Shabbat Shalom. What would you say if I told you I had a surefire way to make you rich? That there was a limited time offer available for you and everyone else right now? This morning we will be continuing our series through Yeshua’s parables and looking at three across four verses. In these parables we will see the vast size and richness of God’s Kingdom. How we too can become spiritually rich forever by being a part of it. While these parables are narratively short, they are packed with meaning about God’s kingdom. We will be looking at the parables of the Leaven, Hidden Treasure, and the Pearl of Great Price. All of which we can find in Matthew 13.
Before we dive into our texts though I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about the interpretation of Yeshua’s parables. There are some parables that Yeshua gave along with their meaning, but there are some like those we are looking at today where the full interpretation of the parable is not included with the story.
This has led to many different interpretations for parables over the centuries. Especially common is adding layers of symbolism that probably do not exist. The parable of the Good Samaritan serves as a good example of this problem. An early and popular teaching from Origen has the Samaritan as Yeshua, the man on the road as Adam, the Priest as the Law, the Levite as the Prophets, the Inn as the church, and the two Denarii (Coins), as the Knowledge of the Father and the Son. You can see the symbolism just keeps piling up until the original intent of the parable is lost.
There is symbolism and allegory in God’s Word, but it is dangerous ground for us to “run wild” in creating connections that do not actually exist in the text. To avoid incorrect interpretation, we want to try and look at the parables as Yeshua’s original Jewish audience would have understood them in their biblical context. We also want to focus on what Yeshua is saying in these stories and not add a bunch of narrative to them.
Our parables this morning all into a category known as “Kingdom Parables”, which help explain what God’s Kingdom is like. In Matthew’s Gospel we see the Lord’s kingdom referred to as the “Kingdom of Heaven”, which is just a Jewish way to refer to the “Kingdom of God”. Both phrases are interchangeable.
But what is the Kingdom of God? The kingdom of God refers to all those who call Adonai their Lord and have submitted themselves to Messiah Yeshua. We are spiritually part of His kingdom and are no longer spiritually enslaved to this dark and fallen world. As we read in Colossians 1:13-14:
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
This kingdom is realized in part now as the Gospel spreads throughout the world but will be fully realized during Messiah’s return when He establishes His kingdom physically in Jerusalem forever and rules from it with all those who have been purchased through His sacrifice.
Our first parable this morning is about the spread of God’s kingdom throughout the world.
We begin with the parable of the Leaven found in Matthew 13:33 (cf. Luke 13: 20-21):
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.”
This is a very interesting parable because we see yeast being used in a positive way. Yeast usually is a symbol for sin with how it spreads, grows, and multiplies and some have tried to interpret the yeast here in a negative way. But I think that is trying too hard to make things fit a pattern. Yeast is being used positively here, sin might spread grow and multiply but so is the work of God.
Now I am not an expert on making bread, I just like to nosh on it, especially a good double baked Jewish Rye Bread. But 60 pounds of flour is dozens of breads, it takes a lot of time to spread leaven through such a large amount of dough.
The large quantity of flour in this parable shows that the work of God takes time. In Yeshua’s day many expected Him to overthrow the Romans and begin to rule, but this was not the Lord’s Will. We are called to patently wait while God does his work, spreading His kingdom unseen by our eyes in our hearts but with powerful effects taking place.
This parable reminds me of hovering in the kitchen waiting for a turkey, soup, or dessert to be finished and ready to eat. It takes time for these things to finish as we impatiently wait for them to be done NOW. In the same way I think part of this parables meaning is to tell us God’s kingdom is taking its time to be created on Earth. There is the current working happening now, and a future work that will continue to occur as well.
But let’s consider how God’s kingdom is like yeast. First, a little bit of yeast leavens a whole batch of dough. Just like how the Mustard Seed produces an amazing plant so a little bit of yeast is going to produce an amazing amount of bread. Given enough time and dough, yeast can spread without stopping forever. In the same way God’s Kingdom started with the Son of God, spread to Twelve Apostles, and then began to go throughout the world spreading from Israel to all the nations of the world. Unhurried by us the Good News of Messiah Yeshua moves forward.
Yeast also works from inside the dough to spread and so it is the same with God’s Kingdom as well. We are being transformed inside through the Holy Spirit to be more like our Messiah. Being changed from selfish human beings to people who live with mercy, kindness, and the other fruits of the spirit in our lives. We are being changed from one degree of glory to another, growing in glory as He works within us.
