Pastor Kirk

Notes from Scio Community Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Parable of the Net, 23 August 2015

Matthew 13:47-58

Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Big Idea: Judgment Day is coming for all of us. Are you ready?

Tension

Life is filled with tension.

Should I talk or be quiet?
Spend or save?
Laugh or cry?
Work or play?

Of course the answer to all of the above is “yes.”

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)

Pastor Andy Stanley has famously said while we often seek to eliminate tension as a problem to solve, some tensions are merely to be managed. We must embrace the “both/and” rather than the “either/or.” Frequently the tension is good.
Last year we did a series entitled, “Covenant & Kingdom.” God invites us into relationship with Himself, welcoming His children in covenant. He also challenges us to be involved in His Kingdom activity. The tension is good.

Today we conclude our series on the parables of Matthew 13. Like the parable of the weeds, it exposes a tension between extremes much like the wheat and the weeds, the good and the bad. How do we deal with the tension? How do we live in the tension?

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like…(Matthew 13:47a)

Again Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven. Notice He doesn’t say this is what heaven is like, but rather the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not a place; it is not the kingdom in heaven but the kingdom of heaven, wherever the rule and reign of God takes place. On a related note, the Bible doesn’t teach the end of this world, but rather the end of the age.

We live in the in-between, between the now and the not yet. It can be awkward. This week I was with a group of pastors and the subject of healing came up. Does God heal today? One pastor said, “God always heals. Someday we will have new bodies with no sickness, death, or disease.” While it is true that someday God will heal, sometimes He heals our present bodies in our present life…but not always. Why not? I don’t fully understand.

What I have learned in our daughter’s journey is that although God did not heal her in the way we wanted or the timing we wanted, she is more fully alive today than ever before, filled with faith, peace and joy, and this past week she was not only walking but swam for the first time in about three years at the beach! Praise God! The kingdom of heaven is so present in her life and I’m thrilled to see it daily. Once again, thank you for your prayers and support of her and our family. God does answer prayer!

"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. (Matthew 13:47)

Have you ever fished with a net?

There are many different fishing methods. The most common today probably involves a pole, line, hook, and bait. The bait goes on the hook which is on the line which is on the pole and the bait is cast into the water to attract hungry fish.

A variation on this is fly fishing, made famous in the movie
A River Runs Through It in 1999. My understanding is instead of the bait gently resting below the surface of the water, it moves above it.

A family legend has it that my cousin developed a unique way to fish…at Greenfield Village. He saw some nice fish in one of the ponds, attracted the fish with popcorn, and smacked them with his wallet before removing them from the water! I don’t recommend this action as it is cause for removal from the park!

In all of the mentioned methods of fishing, the goal is to catch one, nice fish. If the fisherman—or fisherwoman—is unsatisfied with the result, the fish is tossed back into the water and work begins again on finding a suitable fish.

Jesus’ parable describes a different type of fishing. A dragnet is placed in the water and multiple fish are caught at once.

"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. (Matthew 13:47)

In most of my fishing expeditions, the thought of catching even one, small fish is exhilarating since usually I catch nothing. I can’t imagine multiple fish, let alone multiple fish at once!

This type of net used to be the most important fishing method. The net was “shaped like a long 750 to 1,000 foot wall, upwards of 25 feet high at the center, and 5 feet high at the ends. The foot-rope was weighted with sinkers, while the head-rope floated with attached corks, enabling the net wall to be dragged toward shore by both ends, trapping fish inside.”*

*Wilkins, Michael J. (2009-05-26). The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew (p. 489). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. (Matthew 13:47-48)

Like the wheat and the weeds, the good and bad fish are taken together and then separated. For a season, the good and bad coexist. They are not quarantined. This explains much of the tension in our world. Despite the desires of some to escape from reality and create a utopian society apart from sin and evil, it is inescapable.

"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)

Surely Jesus didn’t say this! Jesus is all about love and happiness, right? People have tried to rationalize away these words, but I think Jesus meant what He said. Good and bad may coexist, but Judgment Day will separate them. The destination of the wicked is described as a blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

John MacArthur notes, “Jesus spoke more of hell than any of the prophets or apostles did-perhaps for the reason that its horrible truth would be all but impossible to accept had not the Son of God Himself absolutely affirmed it. It had special emphasis in Jesus’ teaching from the beginning to the end of His earthly ministry. He said more about hell than about love. More than all other teachers in the Bible combined, He warned men of hell, promising no escape for those who refused His gracious, loving offer of salvation.”

