Sermons, Uncategorized

The Hidden Treasure

“Hidden Treasure” by Eugene Burnand

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“[Jesus said:] “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” (Matthew 13:44).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Hidden treasure. Who among us has not dreamed at least one time of finding hidden treasure? A map that leads us to the buccaneer’s buried booty. An old chest covered with dust in the attic of an abandoned farmhouse. The valuable antique discovered in the contents of a box purchased at an estate auction for a dollar. We’re captivated by stories of hidden treasure.

Jesus tells a story of hidden treasure and He puts you and me right in the middle of it. “The Parable of the Hidden Treasure,” is one of seven parables in Matthew 13. In each, Jesus describes an aspect of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Why do You speak… in parables?” Jesus explained, “To you has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (vv. 10-12).

The kingdom of heaven is a secret in that it is beyond our sinful human comprehension. It is unlike any kingdom on earth. No human words or descriptions can describe its glories. That is why Jesus used parables to describe it. When Jesus told His parables, a separation took place among the hearers. For those who heard and accepted His Word in faith, the parables helped them to understand the deeper truths of His kingdom. On the other hand, for those who rejected Christ, the parables became a means for obscuring the truth. Their calloused hearts prevented them from understanding. In this respect, parables served a purpose beyond that of the direct sayings of Jesus.

We must constantly remind ourselves that it is precisely His work of redemption that Jesus had in mind as He told His parables. In fact, when we read the words, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” we might paraphrase them by saying, “When Christ is active redemptively among men, this work is like…” The kingdom of heaven belongs to the plan of salvation our heavenly Father designed from all eternity centered on Jesus Christ.

Although we often think of this kingdom as something in the future, the kingdom of heaven is a present reality. The parables do not describe something that just goes on in heaven. They were designed to tell what goes on here and now among men when God is busy re-establishing Himself as King.

In “The Parable of  the Hidden Treasure,” the kingdom of heaven is compared to a thing—a treasure. A treasure is something that is highly prized, valuable, eagerly sought after. This term is used so that we might think of all the precious things in the kingdom: e.g., righteousness, pardon, peace, salvation, eternal life.

This treasure was hidden in a place where no one would expect it to be—buried in an open field. In the Near East, great treasure, such as gold and jewels, was often hidden, due to war, changes of rulers and such. Men of wealth divided their riches into three parts: one for doing business, another part converted into precious stones with which they could flee if necessary, and a third part buried in a safe place for when they returned.

The kingdom of heaven is hidden in a similar way. Although it is in plain sight, not everyone is able to see it. It is seen only through the eyes of faith. Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed nor will they say, ‘Lord, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:20-21). Even though the kingdom of heaven was present among them in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Pharisees were not able to see it because of their unbelief. They were looking for a kingdom of power and glory, not a kingdom of the cross and humility.

But God’s hidden treasure is meant to be found by us. He did not hide His treasure far off in the heavens where no human being could even come near it, but in a common, lowly place, where it could indeed be found. The kingdom is hidden right in plain sight. But it cannot be seen by the earthly wise, or the proud and self-sufficient, but only by the humble and helpless.

God hid the treasure in His Son. He hid it in His Word. He hid it in the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. It is those gifts that give us the child-like faith to see the priceless treasure of the Gospel. As Jesus had prayed, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25).

It is only those who despair of their own efforts and accept God’s gift of salvation with the faith of children, who are shown this wonderful treasure. As we read in Proverbs 2:1-5, “My son, if you receive My words and treasure up My commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

The kingdom of heaven outweighs in value everything else. Just as the man in the parable who finds the treasure will go and sell everything he has in order to take possession of it; the man who understands the value of the kingdom of heaven will, with great joy, part with all he owns. As Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save His life for My sake will lose it, but whoever loses His life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).

You would think that anyone who found such a treasure would indeed be willing to give up everything he had to obtain it. But can we really do that on our own? Can we really give up everything for the treasure of the kingdom?

Think about the rich young man who asked Jesus what He must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus looked at him and loved him. “You lack one thing;” He said. “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21). The young man went away sad, for he had great possessions.

