for his disciples what he calls “training for the kingdom,” according to verse 52.  There is a series of stories here which all have something to say about the nature and the value of the Lord’s kingdom.  The parable of the sower tells how the seed of the kingdom grows in someone’s life.  The parable of the tares tells how it can be that the Lord can have a kingdom and there still be evil to contend with.  And the parable of the mustard seed tells how something that starts so small can increase so greatly.  The parable of the leaven suggests the same thing about the influence of the kingdom. 

These two little stories, though, have to do in particular with the Lord’s insistence that his kingdom is worth whatever it may take in the life of a person, whatever it may costs, whatever may be given. 

Notice verses 44-46. Jesus said, “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. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Two Stories With One Point

These two little stories have one main point, one great truth which they emphasize.  Here are two fellows who recognize the tremendous worth of something when they see it.  They are able to recognize true values and what really is worth something in life.  One of them finds treasure hidden in a field.  This is something which may have actually happened in that part of the world at the time.  The land where Jesus lived was sort of a land bridge between the nations of the East like Syria, etc. and Egypt.  There were battles going on most of the time over that part of the world.  People often took their money and instead of depositing it in a bank somewhere, they hid it in the earth like the one talent man did in Matthew 25.  That is what had been done by somebody, and apparently either that person had died and the treasure had just been left there.  This fellow finds it – a treasure.  He is able to see how valuable it is. 

The other fellow, though, finds one pearl of tremendous worth.  Pearls were highly valued by people in that part of the world.  Some cultures such as the Egyptians and later the Romans actually worshipped the pearl as being somehow divine or a sign of deity in some way.  Merchants sought pearls not only for monetary reasons but also spiritual reasons.  This fellow finds one pearl.  I take it he had had other ones but this one is so precious that it obviously surpasses all others in its value.

Not let me mention that there may be a slight difference in these two stories and the points they make, and that difference may be in the manner in which these two discoveries are made.  The first fellow apparently stumbled upon the treasure while he was working in the field.  Maybe he was digging for some reason or maybe he was plowing, but he was going about his business apparently when he happened upon this.  And even in that circumstance he is able to see that the treasure means more than his plowing and his digging means and more than anything he has.  He is not like the little boy who had been to kindergarten and came home that afternoon and said, “Mama, I found a dollar on the sidewalk on the way home.”  She said, “Really?  Let me see it.”  He said, “I left it there.  I’ll pick it up in the morning.”  You know what happened to the dollar, don’t you?  This fellow wasn’t going to let the treasure in the field get away from him like that.

On the other hand, the fellow who found the one pearl was apparently searching purposely for pearls.  You didn’t just happen upon a pearl.  From what I can find out, the oysters who manufacture these pearls were found typically about 40 feet below the surface on the ocean floor.  For an old boy to search for pearls, he had to get for himself a big rock to take him down as quickly as he could, and he had to have the courage to brave the creatures down there and the reefs which might be there, gather all of these oysters that he could, and then to bring them up and pry them open to see if the prize might be there.  You went to a lot of trouble and risked your life every time you searched for pearls.  This fellow had done something like that.

Whatever the differences, though, they had one thing in common.  Both of these fellows goes away apparently quickly and eagerly and sells everything he has and buys that precious thing which he has discovered.  They were eager to possess what they had found.  It couldn’t wait.  They were willing to give up everything for it.  They believed it was worth it.  It was something they would do without hesitation.

I ran across a story in working on this about a man named Ed Lee.  Ed Lee paid $3 million for a nickel.  Now that doesn’t sound like too good a deal, does it? But Ed Lee knew something about that nickel that I need to tell you.  It was what is known as a “Miss Liberty” nickel which was minted in the year 1913.  Here’s what you need to know about that particular nickel.  Liberty head nickels (with the statue of liberty on them, in other words) were made from the years 1883 to 1912.  But in 1913 they were replaced with the buffalo nickel.  However, five liberty head nickels were illegally minted in 1913 apparently by some mint worker.  Those five coins began to resurface in the year 1920 and when, some years later, Ed Lee came across one of them, he, as a coin collector, recognized its value and he bought it for $3 million.  A few years went by, and here’s the rest of the story:  Ed Lee sold that nickel for $4.15 million and retired on what he had made from the nickel!

Now, that is the kind of thing that is done by the heroes in these two little stories.  Notice especially that Jesus said with regard to the man who found the treasure that this was done with joy.  The selling of everything to buy the field, and I assume the same thing about the pearl, was something about which there was no hesitation and no regret.  Both of these fellows considered themselves to have obtained an unbelievable bargain.  They would have recommended it.  They would have done it again.  They would have, with enthusiasm, suggested the same course for anybody else.  The real key to enthusiasm in evangelism like we have been talking about, or in our work together or in our life together or in anything else you do, is to believe with joy that it is worth it.  These fellows believed that.  Their actions illustrate the overriding value of the Lord’s kingdom.