This is a warning, friends. Jesus never said all roads lead to heaven. In fact, He said

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Jesus did not say everyone goes to heaven when they die. He said essentially we choose in this life whether we want to spend eternity with God or apart from God in the next life.

The thing about warnings is they can be ignored but the consequences are the same.

This past week was the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf. I heard a woman tell of the decision her and her husband made to ignore the warnings. They stayed in their house, the storms came, the roof crashed upon them, her husband beside her did not survive, and she found herself in a tree clinging to her life for six hours. Six hours in a tree! I wonder how many times she thought, “I should have listened to the warnings.”

For two thousand years—or more—God has been issuing warnings, yet so many ignore them. Friends, don’t ignore this warning. I’m not saying this to scare you but merely to warn you—Judgment Day is coming. The good fish and bad fish will be separated.

As a good fish, it can be frustrating to see the bad fish doing bad things without justice, but justice is coming. Right now all are receiving mercy, but someday all will receive justice.

But just a moment. I said, “As a good fish.” The reality is we’re all bad fish! John wrote

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, His standard of perfection…which is why we need grace! We need sanctification, the process of becoming like Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to strengthen us when are tempted and resist the devil. We need forgiveness so we can forgive others. We need love so we can love.

We’re all bad fish but the gospel is we don’t remain bad fish. Jesus is LORD and as we submit to His Lordship and follow Him we are transformed. We
can change!

Another Parable?

The thirteenth chapter of Matthew continues…

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Matthew 13:51-52)


Earlier they had no clue what Jesus meant by the parables! The disciples will teach what Jesus taught them, both the ancient scriptures and HIs modern parables and teaching. They have received a treasure from Jesus they are to pass on to future generations of disciples, including us. They are to know, experience, and teach the kingdom.

Today we are ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven, the greatest treasure of this world, and each day we should repeatedly give thanks for the incredible value of this gift that we handle, our source of true joy.

Final Words

The thirteenth chapter of Matthew concludes…

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:53-58)


Some people don’t know Jesus. Others think they know Him too well! He’s nothing special, just Joe’s son.

Jesus once asked His friend, “Who do people say that I am?” People had many views of Jesus then…and they still do today.

He’s a prophet.
He’s a teacher.
He’s a radical.
He’s a nice man.
He’s God but not human.
He’s human but not God.

Jesus declared in word and deed both His humanity and deity. He is fully man and fully God. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the only way to the Father. He died and rose again. He is alive today, preparing a place for us.

We don’t have time to unpack this last verse, but unbelief limited the power of God. Remember, faith is not merely something in your head. It requires action. Could it be that our lives lack faith and, therefore, God’s power is limited?

So What?

1. We all need grace. We’re all bad fish, made good not by our actions but the actions of Jesus. It’s not what we do that makes us good fish but what Jesus has done. Hallelujah!

2. We need to warn the bad fish about Judgment Day. It is coming whether people deny it or not. Ignoring hurricane warnings does not stop the storm.

3. It’s easy to miss Jesus. Familiarity breeds contempt.

Michael Wilkins writes, “Rejection of God’s gospel message through his prophets has not ceased. Much of the secularist Western world is also familiar with Jesus. They pride themselves on being ultramodern or postmodern and cannot conceive how such an ancient message is relevant to our world. Jesus is like a comfortable old shoe that they can sing about at Christmas, but he isn’t serviceable for everyday life.”

One reason we gather each week is to be reminded of God’s amazing grace so it can transform us and those around us. We need to get Him out of the little box we call “Sunday morning Messiah” or “historical figure” or “SOS when I’m in trouble” and recognize King Jesus as LORD, 24/7/365.

Credits

Some ideas from
The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins, Zondervan.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Parable of the Pearl, 16 August 2015

Matthew 13:45-46

Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Big Idea: Jesus gave up everything for us.

Introduction

Today we continue our series on the parables of Jesus, timeless stories Jesus used to challenge, instruct, and provoke. Many were about the kingdom of heaven, sometimes referred to as the kingdom of God. As we are in that space between heaven and earth, between the past and the future, in the now and the not yet, we long for heaven to touch earth, for signs of God’s rule and reign breaking in amidst the rhetoric of Obama, Clinton, Bush, and Trump!

Perhaps the central theme of Jesus’ legendary teaching was the kingdom. His early message was

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17b)

Jesus taught his followers to pray

…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

Last week we looked at the first of twin parables about selling and buying.

