The parables of the mustard seed, the hidden treasure and the pearl; the net

PARABLES OF THE MUSTARD SEED AND YEAST; THE HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE PEARL; THE NET.

 

Matthew 13v31-35; 44-46; 47-50.

 

THEME: The growth and triumph of the Kingdom of God is inevitable; Inclusion in the Kingdom brings joy and pleaure and is worth “giving up” everything for; Exclusion from the Kingdom brings anguish and punishment.

 

INTRODUCTION.

ILLUS.: In 1886 John S Pemberton, a Pharmacist from Atlanta, USA, developed a syrup. His book-keeper, one Frank Robinson, named the syrup and designed the label. It was sold as a medicinal tonic. In 1891 [5 years later] the business was bought out by Asa Griggs Chandler for the sum total of $2300. Today that business is a multi-billion dollar international company, selling its product in almost every country of the world. John S pemberton had no idea that Coca-Cola would become so popular.

Who could have guessed that such humble beginnings could result in such success!

Who could have guessed that from a motley band of 12 disciples led by a poor carpenter from the backwater of Nazareth would come body of millions of people from every nation on earth – A following that has lasted for 2000 years and is still growing, and at a faster rate than ever before.

But that is exactly how Jesus predicted the kingdom of God would grow.

1. THE PATTERN OF GROWTH OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

    [the parable of the mustard seed and the yeast] [v31-33]

 

These two parables are a pair and Jesus is conveying a truth about the KoG and each one has a slightly different emphasis. Both are about the growth of the Kingdom – the mustard seed about the outward growth and the yeast about the inward growth.

 

a. The mustard seed.

The mustard seed is not the smallest seed in the world but is it smallest proverbial /common seed of Palestine. So if a Jew of the time wanted to express smallness he would say “as small as a mustard seed”.  [1mm in diameter or 4/100ths /inch]

But even though this seed is so minute and seems insignificant it nevertheless grows into large, substantial bush or tree – averaging between 5 – 10 foot high sometimes even 15 foot. Within a season it would become sturdy enough to provide shelter for birds and shade from the heat of the sun.

Why did Jesus tell this parable? It seems probable that Jesus was, at least in part, addressing some of the doubts that were in the minds of his hearers. They had expected the KoG to come in a very powerful and dramatic way and yet when they looked at his ministry and the things he did and taught, these did not meet their expectations. Jesus said the Kingdom of God had come – had come!!! If it had, it was very small and inconsequential.

That small band of loyal followers must have thought many times how insignificant and weak they were – compared to the Jewish leaders, compared to Rome – they must have almost been in despair at times.

Where was this cosmic influence of God’s people that the prophets had talked about.

Haven’t you ever felt like that – when we look at the work we are endeavouring to do for God in this place. What significance can we have in the world. How can what we are doing have world wide implications. It just seems so ridiculous!!

Yet we, like the disciples, have the promise of Jesus in Luke 12v32:-

Do not be afraid little flock, for

your Father has been pleased

to give you the kingdom.

If what we are trying to do is Christ’s work, it does not matter how seemingly insignificant it is at first, it is bound to go forward.

Our problem is the same as the disciples – we must learn the lessons they had to learn – the kingdom of God does not come with a fanfare but is likened to the slow but sure and steady growth of a seed planted in good soil.

ILLUS.: When Wm Carey went to India in 1792 he saw litte growth in the church – But today there are 1000″s of christians in India.

When Hudson Taylor went to China in the latter part of the 19th Century it was hard work  and he saw little fruit for his labour but today the are 10’s of 1000’s of Christians in China despite Communist oppression.

 

When the kingship of Christ takes root in a person’s life the result is “change”. And that life not only changes that one life but changes and influences  the life of the family, the community etc..  and so the effects of God’s kingdom begin to be felt far and wide as more and more people are affected by God’s people. The influence is felt in all departments of human endeavour — art, science, literature, business, industry, commerce and government.

And to drive home the point about how the kingdom of God grows and how its influence is felt far and wide, Jesus tells another parable about the yeast or leaven.

b. The yeast.

 

Bread was the staple food of that time as it is still in many parts of the world. The dough was leavened not with fresh yeast but with fermented dough from the previous baking. Most people, esp. the poor, would bake their own bread at home and so the process of leaven at work and dough bubbling and rising would be well known.

