He Sold All He Had
Is there anything you want that you would sell everything you possess in order to get? Is there anything so important to you that you would sell all you have so you can possess it? Jesus gives us two parables about people who sell everything they owned in order to possess something of great value.
History is filled with stories of people who sold everything—risked everything they possessed—in order to obtain something of immense value. The histories of the kings of England are filled with accounts of people who risked everything they had in order to obtain the position and title of king. People risk everything to obtain power. More than anything people seek power. This year people are spending millions of dollars as they seek the office of the President of the USA. It is all about power. In the biographies of kings and billionaires, you can read about the passion they have for power.
Even ordinary people have a passion for power. It may not be as strong as the CEO’s and politicians but people strive for power. We collect possessions because they too represent power. Everyone spends their lives on something. What kind of power do you seek? The power God gives or the power that the world offers?
Jesus told many parables about the Kingdom of God. Matthew calls it the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven is the same thing. Jesus tells parables in order to help us understand the Kingdom of God and know what it is about. In the reading from Matthew, we find several short parables. I am focusing only on three verses—just two short parables.
First, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field (Matthew 13:44).” At first reading it sounds like the man is up to no good. He finds a treasure buried in another man’s field. He hides it again and sells all he has, and buys the field from the owner so he can possess the field and the hidden treasure. Is he cheating the man out of something he owns? In Jesus time, it was legal to do what the man did. Rabbinic law said that a find belonged to the finder. People frequently buried their valuables in the ground for safekeeping. Some did it in times of war or invasion. They hoped to return and retrieve the valuables when it was safe. Sometime in Second Century Israel a man buried a pot filled with gold coins in the floor of his house. I am certain he intended to dig it up later but he never did. Archaeologists found it a decade ago. In another dig in Israel, they found an ancient basket buried in a cave. When they examined the contents, they found bars of silver and various other ancient items. Archaeologists suspect they were hiding from their enemies and died in the cave. It is not uncommon for people to find buried treasure. The man sold everything he had, bought the field and obtained the treasure.
Secondly, Jesus said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45-46).” In the First Century, wealthy people valued pearls. They wanted to own them to admire their beauty and impress others. Pearl merchants scoured the markets and trading places searching for pearls they would purchase and later sell for a profit. In the second parable the merchant finds the paragon of pearls, one of immense beauty and value. He sells all he owns and purchases it. Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this. These parables teach us many things about the Kingdom of God.
What is the Kingdom of God? To make sense of parables, we need to understand what God’s kingdom means. Some believe the Kingdom of God is a future reality. They believe that at some time in the future God will end history and usher in His Kingdom. Jesus taught us a special prayer. In it we find these words, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Yes, the Kingdom of God is a future reality. However, others understand the Kingdom of God as a present reality existing in some form today. Jesus once said, “. . . The Kingdom of God is in your midst (Luke 17:21).” Indeed, the Kingdom of God is also a current reality. The Kingdom is present whenever the will of God is accepted and lived out. We know from the Bible that at some time in the future God will bring in His Kingdom in its fullness. One New Testament Scholar summed it up as he said, “To enter the Kingdom of God is to accept and do God’s will.” When we know, accept and do God’s will, we are in His Kingdom regardless of where we are or what date it is. The Kingdom of God is among and within us when we do God’s will.
These parables tell us that there are two ways we can discover God’s Kingdom. The man who found the treasure hidden in a field stumbled upon it. He accidentally found it as he was going about his daily life. He was not intentionally searching for treasure. Have you ever been going about your daily business when you too stumbled upon something of value? Have you ever seen or heard God when you were not looking for or listening for Him? I know a fellow who when he was sixteen years old went to hear Handel’s Messiah. He said he had no sense of going to the concert for anything more holy than enjoying Handel’s composition. While he was sitting listening, to his surprise, God manifested Himself to him in a sudden, unexpected and powerful way. He had an experience of God which confirmed for him God’s power and love. He said he felt the warmth of God’s total acceptance and love envelop him. Sometimes God encounters people when they are not looking for Him. Once I heard a speaker from South Bend tell of his encounter with the Living Lord. He was a dangerous criminal and was traveling to Michigan to kill a man. On the way the Holy Spirit came to him, prevented the murder, and transformed the man from hood to holy man. It is wise to be open to discovering the presence and power of God when you least expect Him to come.
Another way we can know the will of God, and be encountered by His presence and power is like the merchant who searches for the finest pearl, finds it, sells everything and buys the pearl. We can find God after a long, intentional search. We find God when we expect to find Him. We can so live our lives that we look for Him in our daily lives and discover Him. Much of the life of a disciple involves the conscious and intentional search for the things of God. While sudden, unexpected experiences of the power and presence of God do happen, many other experiences come when we search with expectation. Jesus teaches, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).” He also tells us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).” Sometimes living as a disciple is like being a gold prospector. A prospector searches diligently over the fields, hills, mountains and streams for gold. They endure hardships in their search. They don’t let the dead ends discourage them but keep on searching. In our search for the gold of the Kingdom, Jesus assures us that if we seek we will find. Don’t be discouraged. Walk with expectation and hope. I am always surprised at discoveries I make as I read the Bible. Even though I have experience in reading and studying the Bible, I always discover more and more. That’s why I encourage you to read the Bible daily. As you read the Bible, you will know the will of God. There is great joy in learning and doing God’s will.
People seek power. Are you seeking power? In and of itself power is not bad. We need power to live and be the people of God. What kind of power are you seeking? Is it the power that comes from money and material possessions? God offers you real power—the power that comes from the Holy Spirit. God gives us power to be His people. This kind of power does not come from the world. It comes only from a generous and loving God. This is the power that frees people, not enslaves them. Believers possess the Holy Spirit, power from on high.
While God does come to us when we do not expect Him, if we intentionally and consciously seek His presence and power we are more likely to find it. Sometimes people are taking a little walk in the fields or hills and stumble upon something valuable. Once I found a ten dollar bill in a parking lot snowdrift. However, more often those who find treasure are the ones who expect to find it and make a conscious and intentional effort to discover it. When it comes to the things of God, are you stumbling around? That’s okay. However, when you make time for prayer, for Bible reading and study and for worship, you will discover more and more of God. Such a discovery comes when you ask God for His Spirit and receive the power from on high with joy. Will you consciously and intentionally seek the will of God this week? Will you read your Bible? Will you set time aside for prayer? Will you participate in a Bible study? Jesus gives us hope and confidence as He tells us that those who seek will find. May God be gracious to you and surprise you with His power and presence this week.
Sermon Preached by CH (COL) Michael W. Malone
at Veterans Memorial Chapel
on 29 January 2024