30th March 2023
Read (Matthew 13v44-58)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
A few weeks ago I showed Edengrove's children a copy of Peter O'Brien's commentary on the book of Hebrews. I bought it several years ago for £20 and now, because of O'Brien's alleged plagiarism, all of his books have been taken off the shelves. It means that a second hand copy of his Hebrews commentary will cost you £150 and at the time of writing a brand new version is for sale on Amazon for almost £500. I'll not be selling my copy but theres a wee sinful bit of me that wishes I'd bought ten copies back in the day.
Despite the estimated value of O'Brien's book it is worth nothing compared to the Gospel. It is by the preaching of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit that sinners are converted to Christ and enter into the kingdom of heaven. Christians can often take these realities for granted but the Lord has made it clear about the extraordinary value of being part of His kingdom.
The kingdom of heaven can be observed in the church on earth. She may seem small, fragile and often troubled but in the sight of Christ she is beautiful indeed. So the kingdom of heaven is worth more than all of this world's treasure. To underline this fact Christ spoke of a man who found treasure in a field saying "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." (v44). By finding this treasure the man had every right to claim it as his own but just to make sure, he sold everything he had and bought the field. It doesn't matter if you are the most wealthy man on earth, if you are without Christ then you are impoverished beyond all imagination. Membership of the kingdom is a treasure worth securing.
In the same vein Jesus said "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." (v45-46) Such a merchant was well used to seeing the beauty of a pearl but the pearl of great value took his breath away. He sold everything else and used the money to buy the exceptionally beautiful pearl. Do you get the picture? The kingdom is glorious, it is beautiful, it is the greatest treasure and it is worth the loss of all things to secure membership.
Why does this need to be stressed? Jesus answers by reminding us that the kingdom is also like a net thrown into the sea which gathered a catch of fish of all kinds. The good catch was placed into containers whilst the bad catch was thrown away (v47-48). The meaning of this parable is plain - when Christ returns He will send out His angels and they will separate the Christian from the unsaved (v49). The individual who hasn't turned to Christ and entered into the kingdom will be cast into hell where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (v50).
I have endless cards in my wallet and with them come certain privileges. My Dobbies card gets me free tea once per month and my Blue Cedar card will get me a free coffee after ten stamps, but membership of the kingdom is a life or death matter. How does one enter the kingdom? By repentance of sin and faith in Christ. There is nothing more precious in this world than Christ and His kingdom and only a fool rejects the Gospel.
Having understood these things the Christian is therefore "trained for the kingdom of heaven" (v51-52) and just as the master of a house brings out both his new and old treasure (v52b), the Christian is to receive and share joyfully the teaching of the Bible. The law and prophets (the old) pointed forward to Christ (the new). All Scripture is God breathed and our only infallible rule of faith and practice.
The tragedy of the kingdom is that not all will enter it and this is not a new phenomena. Jesus made a visit to His hometown but there was no bunting, parade or lavish meal. He astonished the locals with His wisdom and mighty works (v54) but they did not repent and believe the Gospel. Instead they said “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (v54-56)
Christ's fellow citizens could not move beyond His humble roots - they knew His parents and were able to name His brothers and sisters, but this knowledge did not lead to saving knowledge of Christ. Indeed they took offence at Jesus causing the Lord to state “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” (v57) So the Lord did only a few mighty works in Nazareth because of their unbelief (v58). It wasn't that their lack of faith kept Christ's hand tied or limited His power, rather the Lord's lack of miraculous works was His judgement upon the people of Nazareth.
The kingdom of heaven is like a great uncovered treasure and a precious pearl. It is worth leaving all else behind in order to enter Christ's kingdom. The alternative is an eternity in the place called Hell. In response the Christian believes and shares what has been received by faith whilst others are offended by Christ and His Gospel. As another chapter closes Jesus asks “Have you understood all these things?” (v51). My friend, make sure you have, nothing is more important.
Q7 What are the decrees of God? The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.