Treasure in heaven is the gift of eternal life, or salvation. It cannot be earned by self-denial or giving of one’s material goods. The cost is complete surrender to Jesus Christ. In giving away his wealth, the young man would have removed the last obstacle that kept him from trusting in Jesus. But he wasn’t willing to or able.

By our old sinful nature, neither are we. You and I would rather try to hold on to the things we already have. Old Adam would rather cling to the things of this world than give up everything for the treasure. Even if we were willing and able to sell everything we have, we could not buy that treasure. It’s out of our price range. It’s too rich for my blood… or yours.

Only one man could give up everything for the treasure. Our Savior Jesus Christ, the same Jesus who embodies the kingdom of heaven in His person and work. You see, Jesus is the man who found the hidden treasure in the field.

A common feature in all the kingdom parables is that the central character always represents (more generally) God or (specifically) Jesus. The kingdom of heaven concerns what God is doing to reestablish His reign in His fallen creation through Jesus of Nazareth. It is only Jesus who could find the kingdom of heaven hidden in this sinful world. And once He found it, He hid it again so that He could give up everything He had to purchase that field—the world. He gave up all for that treasure.

“Hidden Treasure” by Eugene Burnand

And that means… you and I are the treasure. Despite all the appearances to the contrary, we are that treasure. That’s the way God sees us through the lens of Christ. He told the people of Israel through the prophet Moses, “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” (Deuteronomy 7:6). He declared through Malachi, “They shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up My treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (3:17-18).

Jesus unselfishly gave up His own life and bought the whole world. To claim us as His treasured possession, Christ gave up all that He had. Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, so that through His poverty we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). He willingly sacrificed everything—His power, His majesty, even His own life—to pay for the sins of the whole world. Not with silver or gold, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, Jesus purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation to be a kingdom and priests to serve God (Revelation 5:9-10). To get His treasure, Christ bought the whole field.

Obviously, the kingdom of heaven is the highest treasure. Nothing else measures up to—or even approaches—the tremendous personal value of forgiveness and peace with God. This kingdom was purchased at a great price: the death of God’s Son. Jesus willingly gave up His life to ransom a world imprisoned by sin and Satan. His work of salvation, completed at the cross and vindicated at His resurrection, is our assurance that nothing will separate us from God’s love.

This kingdom is not yet clearly visible to the world. It is not present now in all its future glory, but hidden in the simple, humble, and even among the godless and evil. That’s the way God works. The Savior came to the earth as a child. His ministry revolved around quiet service and obedience. He died the death of a criminal and outcast. But Christ’s resurrection signaled God’s acceptance of His atonement for the sins of the world. From this humble beginning, this kingdom of heaven continues to grow by God’s grace. Through ordinary means—words proclaimed, water, bread, and wine—when we are brought to faith, we are present in that kingdom here and now.

This treasure has been hidden in and among us. As the Apostle Paul writes, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). In the Near East, it was customary to conceal treasure in plain clay jars, which had little value or beauty in themselves. These would not attract attention to themselves and their precious contents. In choosing us as vessels in which to hide the kingdom of heaven, God has done the same. He has taken our ordinary, mortal bodies to hold His most precious treasure.

One day, Christ will come to reclaim His treasure. On the Last Day, our Lord will raise our bodies from death, gather all His saints, and welcome us to His eternal kingdom. As you wait for that day, always remember the great price that was paid for this treasure, living a life that reflect the tremendous value He has given to you. Joyfully tell others of this hidden treasure so that they too may participate in the kingdom of heaven.

Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy. You are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Uncategorized

Glory of Christ Hidden in the Humble

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“Palm Sunday” by Octavio Ocampo

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“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

“Behold, your king is coming to you!” Were you to hear such a glorious announcement, what would you look for?

Or to make it a little easier to imagine: Let’s suppose the president of the United States is coming to town. You pack up your family and drive to the route on which you suppose that he would travel to his speaking engagement. Your family sets up their chairs at the side of the road and you wait. Others gather, many holding welcome signs and American flags.