The large amount [v33] was 3 satas (Gk) was equivalent to 50 lbs. – indeed a huge amount, about enough to feed 100 people.

Leaven in the Bible is usually used to speak of the influence of sin and there are are those commentators who hold that that is the meaning here. However symbols can be used to illustrate different things at different times.

EXAMPLE: “serpent”  is used to refer to Satan – in the Garden of Eden and other places. And generally throughout scripture the “serpent” symbolises or is associated with evil.  BUT in John3v14 the serpent clearly represents the son of Man – and in Matt. 10v16 we are admonished to be “as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves”

Thus leaven does not have to always mean evil and the meaning needs to be determined by the context. The whole thrust of Matt. 13 is the growth and spread of the Kingdom of God and so I hold that this is the meaning of “leaven” here.

In order for leaven to be effective it must be mixed in with the new batch of dough. There must be contact. And unless the people of God are in contact with the world in which they live they will remain ineffective.

The point of the parable is that once yeast is inserted into the dough it continues its process of fermentation until the whole batch is risen. So too, the citizen of the kingdom is to effect the whole society. Not that the world will become perfect before the return of Christ – the Bible shows clearly that that will never be, but nevertheless the goal of the believer is the full realisation of the rule of God over all.

So our purpose is not merely to get to heaven, nor is it to get others there BUT also to bring whatever thought and word and deed of whatever kind into submission to Christ and into conformity to his will.

Therefore as a member of the Kingdom of God we to actively promote causes like the abolition of slavery, human rights, the alleviation of poverty, to stand against abortion, pornography, prostitution etc…. To set examples of honesty in government, industry and commerce.

Being in these things is not non-spiritual but these are part and parcel of world evangelisation – this is not a social gospel – these are not in place of the gospel BUT part of it.

There are thousands of ways in which Christian can influence the society.

We need Christians in clubs, and schools, in sport and local authorities – we need them on the factory floor and in the board-room.

You might think “Who am I? What can I do? Who will listen to me?”   If you are where God wants you to be — doing what God wants you to do — being what God wants you to be —- then you can have a positive influence for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

The mustard seed and the leaven is an encouragement to any one who is involved in a work that seems small and insignificant. The mustard seed becomes a large tree and yeast permeate the entire batch of dough. You can make a difference.

 

2. THE PRIZE FOR ENTRY INTO THE KINGDOM

[The parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl]

a. The treasure.

 

A man in a field features many times in the parables in this chapter [Matt.13] This time, however, it is not a man who is sowing seed but a man who finds a treasure. It was quite normal in those days for people to bury there valuables, wrapped in a cloth in a secret place in the ground. Even the wealthy would do this during times of war or political uncertainty.

It is inevitable that from time to time the owner would die without telling anyone the whereabouts of his treasure. People would die suddenly or be killed when the land was overrun by invading armies. The land would change hands and this , of course, happened many times in the history of Palestine.

In the parable Jesus is talking about a man, possibly a hired labourer, who is working in the fielsd and finds such a treasure. He can claim it because the land is not his BUT he goes and sells everything he owns in order to buy the field and thus secure the treasure.

Can you imagine the sheer joy and excitement this man must have felt in discovering this treasure.

This parable portrays the KoG as something exciting and valuable. Something that brings great joy and blessing.

It is not something that is gloomy and impoverishes people. On the contrary it brings happiness and it enriches – on earth and in heaven.

I hope that this is the experience of of every Christian – sadly some Christians are protray the opposite of this. You would think that being a Christian was the most miserable existence on earth. They carry the world on their shoulders and their bottom lip is always dragging on the floor. {miserably!} I am SO happy to be a Christian!!

I am not suggesting an artificial hilarity – where we all walk about grinning like Cheshire cats.

The other important thing about this parable is that it shows that this man place on the treasure. He knew that what he possessed was well-worth giving-up in view of the surpassing value of what he had found.

Paul’s testimnoy in Philippians 3v8-9 is a classic commentry on this parable:-

… I consider everything a loss in comparison

to the surpassing greatness of knowing

Christ Jesus my Lord, for who sake I have

lost all things. I consider them rubbish

 that I might gain Christ and be found in Him…

We are faced here with the fact that to enter the Kingdom we must give up everything. Unlike the rich young rule who was unwilling to sell evreything and follow Christ. The KoG is the treasure to give everything for.

