Faithlife
Faithlife

PRIVATE PARABLES

Notes & Transcripts
“I was years and years upon the brink of hell—I mean in my own feeling. I was unhappy, I was desponding, I was despairing. I dreamed of hell. My life was full of sorrow and wretchedness, believing that I was lost.”
Charles Spurgeon used these strong words to describe his adolescent years. Despite his Christian upbringing (he was christened as an infant, and raised in the Congregational church), and his own efforts (he read the Bible and prayed daily), Spurgeon woke one January Sunday in 1850 with a deep sense of his need for deliverance.
Because of a snowstorm, the 15-year-old’s path to church was diverted down a side street. For shelter, he ducked into the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Artillery Street. An unknown substitute lay preacher stepped into the pulpit and read his text—
Isaiah 45:22 NKJV
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
“He had not much to say, thank God, for that compelled him to keep on repeating his text, and there was nothing needed—by me, at any rate except his text. Then, stopping, he pointed to where I was sitting under the gallery, and he said, ‘That young man there looks very miserable’ … and he shouted, as I think only a Primitive Methodist can, ‘Look! Look, young man! Look now!’ … Then I had this vision—not a vision to my eyes, but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was.… Now I can never tell you how it was, but I no sooner saw whom I was to believe than I also understood what it was to believe, and I did believe in one moment.”
“And as the snow fell on my road home from the little house of prayer I thought every snowflake talked with me and told of the pardon I had found, for I was white as the driven snow through the grace of God.”
Upon his return home, his appearance caused his mother to exclaim, “Something wonderful has happened to you.”
For the next months young Spurgeon searched the Scriptures “to know more fully the value of the jewel which God had given me.… I found that believers ought to be baptized.” And so he was baptized, by immersion, four months later in the River Lark, after which he joined a Baptist Church.
You may be asking yourself why I am telling you about Charles Spurgeon’s conversion? The reason why is that it fits in with our text for this morning. Please take your Bible and turn with me to and following as we continue on in our series titled: Kingdom Parables.
Some of you will probably laugh when you hear me say this, but this week I plan to cover the last four parables that are found in . How many of you actually think that I will be able to finish this in one message?
The first four parables in this chapter were told in a public format to the crowds who were on the sea shore, and Jesus was sitting in a boat as He addressed them. These last four parables were told in private to presumably the apostles and perhaps a few other close associates.
Some scholars point out what is called a chiastic structure among the parables of this chapter. Chiastic structure is frequently employed in biblical texts.
Let’s read our text together this morning.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS A TREASURE
I’d like for us to note first of all that the kingdom of heaven is a treasure. I’m sure you’ve all heard stories of pirates searching for hidden treasure. Of course their searching for treasure is motivated by greed. In the first of our parables for this morning a man stumbled upon a treasure that was hidden in a field. Then he sold everything that he had so that he could purchase this field and own that treasure.
There are many today who see greed being the motivation for this man’s purchasing of this field. They wonder why the dude didn’t inform the landowner of the treasure that was found in his field. In our society that would have been the proper thing to do. But that is not how things worked back in Bible times. “Finders keepers” was somewhat the rule of the land in those days. It wasn’t quite that simple, but it was close. Rabbinic law stated that if an object was found outside of a house then the finder could be the keeper. If an object was found in the wall of a dwelling, if it was found closer to the outer side of the wall it was the finders to keep. If, however, it was found closer to the inner side of the wall it belonged to the homeowner.
This reminds me of something Gail found on Facebook that her cousin had related. Her cousin said:
“I headed into the grocery store earlier for a few groceries. As I was standing in the self checkout line, I dropped my $20 bill on the floor. The woman in front of me picked it up, & as I was thanking her for picking my $20 up for me she looked me dead in my eye & said: ‘The things found on earth are kept by the collector.’ I said ‘excuse me!!! That’s my $20!!!’ This lady had the nerve to ignore me, as though I hadn’t said a word, and pocketed the money and walked out of the store. I ended up following her out of the store. When the woman got to her car s, when put her grocery bags on the ground while she opened her car. I walked up behind her & grabbed her bags of groceries and walked off. The woman then asked to give her back her things. I replied in the sweetest voice I could manage, as I walked away to my care and said to her: ;the things found on earth are kept by the collector!’ After I got home and open her groceries I found that I got a nice return for my $20!”
This was not an actual true story, by the way. It was one of those things people use to see if others are reading their full posts on Facebook. But when Gail read it to me it reminded me of what I had read this week regarding the cultural background to the parable of the hidden treasure.
As I have stated before, when studying a parable the student of Scripture must ascertain what the main point of the parable is. The morality of the finder of this hidden treasure is not the main point of this parable. The main point is that the kingdom of heaven is a treasure. It is such a treasure that is worth giving up everything that you possess for the sake of the kingdom.
How do we define the kingdom of heaven? I will define it as the realm of Jesus’ rule and authority. Though all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, for the present time His rule is in the hearts of His loyal subjects (to borrow from monarchial language). There is coming a day in which Jesus will reign as King on earth. His future reign will be over a worldwide kingdom. His reign will be righteous, and firm. There is coming a day when even His enemies will bow the knee to Him as the Sovereign Lord. As Paul wrote:
Philippians 2:11–13 NASB95
and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:8–11 NASB95
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Let’s turn our attention now to the parable of the pearl of great price. After looking at this next parable we will draw some truths out of these two very similar parables.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS EXQUISITE
Look with me at as we consider the parable of the pearl of great price.
When I was working at a factory in Rochester, MI I became friends with a group of men who all liked to hunt deer. Many of these men bagged multiple deer every year, where as I bagged a deer every decade or two. I would hear some of the guys talk about passing over a buck in hopes of finding a bigger trophy buck. They wanted to have something they could mount on their wall. They were selective. They were hunting for their own pearl of great price.
In this parable we find a merchant who is selective. He was seeking fine pearls. In the ancient world pearls where kind of like diamonds are now. They were considered to be the most valuable of all gems. Perhaps that had to due with the danger involved in “harvesting a pearl.” Without the aid of modern technology people would have to dive into to deep waters, holding their breath as they did so, and search under water for a clam in which pearls were found. It was dangerous work and many divers lost their life as they tried to find these precious gems. Since banks were not so easily accessible as they are today, many wealthy people used traded their wealth for pearls because they were easier to store and keep safe.
The kingdom of heaven is like a rare gem, it is exquisite in its beauty. Is our treasure here on earth or is it to be found in the kingdom of heaven?
Some have tried to take this parable (and probably the last as well) and say that the kingdom of heaven can be bought. Perhaps the Roman Catholic idea of indulgences comes from a misunderstanding of these parables. We cannot purchase salvation by any means. Not by money nor by good deeds. But salvation does purchase us! Commenting on this D.A. Carson wrote:
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke b. The Parable of the Expensive Pearl (13:45–46)

