Sermon Text: Matthew 13:44-52
July 27, 2014
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 13th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
A. Acquiring the Kingdom
Thinking equality with God something to be grasped humanity follows the pattern of Adam’s behavior. Reaching for the wrong fruit from the wrong tree men, women, and children establish in their heart of hearts the wrong gods. This is the way of our nature, fallen and depraved as it is. It is the way of sin and unbelief in the true God, a way which we have trod and are tempted time and time again to follow.
As with all that is false this bears a mixture of truth and deceit. It is certain that our God, the true God, wishes to be had; to be found, to be our God. And He wishes for us to be His people delighting in the goodness of His presence. But He will not be had the way we would have Him. Neither He, nor His Kingdom will be taken, seized, or grasped. Salvation is not acquired by our doing. It is God who justifies. His is a Kingdom of grace and is to be received by faith alone. There is no room for the labors of men. The path that leads to heaven is too narrow for such things.
Thus we are given our text this morning (evening). Jesus continues to teach of the Kingdom of God. In the previous parables He has unfolded before our hearts the means by which the kingdom is bestowed – a sower goes out and sows seed. And He has removed the veil from our eyes revealing to us how the kingdom operates, how it grows and permeates and preserved for the harvest day. This morning (evening) we are blessed with more parables and thus more insight into the Kingdom of God. With these words Jesus now holds before our hearts the key to the Kingdom’s acquisition. Our God wishes to be gotten, received, tucked away in our heart. And Jesus’ words set before us just such a way.
B. Hiding away the Grace of God
Whether it’s a treasure in the field, a pearl found by a merchant, or a dragnet catching fish, the way of our God is found. His treasures are located on the earth, in this world. They are of great value, and they are attainable by all. Thus the God who justifies sinners places Himself with His gifts of righteousness, and pardon, and peace, and mercy and love in the midst of dirt and disease and war and the brokenness of this world. He locates Himself. He establishes His kingdom in a very real place, a place that can be seen, heard, and visited. He sets His Word in a particular place to be preached at a particular time, that a particular people may receive a particular salvation through His means of grace. He can be found! He wishes to be found. And He wishes our hearts to appropriate, to receive, to acquire Him by faith in His means of grace.
That our God is found in a specific place giving out specific gifts is a stumbling block to many. “How can God be found here?” “Why would God be in water, or in the word, or in bread and wine?” “ How is that even possible?” God’s Word is questioned, doubted, and rejected.
Surely He is to be found in the field, but where in the field? Anywhere? If God is anywhere then God is everywhere? If God is everywhere, then really, He is anywhere I want him to be. Then I will look for Him everywhere except where He’s promised to be. Then I will never find Him. God will remain lost. And I . . . well, I will be confused. How can I find Him? How can I receive Him? These sorts of questions abound by those plagued with false teachers and false teaching.
For, false teachers and false teaching steals away the promises of our God and directs hearts everywhere and anywhere except where He’s promised to be. They empty God’s vessels of His gifts and seek to insert their own gifts, their own strength, their own merits. Such lies attempt to expand the narrow path just enough to give room for our idols while at the same time squeezing out the God who justifies. As Luther says, “This is what happens when you fall away from the First commandment: you immediately set up an idol in the form of some meritorious work in which you trust. Therefore, Moses says, My dear children, be careful to remain in God and follow Him. Otherwise, you cannot avoid idolatry. You will fall into that sin. For at all times the devil assaults the grace of God.”
Thus, the enthusiast in us all chases after our emotions, seeking after a God who comes to us apart from means, who can be felt and experienced without His Word. The pietist in us goes after deeds not creeds, devotions rather than doctrine, symbols instead of sacraments. The fanatic in all of us fails to heed the Word, stubbornly refusing to “Listen to Him,” as the Father instructs, thus not to look for Christ where He’s promised to be for our good.
These false teaches and false doctrines that have their roots in the sin of Adam preach the first commandment, grace, and salvation, but they ignore God’s Word and renounce the means by which He is attained. Each of these is an assault on the grace of God, each emptying the Word of God of the promises of God. Thus each lead the soul further out into the wilderness, further away from the certainty of the Kingdom of God.