Is there anything that you will not give up for the sake of the Kingdom???

Joining the kingdom of God, while it make demands, is not something negative, BUT positive. Do you think the man who found the treasure grudgingly sold his meagre possessions??  NO! NO! He could not wait to give them up in order to gain this wonderful treasure.

Why is it that we so often hold on to the things of this world.?? We become preoccupied with our own comforts and our needs and our homes and our families and our ambitions. And we place a veneer of Christianity over it and hope that God will be satisfied. Well he won’t be!!

God doesn’t want half-baked Christians!  He wants disciples who are prepared to give up everything to follow him!

But what are we giving up incomparison to what we receive.

Jim Elliott “He is no fool who give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose

Don’t store up for yourselves treasure on earth!!

We tend to look at the great missionaries of the past – Jim Elliott, Amy Carmichael, Wm Carey, Hudson Taylor, Samuel Zwemer, Mary Slessor,  and we say “Well those were the fanatical, romantic days of missionary endeavour, we have settled down and become more balanced.”

Yes we certainly have settled down —  AND become complaciant – we have lost that zeal to share the gospel with those who have never heard. We have lost that willingness to give everything for the blessing of knowing Christ and making him known.

The treasure in the field was found suddenly and unexpectedly – the man was not looking for treasure. Paul came upon this treasure suddenly – God arrested him in his steps and opened his heart to understand that Jesus Christ was the Lord.

b. the pearl.

 

The treasure was found unexpectedly! The pearl was found after diligent searching.  Pearls are of great value, more so in those days than today – way beyond the purchasing power of the average person.

This story is of a businessman who is actively looking for  good pearls. Then one day he finds one that surpasses anything he could have ever dreamed of. A pearl that is beyond his wildest dreams. And like the man who finds the treasure he sells everything he had in order to obtain this one pearl.

The first parable is about a poor man suddenly finding. The second about a rich man who is rewarded by a find almost beyond price.

We must not make too much of the methods of finding these valuables – as if there are only two ways to come to Christ. NO, people come in many and varied ways.

The significance of both parables is in the finding of something that is of infinite value and the second thing is in the selling of everthing to get it.

Jesus brought first to people good news of great joy – the promise of God’s liberating salvation. We must not consider the buying in these parables as if salvation can be bought – other parables make it quite clear that that is impossible.

What is given up  {sold} is of no real value in comprison to what is obtained.

What is clear from these parables is that Jesus is calling people to give up themselves their money and their old lives for the kingdom — And he is calling them to incalcuable gain and great joy.

Have you found this treasure yet? Do you know the Joy of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus?

The final parable in this chapter gives a picture of the end of time. A picture similar to the harvest in the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

3. THE PRICE OF EXCLUSION FROM THE KINGDOM.

[The parable of the net]

 

The picture is of a trawling net gathering in a harvest of fish. When the fishermen get the catch to the shaore they sort out the bad fish and throw them away and the good fish are gathered into baskets to be sold in the market.

The parable speaks of all kinds of fish – a possible hint at the international scope of the Church. But it is also a mixed catch! With the scope of the Chruch before the end of time are those who are not true believers – i.e. wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The Gospels made clear that not all those attracted to Jesus were indeed true believers.

Jesus warned:-

Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord”

will enter the kingdom of God.

Like with the parable of the weeds and the wheat we need to be patient until the harvest – There is no point pretending that you are a Christian. You are not fooling God.

But God is faithful and when we cry to him for salvation he hears us –

He is not willing that any should perish BUT that all should come to a                  knowledge of the truth.

The price for reject Jesus Christ is exclusion from God’s kingdom and eternal punishment.

The prize for following Christ is infinitely valuable – it brings great joy and contentment in this life and eternal reward in the hereafter.

Don’t become impatient or frustrated when things seem slow or you you feel that as a Christian you are insignificant – God is building His Church and the Devil and all his forces cannot stop it.

The success of God’s  Kingdom is not in doubt – and no matter how small our part it is significant in God’s scheme of things.

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