Time slowly passes and the excitement builds. Your son notices that the traffic has begun to thin out on the road. Police officers have started to direct traffic at intersections. A helicopter flies overhead, and you wonder if that is a sign that the president is on his way.

Ten minutes later, the road is eerily empty. Occasionally a police car zooms by with its lights flashing. The president must be on his way. He will be here soon, but not yet. The highway is empty again for a while.

Suddenly, you see two police cars in the distance coming toward you. They drive by and a swoosh of air hits you in the face. Then, far off, you make out some vehicles. The excitement builds and you think you can see…

Well, what do you think you would see? After all, this the president of the United States, and he is coming to town. You know what to expect. You have seen motorcades on television. The power, the honor, and the glory of such a prestigious office is manifested in the limousines, SUVs, law enforcement vehicles.

On this glorious day of the majestic entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, God Himself enters into His glory. The very Creator of all that is, the omnipotent power of the universe, the One who was, is, and always will be, begins His triumphal trek to His most glorious and honorable day on earth. How does He enter? Like the president of the United States? Like the conquering king of a Middle Eastern dynasty? Like an A-list celebrity on the night of the Academy Awards? No.

In our scenario with your family at the side of the road, would you expect to see the president and his motorcade drive by in a rusted-out mini-van? An old Ford Tempo? Perhaps a wood-paneled station wagon? Of course not! But how did God enter into the glory that you and I see and believe? He entered on a donkey! The prophet Zechariah announces: “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9).

This is our Savior? Why would God ride in on a donkey? Why would He do such a thing? Because this is exactly how He said He would come. God would do such a thing for the very purpose of His coming—salvation. The salvation of His people, the salvation of the world. The Righteous One would become the Unrighteous One. The Blessed One would be cursed. The Sinless One would bear our sin. The holy must become unholy to save us from our sins. The glory of God comes in Christ’s humility and servitude. He humbles Himself to take our sin and suffer the consequences of the eternal wrath of God as His own punishment.

But unbelievers and the world in which we live look for a triumphal entry. They look for limousines and well-armed motorcades. Or given the day and age of that first Palm Sunday—war horses and iron chariots, escorted by soldiers and accompanied by personal attendants. The world wrongly assumes a majestic and glorious entrance that reflects the honor and power befitting the Creator of the universe like any other powerful ruler.

The unbeliever, though, sees with his eyes and not through faith. The sinner looks and lusts for the excitement and honor found in the power of an earthly king. That is true of our Old Adam as well. We sinners want to win! We seek a popular Jesus that attracts more and more people or an eye-candy Jesus who makes us feel happy and important. But alas, this thinking is an entry not into Christ’s glory, but rather an entrance into hell. It is a road to the tomb with no chance of a resurrection into the presence of the Christ. Our sin—and our sinful nature!—is ever before us.

Yes, even we believers, who confess the suffering and death of our Lord for our sins, we, too, yearn for a Jesus of glory who would be popular and successful. We sinfully seek a kingdom builder of wealth and power and numbers so that we might have bigger churches for the sake of recognition or influence or just the simple hope of survival for a few more years. A Jesus who will make our church great again. A Jesus who will make our own lives great again. A Jesus who will return us to the glory days.

However, Jesus, the Lowly One, calls us not to glory, but to lowliness and repentance, to have the same humble mind as Jesus, who emptied Himself of His glory, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Following in our Savior’s footsteps, we carry our own crosses and bear one another’s burdens. Our new man rejoices in the glory of the lowly and humble. The believer rejoices in the poor, the sick, and the needy. The believer rejoices where only faith can see the glory of God: in suffering and death.

We poor sinners need the glory of the God who died. We need a God who suffered. We need the glory of the cross. That is the irony of the Gospel. It is a scandal to sinful thinkers. That is the hidden truth that eyes cannot see, but only faith can believe and confess. The glory of God that saves us is, ultimately, the death of God!

The glory of God that saves us is in the scandal of His conception, the humility of His birth and His life, and His suffering and endurance of the wrath of God—all of this in our place. Our sin did this to Him. Your sins, your hidden sins, your silly sins, your big sins, in fact, your entire sinful life was given to Christ. He endured what we could not. It is really insulting—shameful, even!—that God Himself gave up the holiness, power, and glory in exchange for our sinful, lowly, and suffering existence. However, there is where we see the glory of God. There is where we see the extent of His love and grace.