Jesus is not interested in religious efforts or in affirming that one can “buy” the kingdom; on the contrary, he is saying that the person whose whole life has been bound up with “pearls”—the entire religious heritage of the Jews?—will, on comprehending the true value of the kingdom as Jesus presents it, gladly exchange all else to follow him.

Let’s try to pull out some truths from these two very similar parables.
Kingdom Truths (Taken from John MacArthur’s book Parables; pg. 48-53).
No. 1 — The kingdom is priceless in value
No. 2 — The kingdom is not superficially visible
No. 3 — The kingdom is personally appropriated
No. 4 — The kingdom is the true source of real joy
No. 5 — Not everyone comes to the kingdom by the same approach
I want to be very careful with this one, because I am not saying that there is more than one way to the Father. couldn’t be any clearer. But there are different circumstances that bring us to Christ, who is the only way to the Father. In the parable of the hidden treasure it appears that this man stumbled upon the treasure that he found. He wasn’t searching for it, he just found it by accident.
The story I mentioned earlier about Charles Spurgeon’s conversion shows that, like this man in the parable, he stumbled upon the treasure of the kingdom too. In a similar fashion so did the Apostle Paul, for he was seeking to destroy the early church when he stumbled upon Christ. In a similar way men like Josh McDowell and Lee Stroble also stumbled upon Christ as they were seeking to prove that Christianity was nothing more than a myth.
However, the merchant was seeking for the precious treasure that he found, like Simeon and Anna who stayed in the Temple in Jerusalem awaiting the Consolation of Israel. Like the Bereans who sought through the Scriptures to determine if this strange message they were hearing from Paul and his companions could possibly be true.
No. 6 — Saving faith has a high cost
What do I mean by a high cost of faith? First of all the cost was immense, but it was paid in full by Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross in our place. He was scorned and rejected of men, and if that was not enough He was forsaken by His Father. In the words of the hymn writer: Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe.
Because of the price that Christ paid to redeem us from the curse of the law, we owe Him everything. We cannot purchase salvation, but Jesus has purchased us! We who are believers have been bought with a price. Therefore we are to glorify God in our bodies, and that begins with offering ourselves as a living sacrifice.
A CURE FOR ANXIETY
Before we move on I want to share with you a personal experience regarding these parables and my own anxiety. In early January of 2009, when our family was living in Fort Kent, Maine, we had a cold spell in the area. The outside temperature was a -40 degrees with a windchill of about -60. Our son Tim had come home from college for the holidays and during this cold spell he had to fly back to Michigan where he going to school in Grand Rapids. The nearest airport was a 200 mile drive from our home. On the morning that Gail had to drive 400 miles round trip, our van would not start. So I had to come home from school, switch vehicles with Gail, and get someone to give me a jump so I could return to work. We did not have cell phones and so I was not able to keep track of their progress, but I was very anxious about them traveling 400 miles in such drastically cold temperatures. That incident set off an anxiety attack for me. I started having chest pains. I knew that it was anxiety, but I could not curb it; even after Gail made it safely home! This feeling of anxiety went on for days. Then one morning I had read these parables as a part of my morning devotional time, and as I was driving to work I started to meditate on them. My thoughts were about if I ever really treasured Christ so much that I was willing to lose everything for His sake. As I was meditating on this, and praying about (while driving in the car) I physically felt the weight of my anxiety lift from me.
Now I cannot guarantee that this would be an automatic way for everyone to overcome anxiety. But I do firmly believe that much of our anxiety comes as a result of being focused too much on our own circumstances and not keeping our eyes fixed on Christ. As the writer of Hebrews put it:
Hebrews 12:1–2 NASB95
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Let’s look now at the parable of the dragnet. Look with me at .
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN BRINGS JUDGMENT
I wonder if you see how this parable is strikingly similar to the parable of the tares among the wheat. Both parables refer to dividing out the wicked from among the righteous.