“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)

A hidden treasure is found. This week’s parable is slightly different.

“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)

The merchant is searching for something special. He’s on a quest. Nothing is lost. Nothing is hidden. He is a hunter!

How many of you are hunters?

  • deer
  • fish
  • bargains
  • shoes

My hunting experience is rather slim! I once shot a CD out of a tree. That’s it!

Perhaps when you hunt, you’re not exactly sure what you’re hunting for, but you’ll know it when you find it!

I do remember a different kind of hunt I undertook in 1978. I was nine years old, began following sports, and started a baseball card collection. Topps created a set of 726 cards. I would go to the store, buy a back of cards, carefully open it like a Wonka bar possibly containing a golden ticket, and admired the precious cards, hoping for a superstar like Reggie Jackson, a rookie card like Eddie Murray, or players of my favorite teams, the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. To this day, I cherish those cards, including the rookie cards of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. But there’s one card in the set which I hunted for more than Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan, or even my all-time favorite player, Mike Schmidt. His name is Mike Cubbage.

Have you ever heard of Mike Cubbage? Even most baseball fans wouldn’t know he played third base for the Minnesota Twins. His card value is listed among the “commons,” today valued at less than a dollar, but I would’ve payed most any price for his card…because after tearing open dozens—maybe hundreds—of packs, I had 725 of the 726 card set and I was missing one card: Mike Cubbage.

I would’ve done just about anything for that Mike Cubbage baseball card! I didn’t have the Internet, a neighborhood hobby store, or even a large network of baseball card-collecting friends to assist me in finding this treasure. I could only buy more packs of cards, at 20 cents each, hoping to see the only face I had yet to see behind the red wax.

And then the moment came. Those glasses! The scuffed batting helmet! The baby blue Twins uniform. I held that piece of cardboard in my hand as if it were a million dollar bill! The hunt was over!

The Bible never spoke of baseball cards, but pearls were among the most valuable items on the planet.

Pearls

Pearls are a fascinating treasure. Wikipedia describes them this way:

A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a clam, a pearl is composed of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes (baroque pearls) occur. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries. Because of this, pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable and valuable.

Pearls are mentioned several times in the Bible. Keep in mind many in the Bible had never seen a pearl as they were rare, a sign of beauty, wealth and extravagance. Paul cautioned God-fearing women in their display.

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, (1 Timothy 2:9)

This does not mean women should never wear pearls, but simply they are valuable.

One of the most vivid images of pearls is found in Revelation in the description of the city of New Jerusalem.

The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass. (Revelation 21:21)

Can you imagine? Wow!

Suffice it to say, pearls are precious. They are beautiful.

“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)

Selling all he had. I was reminded last Sunday of a man challenged by Jesus to sell all he had.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:17-23)

We could stop there. The man was unwilling to sacrifice earthly treasure for heavenly treasure. He valued his wealth over the kingdom of God. This is still true today. In my experience it is the rich who think they have no need for God, while the poor recognize their lack and are often more willing to surrender what little they have for the things of God. This passage makes many of us uncomfortable, doesn’t it? We hope Jesus never asks
us to sell everything…and give it to the poor. How would that work? Where would we live? What would we wear? How would we get on Facebook?

Mark continues…

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:24-31)

For what would you sell everything? A hot spouse? Your children? Eternal life? Jesus?

“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)

Merchants have money to buy goods to sell for a profit. Of course, if you sell everything for one item, your inventory becomes rather small! One interpretation of this parable is the sinner as merchant and Christ is the pearl, the sinner sells all he has to buy Christ. There’s a problem, though, because sinners don’t look for salvation. They also can’t sell all they have because salvation is not for sale, it’s a gift.

My best understanding of this parable is the merchant is Jesus. He left His home in heaven to come to earth. He died for sinners, giving up everything. He became poor.

Jesus was made sin for us. He was wounded for our transgressions. He put His white robe of righteousness around us and our sin. He makes us white as snow—white as pearls! Impurities made pure. We are HIs workmanship created in Christ Jesus. He sees us as we will be someday without spot or blemish. He sold all He had to gain the church, the Bride. When He shall appear, we shall be like Him.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

You are precious, friends, not because of who you are, but because of Who’s you are. Jesus gave everything—even HIs own life—for you and for me. It’s outrageous. It’s incredible. It’s amazing. It’s grace.

