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LSB Proper 12A – Matthew 13:44-52

July 28, 2014

July 27, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“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 of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

“I just gotta have it.” Those words spill out of mouths. It comes from the young ones with some frequency, usually when you go shopping with them. Just wait until the calendar switches over to December and the holiday gift season arrives. Then that sentence will flow freely! Even we adults will say it. Maybe it’s a big ticket item like a new car or a vacation. More likely it’s a new gadget or a new piece of clothing. Something triggers the driving desire to own it, even in those who would not be considered compulsive buyers. The wallet is willingly pulled out of the pocket and the magical plastic purchasing card is run through the machine with haste.

“I just gotta have it.” The words express a desire. The purchaser wants what his eye has settled on. The price doesn’t really matter at all. Desire to possess it drives the actions, trumping all else. Jesus speaks of such desire in two of the parables that He told to His disciples. He tells His disciples more parables to describe the kingdom of heaven after explaining the parable of the Wheat and Weeds, which heard last Sunday. 

Two of parables that they and now you have heard involved a man who wants to make a purchase: “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 of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” In both cases, the purchaser comes to his own “I just gotta have it” moment. The field with the treasure hidden in it: “I just gotta have it.” The pearl of great value: “I just gotta have it.” And in both stories, the man sells all that he has in order to have what his heart desired.

Jesus says that these stories describe the kingdom of heaven. When He makes that statement, Jesus is speaking about something that involves Himself. The kingdom of heaven is His reign. The kingdom of heaven is under His control. He brings people into it. He makes people part of it. He causes its growth. He protects it. So when Jesus uses these parables to describe the kingdom of heaven, He is mentioning something that He is directly involved with.

The man in Jesus’ stories sells all that he has to purchase what he just has to have. It is one of the greatest descriptions of Jesus’ redemptive work that He performs. Jesus desires to have people belong to Him, to be His possession. And what does He do in order to make that so? For all of you who have been brought into the Church, you know the answer. But it can never be repeated enough. In order to make people His possession, to have them as His own, Jesus gives His life as a ransom, He humbles and empties Himself, He lays down His life. This is the selling of all that He had. But when Jesus does this, His kingdom is increased. He does not lose valuable assets; the cost is worth it. For the joy of possessing you, Jesus endured the cross and shame.

In the Epistle Reading for today, you heard a similar description about the divine work of redemption. Paul speaks about Jesus’ acts. But he also notes that God the Father was involved with this matter also: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” There again the selling of all that he had is described. God has looked at you and has said: “I just gotta have it.” And the purchase price was gladly offered.

But the Scripture Readings for this day also noted something about this “I just gotta have it” thought that God has for you. Go back to the text from Deuteronomy that you heard. Moses addressed the Hebrews who were being brought out of slavery in Egypt. He tells them about their identity: “You are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” Moses’ statement reveals that the descendants of Jacob belonged to the LORD. The LORD had selected them. He had redeemed them.

But why did the LORD perform this act? Did the LORD look at the Hebrews and evaluate their worth? Did He make a calculated purchase? Did He read through the prospectus and see that there was going to be great growth potential? No, it wasn’t that type of purchase: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it because the LORD loves you and is keeping His oath that He swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” The LORD was driven to offer the redemption price for the Hebrews because He desired it. That desire was found in Himself. And He acted upon it.

In similar way, the LORD has acted for you. The purchase price was offered for you. But this was not due to a great calculation about your worth. No, your value was established in the LORD’s character. His love for you has driven Him to act. That is what moved Him not to spare His Son but to give Him up for us all. This giving of Jesus, who also sells all that He has in order to purchase you, is the love of God.

It is a good thing that this is how the LORD has chosen to act. If it were the other way around, you would not be worth it. Think about what you are in yourself. You are creatures who have great intellect. But you are also creatures that use that great intellect to devise ways of acting in rebellion against your Creator. You are creatures who have mouths that speak languages greater than all the other beings on earth. But you are also creatures that use that speech to inflict harm, to deceive, even to blaspheme. You are creatures that have physical abilities. But you are also creatures who will eventually lose those abilities, who will grow old and decrepit, and eventually end up in the grave. 

And yet, the LORD looks at you and says: “I just gotta have it.” In fact, He did that even before you were extant to look at. That is part of the great truth that was revealed in the Epistle Reading: “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” You have been purchased by God giving up all that He had to make you His own. His desire for that to be so has driven Him to act. 

The narrative of Jesus’ works in the Gospel show you just what that divine desire to have you as His own caused Him to do: gives His life as a ransom, humbling Himself, laying down His life. But these acts that Jesus performed in order to purchase you is not the limit of His acts. No, there is a present action that He does for you: “Christ Jesus is the One who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Jesus makes the purchase of you. But He also acts to ensure that you will remain His treasured possession, so that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You are the treasure in the field that Jesus has purchased. You are the pearl of great value that Jesus has bought. You are the treasured possession of God. You have been obtained by God’s Son being given up for you. You are reminded of that every time that the Trinitarian name which has been placed on you at Baptism is spoken: the cross that marks you as God’s possession is retraced when that name is spoken. You are also reminded of that every time that you eat the bread and drink the cup: for that meal which presents before you the purchase price offered to make you His own proclaims the Lord’s death until He comes.

Belonging to the LORD brings great value to you. It brings a hope that is greater than what anything in this world could offer. It also establishes a part for you to play in this relationship. This is what Moses made clear to the Hebrews: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations….” You belong to the LORD. The purchase has been made. And since you are His own, you are now established as people who love the One who has bought you and to follow in the way of life that He has set. It is part of being the LORD’s people. 

That is why the prayer of the day was offered: “Almighty and everlasting God, give us an increase of faith, hope, and love, that, receiving what You have promised, we may love what You have commanded.” This is not the prayer of those who haven’t been redeemed by Jesus. No, it is what those who know what Jesus gave to purchase them ask for. Nothing can repay the cost that Jesus offered for you. But you can be led to reflect that love and steadfastness in your own lives. Jesus’ purchasing you was a good thing for you, so is the walking in the way of life that He commands.

The Gospel Reading for today brought to conclusion the series of parables that Jesus told. You heard how Jesus is the Sower and that you are the good soil that produces a fruitful harvest. You heard how Jesus owns the field where He has planted you as the sons of the kingdom. You heard how Jesus has made you His own, giving all that He had for you. And you heard that at the end the righteous and evil will be separated, as you are gathered for eternity to be with Jesus. So He asks you: “Have you understood all these things?” You can answer the same way that the disciples did: “Yes.” You can rightly say: “I am one of Jesus’ treasured possessions, bought by Him, never to be separated from Him. That is His will for me. His desire drove Him to make me part of His kingdom. And now I gotta have Him as Lord.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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