The Rev. Paul J Cain
The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like…
Proper  (A), 24 July 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like…what, exactly? It surpasses our human understanding, so Jesus has been telling us about the Kingdom of Heaven in words we can understand—by faith. That’s what the parables are for.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like seed sown on four different types of ground. It will grow well in one place. In others it will not. Some will believe in Jesus and be received into the Kingdom of Heaven. Others will not (believe).
The Kingdom of Heaven is like the wheat harvest. Then you can tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds, burn the weeds, and gather the wheat into your barn. Christians will be harvested by angels on the Last Day. Sons and daughters of Satan face fire.
Four more parables confront us this morning with more about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. They are brief, to the point, nourishing, and very memorable. You may think of them like a small piece of wonderful dark chocolate for the soul.
44[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.
Jesus’ point of comparison has nothing to do with why this man was digging around on land that wasn’t his. He says nothing about why this man didn’t tell the previous owner about the treasure. Those are the things that don’t make sense to us. Thinking about them briefly gets us to what faith understands about this parable. The kingdom is a treasure. The Kingdom of Heaven is such a valuable treasure that nothing dare get in the way of you possessing it. The value of the treasure you have found in Jesus moves the Christian to see everything else as worthless in comparison. Would you be as willing to sell everything, if need be, to possess this treasure?
There are similarities between the first and second parables this morning. 45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
A field is a big thing. A pearl is a small thing. Yet, the treasure in that field—we don’t know what size it was, or even what it was. We only know its value. I haven’t found many writers explaining why Jesus told two parables that are so similar. The size of the valuable treasure could be the difference. Some people prefer jewels. Pearls come from the sea. Others prefer land and the plant, animal, and mineral treasures it provides.
The actual reason may be simple. When we tell somebody something important, we tend to repeat ourselves on purpose. Perhaps Jesus is giving two similar yet different perspectives on what the kingdom of heaven is like to emphasize its value, something many forget or take for granted.
In addition, we may view these parables another way. So far, we’ve been hearing them and identifying with the man who found the treasure or the merchant who bought the pearl. Both sold everything they had for that treasure. What if we saw Jesus as that man, that merchant? The kingdom of heaven is also like this. Jesus gave up everything in order to save you. Looking at things this way, you are the treasure He died in order to purchase, not with gold or silver, but with His own precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He did something we could never achieve ourselves. His work is unique. At the same time, His example is also worth imitating, giving up all, and suffering all for the sake of the kingdom and our eternal inheritance. Either way, each parable is about the work and worth of Jesus.
Today’s solo is LSB 654, a newer hymn with text and tune both by Missouri Synod Lutherans. The tune was written in Nebraska. We haven’t learned it yet, like many congregations with Lutheran Service Book, but I invite you to look at the words with me now. LSB 654 is called, “Your Kingdom, O God, Is My Glorious Treasure.” This hymn gives us yet another perspective on today’s Gospel. As you turn to it, listen (again) to the first stanza:
Can you hear today’s Gospel reading? Certainly. The kingdom of heaven is a glorious treasure and a pearl of incomparable worth. And there will be other parables, mixed in, too. That first stanza ends with a prayer, “Lord, give me Your grace and the pow’r of the Spirit To value this treasure aright That, never allured by the world, I inherit Your kingdom of glory and light.”
Stanza two focuses upon the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the yeast and applies them to our mission as Christians to spread the kingdom by telling the good news about Jesus: Your kingdom, O God, is alive with the power Your Word and Your Spirit bestow. Like yeast, they affect the whole measure of flour, Enabling Your kingdom to grow. Empower me, Lord, as I live Your commission, Though humble my service may be, And bring ev’ry planting to perfect fruition, A mustard seed grown to a tree.
Finally, stanza three recalls the seed, weed, and harvest parables we have heard in the last two weeks:
“Your kingdom, O God, is a field for the growing Of seeds that Your mercy has sown; But still in our midst is the enemy sowing The weeds that imperil Your own. Sustain me, O Lord, till Your day of returning And harvest me homeward at last, To shine in the homeland that quiets all yearning, Where sorrow and danger are past.”
Text (sts. 1–3): © David W. Rogner Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, number 100010059.
Created by Lutheran Service Builder © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.
We’re now well-prepared for our third new parable this morning. 47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Many pastors in our Wyoming District share a hobby. In addition to being fishers of men, they also love to be fishers of fish! In that way, they are not unlike the first pastors, the twelve disciples, many of whom were fishermen. Not every fish caught is a keeper. Some need to be thrown back because they may be the wrong species, may not long or heavy enough, or they may be discarded due to disease. Fish catching and sorting may have more legal details in 21st Century America than in 1st Century Roman Palestine, but we get the point. This one has the same message as last week’s wheat harvest: The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous.
Therefore, we pray, “Sustain me, O Lord, till Your day of returning And harvest me homeward at last, To shine in the homeland that quiets all yearning, Where sorrow and danger are past.” A good hymn is one you can also pray!
In conclusion, and privately, Jesus asks His disciples, 51“Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Jesus’ question leads to parable four: “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Christmas presents can often be a surprise. It is exciting to see a package under the tree with your name on it. You may not jump up and down like a kid, but you have to admit that gifts are a good thing.
When the gifts are opened, sometimes there is disappointment. And we don’t always appreciate what we are given. Yet, when you figure out what the real value of the gift is, you feel guilty about your initial reaction and often offer an apology. The gift may be the latest cool thing, or a cherished family heirloom. Treasure, whether new or old is still treasure.
The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like…farming and fishing and finding treasure. There will be a judgment where those with faith in Christ will be gathered to the Father. Those without Christ will face a fiery furnace. A sorting will take place between sheep and goats. The sheep, the good fish, prioritize the kingdom. That is what the kingdom of heaven is like.
“Your kingdom, O God, is my glorious treasure, My pearl of incomp’rable worth. Its value exceeds ev’ry standard of measure, Surpassing the wealth of the earth. Lord, give me Your grace and the pow’r of the Spirit To value this treasure aright That, never allured by the world, I inherit Your kingdom of glory and light.” Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.