I have about 100,000 baseball cards collected since childhood. That sounds like a lot, and my collection is probably worth a few thousand dollars, but I would gladly sell them all to buy one card…a 1910 Honus Wagner. The rarest of all baseball cards is valued at $2.8 million.

Of course $2.8 million is nothing compared to eternal life, peace with God, reconciliation with the Creator, forgiven sins, endless hope, and unconditional love. As great as my love is for God, it pales in comparison to His love for us. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Parable of the Hidden Treasure, 9 August 2015

Matthew 13:44

Series Overview:
this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Big Idea: You are a treasure to God. God wants to be your treasure.

Introduction

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word treasure?

For some it may be the quest of the Goonies, that group of kids in the 1985 movie.

For others it might be a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean.

If your home caught on fire and you could take one non-living thing, what would you take? Why?

Treasure is a great word. Treasure Island. Treasure chest. Treasure hunt. Oh boy!

We’re in the middle of a series on the parables from the thirteenth chapter of the book of Matthew. Jesus loved to tell stories. In fact, last week we briefly read

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the
creation of the world.” (Matthew 13:34-35)

These are strong words! He spoke nothing to the crowds without using parables or stories.

It’s important to note these stories were loaded. They were intentional. They were dangerous and offensive and elicited a response. Jesus was not an entertainer filling time during lunch break. He was a revolutionary storyteller.

We mentioned last week most of the parables are not interpreted for us. They don’t read like the Ten Commandments and, therefore, we must humbly attempt to extract their original meaning and then bring it into our current context and apply it.
When we come to verse 44, Jesus has left the crowd and gone into a house where His disciples ask Him to explain the parables.

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” (Matthew 13:36)

We looked at His explanation of the weeds two weeks ago. Then we come to today’s text:

“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)

Jesus is again teaching His disciples about the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. It is the rule and reign of Christ. The bulk of Jesus’ teachings were about the kingdom of heaven—what happens when heaven touches earth and God’s divine plan is executed on our planet.

Jesus taught on the kingdom.
Jesus ushered the kingdom upon the earth.
The kingdom is here now…and also not yet! We are experiencing aspects of it in 2015, but it has not yet been fully realized.

Perhaps it’s like the Detroit Lions. They are a football team. They have many players and coaches. They workout, individually and together. But people can’t fully experience the Detroit Lions until their first exhibition game on August 13…and yet it’s not until their first regular season game on September 13 that they will be fully actualized.

Jesus came to our planet and gave us glimpses of the future. He taught what it means to be truly human. His vision was one of ultimate human flourishing. Yet clearly His rule and reign on earth is not fully realized today. But it’s coming. And it’s also now.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. (Matthew 13:44a)

Why would someone hide a treasure? There were no bank safety deposit boxes then!

Do you have hidden treasure? Where is it hidden?!

Would you hide a treasure in a field?
Jesus is saying the kingdom—His rule and reign—is like hidden treasure. It is real but not visible. It is intentional but not known. Someone hid a treasure in a field.

“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)

A man finds the treasure. How? Perhaps he was a worker in the field, digging up dirt.

When we were in the Dominican Republic we did a lot of digging…every morning. We found some hidden treasure. Actually we found quite a lot! We unearthed clothing, bottles, trash, …ok, nothing of any real value! It was rather startling, though, to find various things under my shovel besides dirt and rocks!


Have you ever found a treasure? One of my favorite Christmas gifts as a kid was a metal detector. I had visions of finding great treasures at the beach. I think the only thing I ever found with it was pop cans!

This man finds the hidden treasure in a field and digs it up…NO! He hides it! He doesn’t want anyone to know about it, but he’s excited. In his joy he goes and sells everything he had to buy the field.

Last year there was great commotion around here about hidden treasure in the form of oil and natural gas. Our church was among many landowners in Scio Township offered money for our property—or at least access to what’s under the ground, the mineral rights. Eventually the land was deemed unsuitable for profitable drilling, but you better believe property values would escalate if oil was found.

In Jesus’ parable the field suddenly had extra value—to the man who knew what it contained. Can you imagine selling everything you have to buy a field? If the field contained enough treasure it would be a no-brainer!

What Does It Mean?

Jesus’ message is for each of us to wander in the field of strangers, search for treasure, sell everything we have, and buy the land. This is His strategy for real estate development, right? Hardly!

To fully understand Jesus’ parable we must understand the context.