The three most common methods used for fishing in 1st century Israel, were hook and line, dip net, and a dragnet. A dragnet was a large net with weights attached to it. It required at least two boats to work it in open water, or in the shallows a set of fishermen could be on shore while the others were in a boat. By the nature of this method a lot of undesirable things could be caught. The fishermen would form two piles, one to be put into containers so it could be sold at market and the other to be burned up as trash.
Notice that Jesus gave an explanation of this parable without even being asked to do so by the apostles. Look at .
Hell is an horrendous place of torment. It will be so horrible that people will wish for death or and end to torment, but that will not happen. Some people picture hell as being some sort of social club where people can gather and party with their friends. But there will be no gathering with friends. Hell is described as a place where the fire burns eternal, and yet it is a place of darkness. We cannot comprehend to fullness of it. If we could then we would become the world’s hardest working evangelists warning others to flee from the destruction to come!
John MacArthur in his commentary on Matthew wrote: (Pg. 395)
“The parable of the wheat and tares illustrates the coexistence of believers and unbelievers in the present form of the kingdom, and this parable illustrates their separation as the form of the kingdom changes … During the present era, which is the church age, God permits unbelief and unrighteousness. But the time is coming when His toleration will end and His judgment begin. The first phase of judgment will be the separation of the wicked from among the righteous, the tares from among the wheat. The dragnet of God’s judgment moves silently through the sea of mankind and draws all men to the shores of eternity for final separation to their ultimate destiny — believers to eternal life and unbelievers to eternal damnation.”
Let’s turn our attention now to the close of the parables, .
THE CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM SHARE THEIR TREASURE
This section begins with Jesus pausing to ask the apostles if they understood the parables He was telling them. It appears that the phrase “all these things” “refers to the growth of the kingdom despite the mixed reception of its message” (David L. Turner, pg. 354).They affirm that they did indeed understand them (at least in part anyway; we know from their actions later on that they did not fully grasp everything that Jesus taught them on this fateful day).
Then Jesus closed with the eighth and final parable of this chapter, the parable of the head of the household. Look again at .
We understand this is a parable because of the phrase “is like a ...” That is found in the middle of the verse.
Jesus’s reference to scribes is somewhat surprising since they are most often mentioned in the Gospels as being in partnership with the Pharisees and enemies of the gospel. A scribe was a teacher of the Holy Scriptures. In the kingdom of heaven the apostles are the chief scribes; they are not only the leaders of the church but they were the ones who penned the New Testament Scriptures. “Their ministries will entail teaching the kingdom message as they draw upon what Jesus has taught them and teach their own disciples new truths tied to old truths” (ibid, pg. 354).
Notice the last phrase of verse 52: who brings out of his treasure things new and old. The normal word ordering of such phrases would be something old and new, with “old” being first. Many see in this the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old Covenant.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke e. The Parable of the Teacher of the Law (13:52)

Scribes were “teachers of the Scriptures.” If they are likened to the owner of a house who brings treasures out of his storeroom, the further implication is unavoidable—they are not bringing forth things new and old for purely private or personal reasons but in their capacity as teachers. Jesus’ disciples claim they have understood what he has been teaching. “Therefore,” he responds, discipled teachers of the Scriptures, if they have understood, must themselves bring out of their storeroom the treasures now theirs so as to teach others (cf. Trotter).

We, who are disciples of Christ have a responsibility to teach others. We have a responsibility to share the life giving message which has been entrusted to us as Ambassadors of Christ.
Let’s pray.
Closing Song: Pass It On (overhead)
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