I love the way J.W. McGarvey wrote about this years ago.  He said that “these two little parables teach that whatever a man may have sought for and obtained before becoming acquainted with the kingdom of God, whether it be wealth or fame or a system of religion, the kingdom of God will be cheaply obtained by the loss of all.”  I like that.  The kingdom of God will be cheaply obtained by the loss of all because of how valuable the kingdom is!  The kingdom is worth giving up any habit.  It is worth letting go of any associations or friends that have held you back.  It is worth making any change.  It is worth any level of sacrifice and devotion.  It is worth any trouble that may be involved in being faithful to the Lord.  It is worth any fervent effort in serving the Lord.  It is worth any kind of sacrifice that may be called for.  The kingdom is worth it!  Being a citizen of the Lord’s kingdom is worth whatever it takes.

The Truth Which Was Jesus’ Theme

This is not a truth which Jesus spoke of only in these two short stories in these three verses.  I would like to try to emphasize to the church here this morning that this is the truth which was Jesus’ theme throughout his ministry.  The Lord emphasized the good news of the kingdom.  It was his message and his purpose in his life.  In Matthew 4:17, it lets us know that when he began to preach, he preached, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  His work is described as having preached the good news or the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23).  In Luke 4:43 he said to preach the good news of the kingdom was the purpose for which he was sent.  The Lord then taught his disciples to make the kingdom their highest prayer and their most urgent concern.  Remember that when he taught the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-10, after God’s name is kept holy, he taught them to pray for the kingdom.  And in Matthew 6:33 he recommended that we do what we have sung about, that we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  It ought to come first. 

Jesus used the great moments in his life to teach on the nature of his kingdom.  For example, on the occasion when finally the disciples had been led to confess that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God, he tells them he is going to build his church on that rock and that he is going to give to them the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:13f).  In connection with that and then leading to the transfiguration of the Lord where his glory is seen, he said that some of those who stood there would not taste of death until they had seen the kingdom come with power (Matt. 16:28).  At the last supper, when he instituted what we have remembered this morning, he told them that he wouldn’t be able to drink the fruit of the vine with them until he did it new in his Father’s kingdom (Matt. 26:29).

When he stood before Pilate, he taught that this kingdom was spiritual in nature.  It is not of this world (John 18:36).  He taught that even the Pharisees in Luke 17:20-21 the kingdom is not something that comes with mighty signs etc.  The kingdom of God is “within you” or “in your midst.”  And during that forty days after he had been raised from the dead, Acts 1:3 said, he was talking to them concerning his kingdom.  Those points not only say something about the nature of the kingdom, but also about how important it was to the Lord, or at least in his view.

And then, Jesus insisted as he taught that the kingdom is a spiritual reality which demands a moral response from all people.  You can’t ignore this point.  The gospel of the kingdom started with “repent” – change your mind, change your will, change your way of life.  Jesus taught in Matthew 7:21 that not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  There is a moral side of receiving the kingdom of Christ. 

In Matthew 18:3 he taught that unless one is converted and becomes like a little child, he can’t enter the kingdom.  He taught Nicodemus that unless one is born of water and the spirit, he can’t enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5).  He is talking about there the way in which a person’s mind is changed by the gospel and then is born again through the process of baptism into Christ when God raises him to walk in newness of life.

And then the Lord consistently pronounced those to whom the kingdom belongs to be especially blessed.  There is no greater blessing.  It is interesting that in the passage we know as the beatitudes, the first quality and the last both have attached to them “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

In Matthew 19 when the rich young ruler came to the Lord, it is interesting the terms he uses sort of interchangeably here.  Notice that in verses 23 and 24 he makes reference to “entering the kingdom of heaven” or “entering the kingdom of God” – the same things.  But then notice in verses 16 and 17 that he makes reference to entering into life, verse 29, inheriting eternal life or verse 25, being saved.  All of those things have to do with the same thing.  What a blessing each of these are!

And then, my favorite one of the statements along this line is from Matthew 26:34.  Remember that those who stand at the Lord’s right hand will hear him say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  The kingdom is both a present thing and there is a side of it in this world that occurs in the presence of the church.  But there is a side of it in the coming world which involves being with the Father and enjoying the inheritance that he has laid up for his people.  Jesus’ teaching throughout his life matched with his teaching in these two little stories, and the truth they emphasize is that the kingdom is worth whatever it takes.

