Jesus: The Speaker of Parables
We are now in week five of our journey exploring the life of Jesus Christ. We have looked at His baptism, His temptation in the wilderness, how He called His disciples, and what He had to say about prayer. We are now fast forwarding quite a bit of time through Jesus’ ministry. Because Matthew has twenty-eight chapters, and this series lasts only twelve Sundays, there are so many classic stories and lessons that we have to skip over for the sake of time. So essentially, I am trying to hit some of the biggest events in Jesus’ earthly life, and I am also trying to give you a sampling of how He taught people. Last week we looked at a small segment of His Sermon on the Mount. And while very often Jesus taught lessons like that, most of the time He spoke to the people in parables. Jesus loved speaking in parables because they communicated so much truth in so few words. Parables gave the interested something to think about for the next several days. And also, Jesus’ parables oftentimes had several applications for people’s lives. And even beyond that, people love hearing stories! Jesus could have given a dry lecture about how God wants to forgive our sins, but instead He told a vivid story about a prodigal son who came back to his father. And Jesus could have given a dissertation about how different people respond differently to the gospel, but instead He told about a farmer who threw seeds on different kinds of ground, and what happened to the seed. And in today’s passage, instead of telling the people how precious and how important it was to accept God, Jesus gave them three parables about a field, a pearl, and a big fishing net. And in case you closed your Bibles, our Scripture reference this morning is in Matthew chapter thirteen, and we’re going to be reading verses forty-four through fifty-three. So again, Matthew 13:44-53.
“’Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ Jesus saith unto them, ‘Have ye understood all these things?’ They say unto Him, ‘Yea, Lord.’ Then said He unto them, ‘Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.’ And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence.”
Let’s pray before we explore this passage.
Just to give you an idea of what I’m going to be preaching about, we are going to break this down into four parts. First we are going to look at the parable of the treasure in the field. Second we are going to look at the parable of the pearl of great price, third we are going to look at the parable of the fish in the net, and lastly we are going to look at how Jesus sums up all of His other parables with one final parable.
Parable #1: The Treasure in the Field
Let’s read verse forty-four of our text again. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” If Jesus were telling this story in Texas in the year 2011, here’s what I imagine He would say. “The kingdom of heaven is just like a man who goes hunting one day out in the field, and he steps in something sticky, and he looks down to find that he has stepped into a big puddle of oil, and he sees that more oil is bubbling up out of the ground. Knowing how much oil is worth, he goes to the county deeds office, and searches for hours to find out who’s land he was on when he found the oil. When he finally discovers the owner, he calls the owner and asks him how much it would cost to buy the land off of him. The owner says that he doesn’t really want to sell, but he guesses he would sell it for $100,000. To anyone else this price would seem exorbitant, but this hunter knows about something on that land that no one else knows about. So the man goes and empties out his savings account, breaks his piggy bank, breaks his daughter’s piggy bank, sells his entire gun collection, and then sells his truck. When he realizes he’s still $75,000 short, the man decides to sell his house and his land. With exactly $100,000 in hand, the hunter goes to the farmer, and the farmer officially signs the deed of this field to the hunter. The hunter began to celebrate, because he had just made the best purchase of his entire life.”
Now looking back at Jesus’ actual parable, notice the different things that the man did. He found the treasure, and then he buried it so that no one else would find it. Then he went and sold everything that he had, just so that he could buy the field. I imagine that most people probably thought that this man was crazy, because what is so great about a little field? But that day, this man was the smartest guy in the whole country, because he was the rightful owner of a container full of treasure.
So what is the interpretation of the parable of the hidden treasure? There are actually a couple different interpretations that I believe are both valid. The first interpretation is that the field is like the nation of Israel, who had been waiting for centuries for the Messiah to come. And Jesus was saying that now that the Messiah was here, they needed to give up everything so that they could have this priceless treasure. But the second interpretation is the one that applies to every person throughout history. The second interpretation is that knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior is the most priceless treasure in the world. In fact, knowing Jesus is worth giving up everything else you’ve ever owned. Now, of course Jesus does not ask us to sell our cars or our houses for Him, but the principle is that knowing Jesus is worth more than everything else we own combined, and we should be willing to give up everything to be with Him.
So how does this interpretation apply to us in this church? I think there are two ways that we all can apply this to our lives. The first way is that we need to realize that knowing Jesus Christ as our Savior is an absolutely priceless treasure. So often, we forget what a miracle it is that we have been made right with God. To think, that we were once dead in our sins, and now our sins have been washed as white as snow! Let us never forget how good it is to know Jesus! And the second application is that just like the man in the parable, sometimes we need to give up what we have so that we can enjoy Christ. And before you start throwing tomatoes, I am not talking about giving away all of your material possessions. What I’m talking about is giving up the little pet sins that we want to hold onto, even though Jesus would rather us give them up. I’m talking about stuff like cussing, looking at people other than your spouse, drinking, and any other habit that contradicts the word of God. Will you lose your salvation if you continue doing those things? No, praise God that He has covered all of our sins. But following Jesus means that we give up all of the things that we used to think were so important to us but really aren’t. Because having a treasure as priceless as salvation will make the loss of your old ways of life seem miniscule.