Jesus is Jewish. The Jews are awaiting a Messiah (who is right in front of them!).

Most believe the field is the world and the buried treasure is the nation of Israel and/or the Church, the people of God. We don’t live underground in a box, but in many ways we are out of sight. Like the yeast we discussed last Sunday, growth is often slow and invisible.

What did Jesus do save/redeem us? He gave everything He had—His very self! Jesus bought Israel and us with His blood.

So What?

I want to suggest two responses to this passage. First, recognize how much God loves us. We are a treasure to Him. It seems crazy but from Genesis to Revelation it is clear God loves His children. He went to the most extraordinary lengths to prove it, sending Jesus to not only visit but die for us.

Second, what is your treasure? What would you sell everything for?

I remember multiple occasions when Heather and I talked to doctors about various treatment options for our sick child. Money was no object when it meant our child’s health. At one point we considered selling our house to pay the medical bills.

What is your treasure? Who is your treasure? The interesting thing about the treasure in this story is it is hidden. The kingdom of God is somewhat hidden. Salvation and the righteousness of the kingdom are greater treasures than anything the world has to offer.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold (though I often want silver and gold, too!).

Many of us are so familiar with God, so familiar with the gospel that Jesus is Lord, so familiar with the kingdom we forget their true value. The kingdom is the greatest treasure we can ever find and we must give thanks for this precious gift and joy.

What is your treasure? Who is your treasure? Paul wrote to the church in Philippi:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

Paul’s ready to trade everything for Christ and His Kingdom.

What do you truly desire? What’s your treasure? How do your actions show it?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast, 2 August 2015

Matthew 13:31-35

Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Big Idea: The kingdom of God is advancing…whether you see it or not.

Introduction

Every year at this time the news is lit up—literally—with reports of wildfires. California is especially vulnerable this year because they’ve been having severe drought. Nearly one million acres have been destroyed this year by wildfires…some caused by negligently discarded cigarette.

It only takes a spark to get a fire going.

The Kingdom

Jesus devoted much of His teachings to the kingdom of heaven. We began our Parables series looking at the sower. Last week we discussed the weeds and wheat. Today we look at two parables that Jesus does not interpret for us, yet two similar stories which have much to teach us today.


Our first parable today is about mustard. Do you like mustard? What do you do with mustard?

Mustard is a condiment. It has no vitamins. It’s one of the few things you can get for free at a ballgame, though it’s hardly satisfying on its own.

Mustard comes from…the grocery store! It comes from a tiny seed. We don’t commonly see seeds—aside from possibly pumpkin or sunflower seeds—but mustard seeds were known in Jesus’ day.

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

Mustard comes from mustard plants. Some have criticized Jesus, saying there are seeds smaller than mustard seeds, but that wasn’t then point. In biblical culture it was known to be the smallest, yet it grew tremendously.

There’s a bit more you should know about mustard seeds. Virtually all seeds produce plants that grow, but according to Pliny the Elder, a Roman author in the first century,

“Mustard… with its pungent taste and fiery effect is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it is sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”

Mustard grows big and fast.

John Dominic Crossan states, "The mustard plant is dangerous even when domesticated in the garden, and is deadly when growing wild in the grain fields. And those nesting birds, which may strike us as charming, represented to ancient farmers a permanent danger to the seed and to the grain. The point, in other words, is not just that the mustard plant starts as a proverbially small seed and grows into a shrub of three, four, or five feet in height. It is that it tends to take over where it is not wanted, that it tends to get out of control, and that it tends to attract birds within cultivated areas, where they are not particularly desired. And that, said Jesus, is what the Kingdom of God was like. Like a pungent shrub with dangerous take-over properties (
Jesus, A Revolutionary Biography, page 65).

The kingdom is “like a pungent shrub with dangerous take-over properties.”

What would make the kingdom dangerous? It is a threat to satan and the world system. Last week we said the wheat and weeds grow together. Good and evil grow together. The kingdom of God has explosive potential to change people, communities, and even nations.

One writer said this:

Think again though about the people who followed Jesus and the multitudes who lived in the margins of society who had their fields taken away from them by the Roman occupation and the corrupt leaders of the Jewish Temple. “The Kingdom of God will take over where it is not wanted. God shall break into this mess and challenge the oppressors?” the peasants must have pondered with one another. No wonder they followed Jesus.

In the west, we seem to hear only bad news. The church is in decline. People are abandoning the faith. Atheism is on the rise. Young people are less interested in the things of God. At least this is what we are often told.