C. Hidden that He may be found (though art a God who Hides Himself)
Yet, Holy Scripture is clear. “It is God who justifies.” We may attempt to locate God where we want Him to be, but we are not God, we cannot seize the Lord, put Him in a box and carry Him around with us like some genie in a bottle who must do as we say simply because we’ve rubbed Him the right way. God will not be gotten that way. He will not be seized by our works, nor our merits, not even our pious love and adoration. It is God who justifies.
The God who justifies gives us a Word that He may be found in that Word. That Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The treasure of heaven clothed Himself with human frailty. Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but He humbled Himself taking the form of a servant and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Thus the Father beckons from heaven, “This is my beloved Son.” And that we may be more certain He does again on the mount of transfiguration. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” We have a sure and certain Word directing our hearts to Jesus; Jesus in the water of Baptism and Jesus where He says “Here I am.” Thus the Words, “this is my body and this is my blood” show us, tell us, direct us to the bread and wine that we my find Him, receive Him and all His heavenly gifts, though they be hidden under common, earthly elements.
God is hidden, as Isaiah says, “surely You are a God who hides Himself.” He is hidden but He wishes to be found. There are no secrets here. No mysteries to be solved. Like the treasure buried in the field, or the fine pearl happened upon by the merchant, our God is located in space and time, flesh and blood, Word and Sacraments. He was made man, was born, suffered, died and rose again. He was placed in the midst of sin, death, and the power of the devil. He did not appear godly. He wasn’t attractive that we should be drawn by Him. He wasn’t rich. He wasn’t extravagant. He wasn’t mighty or powerful or glorious that the world should chase after Him like some celebrity. He was in fact, poor, humble, meek and low. He was with sinners, eating with them, forgiving them, healing them, even joining them in death. Hidden under the cross is where we find our God. He is there for us and He is risen for us. He is our treasure in the field, our fine pearl in the world. He is the God who justifies sinners. There is room on the path only for Him and His righteousness. It is truly a narrow way, but it is the way to eternal life and it is a way that can be found.
B’. Revealing the Grace of God – The Certainty of the Word
Therefore, we Christian ought always to be found where the Word of Jesus’ directs us. We ought to receive baptism, not because it’s commanded as though our submission to it were a good work, but because the Word of Jesus is in the Water. The water is full of His death and resurrection and all the treasures of Heaven. For, these have been poured into the water by the Word.
We ought to run to confession and absolution. For there, in the voice of a man, Christ speaks what He alone has earned. He has voiced His absolution into the Office of the Ministry and now gives His mercy through His called pastors.
We ought to bow before His altar, open our mouths and our hearts, and receive from Him His true body and true blood “given for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These are sure and certain because the Word of God is sure and certain. If Jesus says He is hidden in, with, and under bread and wine, He is there. No need to look elsewhere. No need to doubt Him. No need to debate Him. If Jesus says He is there for your good, then trust Him. He will not lie. He will not deceive.
And there is no need to bring Him anything. Cast off all that hinders and cling to Him by faith. Don’t worry about how these may or may not make you feel. Your feelings are not to be your spiritual gauge. Don’t stubbornly ignore what Jesus says. His Word is not given in vain, but seeks to open before you the very treasure chest of the Kingdom of God. That you may plunder His mercy He tells you where to look for Him. He gives you a precise location through a very real word from heaven spoken by a very real voice sent you in His messengers. Don’t look to yourself, your works, your strengths, your merits, your anything. But cast your eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith.
A’. Acquiring the Kingdom grace through faith
Yes, beloved, cast your eyes upon Jesus for “It is God who justifies.” He is the treasure in the field. He is the fine pearl, and His is the boat that gathers you into its net. There is nothing for you to bring, rather Jesus would have you empty yourself. Thus, go and sell everything you have, and fix your heart on the Kingdom of God. In other words, surrender your hearts desires. Give up trying to acquire by feats of strength, what can only be received by faith. Leave your labors by the wayside, for there is no room for them on the Lord’s Highway. The path that leads to heaven is too narrow for such things.
Rather, YOUR HEART must be emptied of your labors. You must trust neither their strength nor their merits but adhere by faith to the One who is both Just and Justifier of sinful mortals such as you.
Beloved in the Lord, our God wishes us to find Him. Therefore, look where He’s promised to be. Hear His Word. Listen to Him. Come and receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!