Is there anything in your life that you need to “sell” so that you can fully enjoy the treasure of knowing Jesus Christ? If there is, I would encourage you to get rid of it now, because the blessings of giving up sin far outweigh the pain of keeping your old ways of life. Let’s now look at our second parable.
Parable #2: The Pearl of Great Price
For this parable, we need to look at verses forty-five and forty-six of our text. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen the show, “American Pickers.” Well, the premise of the show is of a couple of guys who drive all over the place to look for people who have a whole lot of junk. While the vast majority of their stuff would be better served in the dumpster, some of their things are worth good money, and the people don’t even know it. So these guys will offer the people a little bit of money for their stuff, and then go sell it in their store for at least double what they paid for it. This is the idea of the merchant that Jesus talks about in these two verses. This merchant’s entire day revolves around looking for good pearls. And one day, he hits the pearl jackpot, as he finds the most beautiful pearl he’s ever laid his eyes on. And just like the man in the first parable, he sells everything he has, and goes and buys this beautiful pearl.
And it’s obvious that these first two parables are very similar to each other. In both parables, someone finds something extremely valuable, and so they sell all of their possessions so that they can own something that is worth far more than their old stuff. And so now we need to find out why it is that Jesus told these two nearly-identical parables back-to-back. I think the main reason Jesus did this is that He was trying to make a point. Any time the Bible says the same thing more than once, it is done so that we will grasp the importance of the message. Jesus is trying to hammer home to His disciples that knowing Him is so valuable that it is worth giving up their very lives.
But I think that Jesus was also trying to tell the story from two different perspectives, with one very important nuance. In the first parable, was the man out in the field digging for treasure? No, he just stumbled upon it. But in the second parable, the man spent all of his days searching for a great pearl, and he finally found it. These two men represent the two ways that people stumble across the knowledge of Jesus Christ. The first type of people are the ones who had never really thought about their salvation before until someone approached them with the gospel, and they immediately realized their need for a Savior, and so they accepted Christ right then and there. Or maybe they had a dusty old Bible on their shelf for years, and they didn’t open it until they had a major life crisis, and they rediscovered the words of life that they had neglected for so long. But the second type of people are the ones who search for the truth their whole lives. These kinds of people are often very philosophical, and maybe they experiment in different religions, or even experiment in stuff like hallucinating drugs. These people are on a quest for meaning in life, and they won’t stop until they’ve found it. And then, after searching and searching, they finally come across the greatest treasure in the world, Jesus Christ. So there are the people who come to Christ because they are encountered with their need for Him, and then there are the people who come to Christ because they searched for years and finally realized that He was what they needed. If you are here this morning, and you would say that you are more like the first person, please raise your hand. All right, and if you would say that you are more like the second person, and you searched for the truth before you found Christ, please raise your hands. Thank you. The point in this is that regardless of how you came, you all realized that knowing Jesus Christ was a treasure that you could not pass up, and you followed Him with your lives. And in both parables, there is a clarion call to us to give up our old ways of life so that we can know the superior way that Jesus teaches us. Now let’s look at what Jesus shows His disciples next.
Parable #3: The Net Full of Fish
For His third parable, Jesus turns His attention to an illustration about some fishermen. Let’s read verses forty-seven through fifty again. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” In this parable, we see a net that is thrown into the sea, and it gathers up every kind of fish that lives in those waters. There’s an interesting thing about the net mentioned in this verse. The Greek word for the net mentioned in this verse is used nowhere else in the Greek New Testament. And this Greek word is where our English word for seine comes from.
I’ve only used a seine once in my life, and it is one of my favorite childhood memories. When I was little, my family camped at this local lake called the Slime Pond. Sounds endearing, right? The Slime Pond used to be a dumping ground for the old lead mines that were in the area. Again, sounds like a lovely place, doesn’t it? Anyways, out in the middle of the lake was a big tower that contained a drain pipe to prevent the lake from overflowing the dam. Any water that went down this drain pipe would go through a long underground tunnel, and it would end up as the source of a small stream down below the dam. Normally the water would just trickle down this drain pipe, but one year we received an abnormal amount of rain, and the lake rose to the point where water was gushing down this drain pipe. And just like bathtub drain when you empty the tub, the water tends to suck the surrounding toys toward the drain. But in this case, instead of toys, the drain pipe sucked up hundreds and hundreds of fish. And all of these fish ended up in a small pool of water at the bottom of the dam.
And so me, my dad, my little brother, and several of my cousins climbed down the dam with a large seine and some buckets, and we went down to that pool of water. This pool of water was absolutely swarming with fish. The water was only waste deep, and it was no bigger than one of our Sunday school rooms. And if you’ve never seen a seine, it is a long, rectangular net about four feet tall and at least ten feet long. And the way it works is two people hold the ends of the seine, and you walk through a section of water, and then carefully lift the net out of the water and examine your catch. And when we did this in that little pool, I honestly felt like the disciples when Jesus told them where to fish. The Bible says their nets were on the verge of breaking because of all the fish. And that day we caught everything from twenty-pound carp to large and small mouth bass. We caught catfish, blue gill, gar, and several other types of fish.