Perhaps the weeds are growing strong in the west, but the kingdom of God is forcefully advancing around the world.

It took nearly 2,000 years for the gospel to spread from the early church to nearly half the world’s population. In 1900, 45.7 percent of people everywhere were aware of the gospel, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. More than 100 years later, that number has grown to more than 70 percent.

There’s plenty of work to do, but the kingdom of God is advancing like a mustard seed.

By the way, don’t forget two weeks ago we mentioned the birds that came and took away the seeds that were sowed. We have a real enemy, satan, who wants to steal, kill and destroy the mustard seeds and the kingdom of God.

Jesus and His kingdom were a threat to the principalities and powers of His time…and ours.

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:33)

Some have called this the key parable of the chapter. Interestingly, yeast or leaven is always used in the Bible as a symbol of evil. You may recall the importance of unleavened bread in Jewish life, including the Passover.

Yeast is a fungi that multiplies rapidly through fermentation. Bread rises because of yeast. We usually think negatively about fermentation and fungi, yet Jesus reverses the meaning of yeast to symbolize the positive, hidden movement of the kingdom of heaven in our world.

Today, much of the kingdom of heaven is hidden from our view, much like dough slowly rising. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. In fact, the most radical kingdom activity, heart transformation, begins hidden from our view. It sometimes takes years before the seeds of faith take root, before the effects of the yeast are visible in someone’s life.

It’s amazing how something so small like a cigarette butt can produce such a large wildfire.

It’s amazing how something so small like a mustard seed can produce such a large plant.

It’s amazing how something so small like a bit of yeast can produce such a large loaf of bread.

Michael Wilkins summarizes, “The mustard seed emphasizes an inconspicuous beginning of the kingdom of heaven with its growth into external greatness, while the yeast suggests its inconspicuous permeation and transformation.”

God has a way of doing great things with the small. Jesus Himself may be the greatest example. The Jews believed the Messiah would enter our world with power and greatness. He surprised them. In fact, Jesus’ first visit to our planet was so different than what was expected that most Jews are still waiting for the first arrival of the Messiah. Jesus came to earth as a small baby, virtually unknown except for a few visitors. Yet despite humble beginnings, Christ changed the world.

The prophet Zechariah famously wrote

Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the LORD that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?” (Zechariah 4:10)

It doesn’t look like much, but just wait!

Our text for today concludes with these words:

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 13:34-35)

There has never been a story teller like Jesus for He not only entertained, He spoke truth, His is the truth, and His teachings demanded a response. He repeatedly said, “He who has ears, let him hear” and said those who hear would be blessed. The spiritually alive would become His disciples. The spiritually dead would turn away, some even yelling, “Crucify Him.”

As kingdom people we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (5:13–16), regardless of what is politically correct and popular. The kingdom of God is advancing…whether you see it or not.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Parable of the Weeds, 26 July 2015

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Big Idea: good and evil coexist in our world—for now!

Introduction

Last week we began our series Parables, a look at several stories Jesus told as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel—good news—or biography of Jesus.

Lectio Divina: Matthew 13:24-30

Last week we talked about a man who sowed seed. The success of the harvest was not dependent upon the sower, the seed, the water, or the sun, but rather by the soil. Bad soil produced bad crops and good soil yielded a great harvest.

As we continue reading Matthew chapter thirteen, Jesus continues to talk about sowing seed, this time seed that apparently lands in good soil…but there is a problem. Its origins go back to the Garden of Eden—in more ways than one!

In the first chapters of Genesis, Adam and Eve are enjoying God, the Garden, one another, and work. Yes, they enjoyed work.

They were punished for their disobedience, listening to the enemy, the serpent, satan, the devil. They ate the forbidden fruit, and they suffered the consequences.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

At the risk of oversimplifying the punishment, God allowed weeds to grow!

I hate weeds. Hate is a strong word, yet weeds were the bane of my existence as a child. You may have heard me share stories about pulling weeds in our garden and yard. I’m sure my mom would disagree but it seemed as if my sister and I spent half of our summer days pulling weeds in 100 degree heat, sun beating down, no water until dinner, no rest until bedtime, and no vacation until winter break! I love you, mom!

Obviously I had no such experience, but I do vividly remember moments—if not hours—pulling weeds, wanting to curse Adam and Eve for eating the fruit and causing me great hardship!

Weeds are nasty. I dare say weeds are evil.