What Makes The Kingdom Worth So Much?

Now let me ask you to consider this last part for just a moment.  What makes the kingdom worth so much?  Each of the points I am about to make could involve a whole study on their own, but taken together, what a powerful testimony these truths are to the value of the kingdom of God, and how they all cry out to us that whatever you do with your life, don’t miss the kingdom of the Lord!  If you do, you have missed everything.

First, the kingdom is so valuable because it means the active rule of a wise and loving father in a person’s life.  When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, he used a parallel.  He taught them to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Those two sayings are the same, actually.  God’s kingdom is where his will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.  When God has the rule in a person’s life, his beautiful kingdom, his active will, his way for that person is exercised, and the rule of the father over his child becomes a reality.  Who would not want the active involvement of a wise and loving father?  My dad ended his journey when I was 13, and how many times I wished that I had the guidance, presence and advice of a father.  The gospel tells me that there is no reason in this world why anybody needs to try to make the journey through life without the involvement of a heavenly father.  Earthly fathers may let us down.  The heavenly father won’t. 

Secondly the kingdom is worth so much because it means the forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the power of darkness.  Of several passages that speak on this, my favorite is from Colossians 1.  Notice verses 13 and 14.  “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Notice the kingdom exists.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom of his son.  How did he do that?  By forgiving us, setting us free from our sins!

Third, the kingdom is so valuable because it means fellowship, partnership with those who have been purchased by the blood of Christ.  This is where the church comes in.  The church is not a burden.  It is a privilege to be involved with fellow citizens in the kingdom!  In Rev. 1:5-6, 9, I read this, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  Notice he has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom.  And John said,  “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”  We are brothers; we are partners in the kingdom.  What a privilege!

And then fourth, the kingdom involves a lifestyle of righteousness and peace and joy.  The kingdom brings to life a sense of honor and decency and purpose.  The kingdom is not eating and drinking, but it is righteousness and peace and joy in the spirit (Rom. 14:17).  In the kingdom we realize that the Father has called us from glory of his kingdom (1 Thes. 2:12), and we know that foolish and filthy jesting, sexual immorality and covetousness or greed that uses other people has no place in our lives (Eph. 5:4-5).  One thing that is needed so badly in our world is that honor and purpose to life that is provided by the kingdom.

And then, the kingdom is so precious because it involves secure hope in the face of an uncertain future.  It is a kingdom that cannot be shaken that we have been given by God’s grace (Heb. 12:28).  It is an eternal kingdom that we expect richly to have entrance into (2 Peter 1:11).  It is his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim 4:18).  The kingdom began to become a reality at the Lord’s resurrection.  Finally, at our resurrection (1 Cor. 15:24) that kingdom will be delivered up to the Father.  Some people think it will begin then.  But at our resurrection the eternal kingdom over which Jesus currently rules will be delivered up to the Father and will continue as an eternal kingdom.  That is our hope and our expectation.

Back in 1905 there was a baseball game at Salt Lake City, Utah.  The Rhyolites were playing the Beattys and the Beattys were up at bat.  The pitcher threw the ball and the batter swung and connected.  The ball rocketed toward first base.  The first baseman was a man named William Griffiths, and as he saw the ball coming his way, he was amazed when it ricocheted off a small stone on the field and happened to land in his glove.  But he caught the ball and beat the runner to first very easily.  He thought, “I’d better move that rock before something like that happens again.”  He walked over and picked it up and he started to raise his hand to throw it off the field, but something caught his eye.  What caught his eye made him slip that little stone into his back pocket instead.  That evening after the game was long since over, he returned to the ballpark with a lantern and spent an hour scratching around in the soil of that ball field until he had accumulated a bucketful of rocks.  By morning he knew that those rocks assayed at more than $900 a ton.  They contained gold!  He called in two of his friends, and with them that week quietly bought the ballpark.  The mine was called “The First Base Mine” and the first shaft entered paying ore at the depth of 33 feet, and first baseman William Griffiths found himself a wealthy man!

You could find yourself blessed with the riches of heaven if you have the good sense to make that kind of a deal when you see the Lord’s kingdom.  In Acts 8:12, as Phillip went to preaching the news of Jesus Christ and of his kingdom, people who heard him believed and were baptized into Christ.  They became citizens of the kingdom we have been studying about.  You can have that privilege this morning.  If you as a citizen of this kingdom have been or are considering throwing aside these riches, making the opposite deal from these fellows, then I ask you to consider reversing that trend in your life.  If there is some way we can help you with it this morning, would you let it be known while we stand and sing together?