Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
31[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
When I was in my internship at Resurrection in Marietta, GA, I was required to complete a project of my choice. There was a Hospice and respite Center across the street from the church, in which we did not have any relationship with at the time. So, I thought this would be a good time to do so.
I began a worship service at the hospice center. As you know, many who are in hospice do not have the ability to get out of bed and come and participate in a worship service. So, we figured out a way to use the church’s hearing aid system. We were able to plug our hearing system into the hospice’s audio system that would allow the service to be projected. Also, for those who could not hear or get out of bed, we could place a transistor-like device beside their bed, in which they would have the option to wear a head- phones or allow the sound to come through the device. The system worked well, and we did this monthly.
Before the service was to begin, I would go to the all the rooms and speak with the ones who were able. There was one particular woman whom I visited every month who did not want to give me the time of the day. She would always ask me to leave and was not interested in anything I had to say. I always told her that I was there if she needed anything.
Today Jesus tells his disciples these four different parables. My favorite part about this text is when Jesus asked the disciples, “Do you understand?” And, they answered, “Yes!” I can’t help but to wonder, did they REALLY understand?
Most of us have heard the parable of the Mustard Seed before. The parable is upfront – that is if you know what a mustard seed looks like and what it grows into…
It is the tiniest of seeds – and grows into a very large bush – so large, the birds come and make their nests in the bush. And so, we often think of this parable meaning that nothing we do to grow God’s Kingdom is too small. It is the contrast between the littlest of means and largeness of the end.
However, while this is most certainly true, I believe there is something much deeper going on in these parables…
Honestly, I become easily confused as I hear Jesus say…
The Kingdom of Heaven is like…
Like a Mustard Seed?
Like Leaven Bread?
Treasure in a field?
Selling everything that I own?
Finding the perfect pearl?
Catching every kind of fish in a net?
Do you understand? The disciples respond, “Yes, Lord, we understand!”
Really? Do you understand?
And so, here is what I think…
As we move towards the parables of the treasure in the field, the search of the pearl, and the fishing parable, I believe that we could understand that Jesus is talking about the Gospel being the treasure and the pearl.
We may even think, “Oh no, Jesus is talking to us again about selling everything we have!” It certainly isn’t the first time that Jesus speaks of selling all we have and is not the last.
I think these parables are not about seeds, leaven bread, treasure, or pearls…
These parables are about discipleship – It makes sense – right? That Jesus would be talking to the disciples about discipleship?
Because here is the thing about discipleship – about being a disciple of Jesus Christ…
I don’t think any of us think about it if we are just living our lives in this world we live in – The world easily consumes each one of us – Life consumes us.
However, when we experience Christ in some profound way – have a mountaintop experience –
Remember Peter on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured – He didn’t want it to end – Let me build an altar here – we can come back and have this experience over-and-over again!
We are changed! And, we are changed forever!
We experience the Gospel! We learn that God has forgiven us – even for the things we may feel are unforgiveable.
We realize that we have this life that is free – that we can come to the Table and walk away renewed, refreshed, and given another opportunity to try and get it right!
And, so you see, the person who found the treasure in the field – found the Gospel! My guess when that realization that he or she could be free – forgiven and loved – they were willing to sell everything – do anything – to be free from the pain and hurt – to be free to live their life for the Kingdom of Heaven!
The pearl that the merchant found was the Gospel – He was forgiven, once and for all – given new life! An opportunity to proclaim God’s Grace and Mercy – in new and profound ways!
And, here is the thing…God’s net is for every single one of us – NO ONE is excluded!
And, the Mustard Seed – Grows and provides encouragement of the apparent unchanging destructiveness of human interactions and structures.
It offers a reframing for those who are perplexed by the overwhelming suffering of each of our lives in the world.
It is through this MUSTARD SEED that we find welcome and hospitality that supports life – rather than destroy it!
Remember the woman at the Hospice Center?
Every month for a year, I would go into her room and offer her a worship experience and to pray with her. Every month she turned me away…until the last month…
When I came into the room she began to tell me about her life – how she was afraid, that her son was moving and she didn’t know what she was going to do – I told her that we would be singing and playing a lot of music and that I believed she would really enjoy it.
To my surprise, she said she would like to listen.
When we came into the room to give her a device so that she could listen, she had even taken the time to comb her hair and prepare herself for worship.
The service was amazing, as we had about 25 or so folks from the church to come and participate –
Afterwards, I went into her room to see how she was – And, I found her crying…She had the Gospel – She heard that through Jesus Christ, she had forgiveness of sins –
She heard about a place called, “Eternity.”
She heard about Pure Joy! A Joy that requires Sacrifice and a Price –
But, not on her end – but through Jesus Christ on the cross.
You see… once you have experienced what it feels like to be truly loved – when you don’t even deserve it – To know you are forgiven for your sins –
You will be willing to do anything and everything to receive that JOY over and over again – even to the point of selling all that you have.
No doubt – this Joy – this experience we have in Christ – Motivates us that we experience to DISCIPLESHIP!
The Gospel is priceless – because Jesus paid the price on the Cross –
He loved us that much – to suffer, sacrifice Himself, Empty Himself of God, and hang on a cross until his death –
For you – for us –
The Kingdom of Heaven is like….
A world where the Gospel is understood, lived-out, hoped for, brought-up – and experienced with PURE JOY!