Matt. 14.44 thru 45 The Kingdom of Heaven
The Kingdom of Heaven is a Gift
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Kingdom of Heaven…something so precious…it seems as precious as life itself.
We encounter two very short parables in today’s Gospel reading, with hardly a plot to them. Or is there a plot? Each of these parables begins with “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” Now that doesn’t mean that the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl, or a treasure in a field, pure and simple, necessarily, but that the Kingdom of Heaven is like what Jesus is describing as transpiring in these stories.
We see that the parables of the “treasure in the field” and of the “pearl of great price” are parables of discovery and reaction to that discovery. The Kingdom of Heaven makes itself known in our lives in surprising ways and at surprising times. And our response to these epiphanies can be what they call a “mountaintop experience” or maybe a slow burn of love for our Lord, or any of a number of other ways we express love for our creator. We all encounter Christ in different ways and at different times and our reception of Him is just as varied as we are…to a point.
Take, for instance, [MWA1] Mary’s reaction to the angel coming to her and telling her she is pregnant with God’s child. She broke into a song of pure joy and praise for the God of Israel. When God comes rushing into our lives we have no choice but to respond with love and praise. This is consistent with our parables. It seems that when we encounter the Kingdom of Heaven it elicits a strong response even of joy.
I remember when each of my children was born. They were each a very special time for me. I was a little worried when my oldest came into this world. I did not know all there was to know about childbirth (and we men don’t like it when there are unknown variables). This made it a time with the subtle mix of worry and excited anticipation before the birth. Then the day came and we went to the hospital. When our baby first came into this world it was a time of great joy and strong emotion. One of the things that happened that I didn’t expect was the amazing feeling of God’s presence in the room with us. His awesome miracle at the birth of a new life had touched me in a way that made me feel as though He was tearing open the sky, and the roof of that hospital, and coming into that room with us. He brought me into an open and personal relationship with Him that seemed closer than I had experienced before. When I saw that baby emerge into this world I knew God was present in my life in a very real way. I believe this is an example of the kind of tastes we get of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. And this is when we realize that this is what it is all about. When we experience this direct relationship with our Father we are getting a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven[MWA2] . I think that is why Jesus tells us later in Matthew that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, yet he also says, that the Kingdom of Heaven “belongs to… the little children.” The rich man is jaded by his wealth and is not as easily impacted by the ways in which God comes to him because of his wealth. While a child is not burdened by the vast array of distractions from God in this world, and can more easily see Jesus in their littler lives.
We are invited to this kind of an encounter with the Kingdom of Heaven every week when we come to church and …with our brothers and sisters in Christ as the communion of saints, are invited to the Lord’s Supper. This is a time to be one with our God and eat and drink of His body and blood, shed for us in this intimate relationship that can take place at the altar. He gives this salutary gift to us specifically for this reason. That we would be able to come to Him and partake of the feast that is…again a peek at the Kingdom of Heaven, by His design. [MWA3]
We can look at these parables in a very different light also. We can see the actor in each of these parables as God Himself. He is the one that finds us, which certainly fits into our theological understanding of God, in that He is the action taker. Then He is the one that values us and gives everything for us. He is so joyful about finding us that He is willing to give everything, even His only Son! He is “the Man” in the field who finds this treasure, our souls, and he “in His joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” As Paul tells us, “You were bought at a price.” [MWA4] Much like the shepherd and his sheep, our Lord responds with joy over finding us.
This would apply in the case of the “Pearl of Great Price” as well. God is the “Merchant looking for fine pearls.” This would fit into the context of the surrounding parables. Before these two parables we had the explanation of the Parable of the Weeds. This time we know the actor is Jesus, “the Son of Man,” because Jesus tells us He is in His explanation. After our two parables there is the Parable of the Net, which was just read. In each of the surrounding parables, the actor is certainly God. He is the one that is standing in judgment and separating the weeds and the wheat and the good fish and the bad fish. We won’t go too far into the surrounding parables but we can see that Jesus is working on explaining a theme to the Disciples as to what “the Kingdom of Heaven is like” and they are part of that explanation.
In the end though…we have Jesus trying to convey what the Kingdom is Heaven is like. Whether we look at it with Him being the actor, who through His grace gives everything for us, or us discovering this precious thing and, as a response, giving all that we have for it. There is still something of great value that is passed from God to us. This is the Kingdom of Heaven. Either way it is a gift. Even if we have to give all that we have for it, we do it voluntarily, out of joy, in that we see that this is something of value surpassing anything worldly that we possess[MWA5] .
Freedom from sin and death…zero dollars…being called a child of God…zero dollars…the Kingdom of Heaven…PRICELESS! [MWA6] We are looking at something in both cases that is priceless. We can look at it as though it were the cure for cancer. I know that some of you have been affected by this terrible disease, either a relative, a friend, or even yourself may have contracted it in your life. Well what if you had the cure? What if you could end all of the suffering and dieing that is going on because of this horrific plight? Well we have a cure for something that is even more destructive…death itself! Death has taken every human being, outside of Jesus Christ, throughout history. Yet those that believe in Christ are spared and have eternal life. This is the Kingdom of God. This is what it can do for someone. It can be the difference between life and death. He has made it possible for us to live in Him. What a gift this is! He, through His suffering and death on the cross, has given us life. A life that is worth all that we have. When we discover this, we naturally respond by dropping all that we know in our old life and come with Him. Not only that, but this is a gift that we can give to others. Over and over again and yet each time it never loses its value, or gets old, or wears out. And now that we have been taught about the Kingdom if Heaven we can give this precious gift to others. Like the owner of the house who brings out new treasures as well as old we can give the Kingdom to others through His words new and old. The old truths that are unchanging and the new truths that come when we experience the Kingdom of Heaven in our own lives. He has given us a new community that shares equally and fully in knowing God. Where sin has no place because His blood has washed us clean. This is the mystery revealed to us, and the disciples, through the parables. This is the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.