Well, then, how do we see the glory of God in our lives? We do not—that is, we do not see His glory. Rather faith confesses and sees the glory of God where He has told us He hides it. Our eyes do not see the glory; our faith does.

“How does that work?” you ask.

God’s Word teaches us where to see His glory. In the lowliness of this sinful world, God hides His glory. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was humble and lowly—swaddling clothes and a manger for a bed. His entry into Jerusalem was humble and lowly—riding on a donkey. His death was humble and lowly—crucifixion, the cursed death reserved for slaves and the most dangerous criminals. That is how Jesus accomplished the work of salvation—His glory hidden in humility and lowliness. In the same way, Christ’s glorious and triumphant entry into your life hides in the reality of your humble, everyday life.

God has called you according to your vocation to do what you do. He calls you to be a mother or father, a son or daughter. God calls you to be a teacher or a student, an employer or employee or retiree, a neighbor or friend. He calls you in so many ways, and you do what He has given you to do—love and care for your neighbor, that person who is in need of your love—for there is the glory of God.

“But, Pastor, it doesn’t look like the glory of God. It looks like, well, normal daily life. At best, it is mundane and routine, but it is often more draining—emotionally, mentally, and physically—sometimes, it’s more overwhelming, or just plain scary than it is glorious.”

That’s it! Now, you’re getting it! The glory of God is generally found in the in trials and troubles, in humility and servitude through your daily call. It’s not flashy or popular. It’s not big and powerful. It rarely makes the nightly news or social media. It is most often found in the normal grind of daily life. However, it is still the glory of God.

Getting the children up and ready for school reveals the glory of God. Loving your wife and caring for her needs is the glory of God. Washing clothes and changing diapers is the glory of God. Going to work and bringing home money to support your family is the glory of God. Giving your neighbor a ride to church or the grocery store is the glory of God. Praying with your neighbor who has just gotten a bad report from the doctor is the glory of God. Reading a book to your grandchildren or great-grandchildren is the glory of God. Picking up your room without making a fuss when your mother tells you is the glory of God.

How can this be? Because our Lord makes your work holy by His grace and His call for you to be His own in your Baptism. He gives you the faith that receives the holiness Jesus earned on the cross. Therefore, you are holy through faith in Christ. All the works done for your neighbor are holy and done to God’s glory.

The glory of God is seen through the eyes of faith trusting in God’s Word. As Christians, we confess our Lord and His glory in our normal, sometimes painful and hurtful life. Christians also understand that God and His glory come into our lives in the least of these Christ’s brothers—in the poor and the sick, in the lonely and in the hurting, even—and especially—in death.

Our Lord’s death on the cross is His greatest glory. There in all humility He served our most desperate need, the payment of our sins. On the triumphant day of entrance into Jerusalem, our Lord Jesus sat on a donkey in humility. In that triumphant entry, He entered the way of the cross. That entrance took Him to His most glorious moment: His death on the cross.

Through the glory of the cross, our Lord gives to us and teaches us to see His glory in the hidden reality of our faith. When we turn to our lives and see them in faith, we see the glory of God in our suffering, in our humility, and in our servitude. He calls us to love Him and others. But once again, our love for God is hidden in our love of our neighbor. When we love our neighbor, we love God.

So the love of God and His mercy come to you hidden in the waters of your Baptism and in the eating and drinking of bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood. These bring the glory of the kingdom of God to you for your salvation. Like the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they are lowly, humble, and simple means. But there is exactly where He brings us to the triumphal entry into His kingdom, in everlasting joy and blessed righteousness. Through these humble means the Lord strengthens you in faith toward Him and fervent love toward one another. By them you have forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. Indeed, through these means and for the sake of the glorious death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

This sermon is an adaptation of a sermon by Ronald R. Feurhahn, published in Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 16, Part 2, Series B, Concordia Publishing House, 2005.