And I imagine that this is the same type of image that Jesus was trying to convey in this parable. The seine in this parable brought up all sorts of fish. Some of them would have been great for eating, and some of them would have been worthless for human use. But this is where the fishermen illustration stops. Jesus goes on to say that this is what it will be like at the end of time, when the angels gather together all people, and sort them out between the good and the bad. The good will enjoy a home in heaven, while the wicked will be thrown into the lake of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But, you know what, we are quite a bit different than fish in a lake. Can a fish control whether they are a catfish or a bass? No, of course not. They are what they are, and that is never going to change. But unlike our fishy friends, we have been given the privilege of deciding our eternal destiny. Because on Judgment day, the only thing that is going to separate the good from the wicked is whether or not they have been forgiven of their sins by trusting in Christ as their Savior. And just like we learned in the first parable, many people that trust in Christ are not going to search earnestly for Him. Many people need to be told by people just like you. So I think that this parable is a powerful reminder to us that one day, it is going to be too late for those around us to trust in Christ. And very often, they are simply not going to know the truth unless you tell them. And whether their judgment day is on the day they die, or on the day when Jesus Christ comes back, there is going to be a day when they are either going to go to heaven or hell. And while every person has a free will, how can they come if they have never had the truth of the gospel explained to them in a way that they can understand it. I think that this is what the parable of the net full of fish means for us. Now let’s look at how Jesus closed His lesson.
Parable #4: The Homeowner and His Treasure
Let’s finish out the passage by reading verses fifty-one through fifty-three again. “Jesus saith unto them, ‘Have ye understood all these things?’ They say unto Him, ‘Yea, Lord.’ Then said He unto them, ‘Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.’ And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed thence.” After Jesus gave His disciples these three parables, He concluded by asking them if they understood what He was talking about. When they responded that they did, Jesus gave them one final parable.
First I want to explain the phrase “Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven.” The phrase “which is instructed” is a different form of the Greek word for “disciple.” So perhaps a more literal way to say this verse would be, “Every scribe who is a disciple of the kingdom of heaven.” We talked about a few weeks ago that a disciple is any person who has committed themselves to following Jesus and His teachings. So in essence, Jesus is talking to all of us who are believers here today. If you have been born again, then you are a disciple of the kingdom of heaven.
After Jesus says that this parable is for all disciples, He says that disciples are like the owner of a home, who brings out treasures both new and old. Now this is a very tricky parable, and many people have disagreed about what it means over the years. And so often, Jesus did not explain His parables, because He wanted people to think for themselves about what His words meant. And while we can never be 100% sure what these verses mean until we get to heaven, I do have an educated guess. This verse says that we, as disciples, have treasures both new and old. I believe that the new treasure is the same as the treasure mentioned in the first parable, and it is the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. So if our salvation is the new treasure, then what is the old treasure? I think that the old treasure is all of the good parts of our lives from before we became Christians. And you might be saying, “Brother Josh, there was nothing good about my life before I became a Christian.” But really, that’s not true. Even before you came to Christ, God was preparing you for the ministry you would have as His follower. He gave you specific talents, He helped you develop specific skills, He gave you the family you have for a reason, and He even lets you keep all of your old memories from before you knew Christ. I believe that all of those things are the old treasures mentioned in this verse. So is it true that all Christians have been made into new creatures in Christ? Praise the Lord, yes! But is it true that God can be glorified through the skills and relationships you have from before your conversion? Praise the Lord, yes again! As disciples of Christ, we have been called to use both our new treasures and our old treasures to glorify our heavenly Father.
This morning we have looked at four different parables, through which Jesus taught us different truths about the kingdom of heaven. We have seen that knowing Jesus Christ is a priceless treasure, and it is worth more than everything else we possess combined. We have also seen how there is a day coming when all of humanity will be sorted into two groups based on their acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ. And it is our duty to tell them how they can become a “good fish” before it is too late. And lastly, we saw how being a faithful disciple means that we use both the new parts of our life and the old parts of our life for the glory of God.
And I would challenge each and every one of you to never forget what a treasure it is to know Jesus Christ as your Lord. And to never forget that there are a lot of “bad fish” out there who desperately need to discover the same treasure that you did. And lastly, I challenge you to let God be glorified through your old talents, skills, and relationships, as well as your new spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit.
And if you are here this morning, and you have never become a Christian, allow me to briefly explain the process. The Bible says that every person has sinned against God, and has been separated from Him. And, to our dismay, the Bible also says that there is no amount of good works that can make us right with God. There is not some cosmic scale where all of our good deeds are on one side, and all of our bad deeds are on another side. There is no amount of good we can do to earn God’s favor, because God demands absolute perfection. But in all of His wisdom, God sent His only son, Jesus, to live a perfect life for us, and to pay the price of our sin on the cross. And the Bible says that every person who asks Jesus to forgive them of their sin, and decides to follow Him as their Lord will be saved. I made that decision years ago, and it was by far the best decision that I have ever made. If you have never made that decision, I invite you to talk to myself, or to anyone of our members, and we would be more than happy to explain to you more about what it means to be a Christian.
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