As we will see from our text today, had I studied the Bible more as a child, perhaps I would’ve discovered this passage and used it as an excuse to not pull weeds!

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. (Matthew 13:24-26)

First, this is a parable, a story of what the kingdom of
heaven is like, a picture of the future. We are all so curious about heaven. Where is it? Who will be there? When do we get to go? What does it look like? Do all dogs go there?!

Jesus says a man sowed good seed in his field. Good seed produces…good crops, in this case wheat (my apologies to those who are gluten-free!). We can assume the soil is good, but unfortunately the man has an enemy. The enemy goes to the trouble of sowing in the same field, but instead of sowing seeds, he sows weeds.

Why? Weeds grow naturally. I have a garden full of them to prove it!

Growth takes time. It takes time for babies to grow into adults, for seedlings to grow into big trees, and for seeds to grow into crops. In the early days following planting, it’s difficult to know what is planted…or where. Many gardeners use popsicle sticks or other markers to show above ground what is below.

In Jesus’ parable, the wheat and weeds appear together.

The world is getting better. The wheat is growing.
The world is getting worse. The weeds are growing.


“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ (Matthew 13:27-28)


This is a great question. I’m sure I asked it many times of my mom. Do you
really want us to pull the weeds? Wouldn’t it be better for us to swim in the neighbor’s pool and not get our clothes dirty?!

No parable or analogy is perfect. As a general rule, pulling weeds helps the crops grow. This explains why I’ve grown so few crops in our garden over the years; we don’t spend enough time pulling weeds, they rob the crops of nutrients, and sometimes even choke them, winding their way around the stems of our plants. Weeds are evil!

The answer really is surprising.

“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ” (Matthew 13:29-30)

Jesus seems to be saying two things:

  • Pulling weeds risks pulling the wheat.
  • At harvest time, the wheat and weeds will be separated and have very different outcomes

Do you understand this parable? If you’ve read this chapter, you have an unfair advantage, one unavailable to Jesus’ disciples. A few verses later we get the explanation.

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” (Matthew 13:36)

The more I read the Bible, the more I understand human nature and realize I’m not alone in my cluelessness! There’s so much of the Bible I don’t fully understand, yet that prompts me to pursue it all the more.

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (Matthew 13:37-39)

Jesus begins by identifying the two teams! Jesus sows good seed—the people of the kingdom—into the world. The devil sows his people into the world, the weeds. The harvest is coming and angels will harvest the people of the kingdom and the people of the evil one.

God is real. The evil one is also real.

Most people prefer to talk about God than about satan. More people believe in angels than demons. They’re all a part of reality.

If you don’t believe me, last night “an 8½-foot-tall bronze monument featuring a goat-headed Satan” was to be unveiled in Detroit by The Satanic Temple. The monument, a “1½-ton Baphomet, which is backed by an inverted pentagram and flanked by statues of two young children gazing up at the creature, shows Satan with horns, hooves, wings and a beard.” (
freep.com)

So much for underground! For the record,

“The Satanic Temple Detroit chapter founder Jex Blackmore has said the group doesn't worship Satan but does promote individuality, compassion and views that differ from Christian and conservative beliefs.” (freep.com)

As I’ve said before, the essence of satanism is the worship of self, something that seems to be our national—if not world—religion!

Talk of heaven and hell, God and satan, angels and demons makes many uncomfortable, but whoever said life and reality were to be comfortable?

Here’s what Jesus said:

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-41)

I don’t like the thought of hell any more than the next guy, but these are Jesus’s words. Heaven is for real. Hell is for real. There will be a separation of the wheat and weeds, the sheep and the goats, those who follow Jesus and those who follow their own desires, those who worship God and those who worship themselves.

Which are you?

The world really is getting better.
The world really is getting worse.

A day is coming when we will all be judged for the way we lived our days on this earth. Today really matters. There’s no guarantee of tomorrow.

This past week Heather and I attended one of the most gut-wrenching gatherings we’ve ever experienced, the funeral of a five month-old baby who died in his sleep. Like all funerals, it was a reminder of how fragile life is and how each day is truly a gift. They say you are not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready? Are your loved ones ready?

The reason Christians aren’t taken to heaven upon following Jesus is there is work to do here on earth. Light and darkness coexist. Good and evil coexist. One is always in tension with the other. Let’s make sure we are in the light of Jesus and reflecting that light to our dark world today. Tomorrow might be too late.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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