So, the kingdom of God is growing invisibly throughout the world. Every day more people are entering His kingdom and being given wonderful gifts. But what is the value of God’s kingdom? What is asked of us to be a part of it? To answer those questions, we turn to our next two parables.
Our final two parables for this morning are the parables of the hidden treasure and pearl of great price. Both parables seem to be connected and very similar and are best discussed together.
Matthew 13:44: “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 13:45-46: “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.”
In both parables we begin with a person looking for something of value. One person a buried treasure, the other valuable pearls. Each of them finds their treasure and then quickly sell everything they own in joy to acquire it. God’s kingdom is compared to something incredibly valuable, so valuable that you would be a fool not to sell everything to acquire it. I like to imagine the treasure as a chest of Gold and the Pearl gigantic like the size of our heads.
In these parables the treasures are incredibly valuable and life changing. It is like how your life would be changed after finding a million dollars. Those who find the spiritual treasure of God’s Kingdom also have a life changing experience based on its value. Each of us were purchased for a price by Messiah Yeshua laying down His life for us. A drop of His blood is worth more than the biggest pearl and the largest treasure.
But what is the treasure of God’s Kingdom? What was purchased for us through Messiah’s life? First, in Him we have the promise of life everlasting because our sins have been forgiven. 1 Thessalonians 4 promises: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the shofar call of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. This Earth will pass away, but we can look forward to living with our Savior forever in His city that will never be destroyed.
We also have the treasure of being able to stand before the glory of God through Messiah’s righteousness and not be destroyed. We have incredible access to God through the Holy Spirit, to boldly go before Him and experience His mercy and favor. We have been saved from His wrath and if we are truly part of His kingdom, we will never experience His righteous judgement that will send all those who live in darkness to Hell.
We have a peace that passes all understanding, a Shalom that is beyond the circumstances and troubles of this life. We are being made whole and complete, a work that begins throughout this life and will be perfected in the next. We have victory over, death, and the adversary, that we can run the race of this life set before us through the power of God’s Spirit.
We are His children and He is our father. Some believe everyone is a “child of God” but they are wrong. While we are all made in His image, not everyone is His child. We have been adopted into His kingdom, and given a new nature, one like our wonderful Messiah. In this family we are filled with brothers and sisters from every group of people, of every walk of life. We are brothers and sisters because we share the same Father.
Throughout our lives we will experience trials and suffering, but they are filled with eternal meaning, as His kingdom of Priests. We also have the sure hope that everything God has promised us will come to pass, that He is making all things new. Finally, when His kingdom is established in the New Jerusalem there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
I could go on, but we would be here all day if I were to list every blessing, gift, mercy, and joy we have in our wonderful Messiah. We can see they all add up to a priceless treasure.
Whether we realize it or not we are all seeking this treasure. Each of us are looking for meaning, love, hope, joy, and peace in our lives. In this dark world we are promised these things with every advertisement, job scheme, and false philosophy. There is a bombardment each day with messages that promise us treasures that will fill the holes in our hearts and minds. But each one is fake and cannot truly satisfy us. We are like the merchant looking for pearls and all we are finding are various kinds of plastic fakes.
In contrast to the world, God has prepared this immense treasure for each of us to find. We are given a map through His Word translated into our preferred language pretty much everywhere. Physically and digitally, His Word has been spread throughout the world. What is amazing about finding this treasure is that there is one for each of us. If I were to find a treasure chest in the back of BHBC, there would only be one. If you came after and dug in the same spot you would find nothing. Each of us has a field ready to be dug up or a pearl reserved. The worth of this treasure is not diminished because more than one person has it. Rather, when each of us enters God’s kingdom heaven rejoices.
After the treasure is found in both parables, the finder joyfully and immediately sells everything they own to purchase it. They did not delay buying this treasure while they had the chance to do so. Now I do not believe Yeshua is saying we have to live in poverty to receive His treasures, but there are things we will have to give up. Being part of His kingdom is worth the sacrifices He asks of us. We are told elsewhere that being part of His kingdom means giving up our previous lives of sin. We also give up our love for this world, it’s false treasures, and our own selfish pride. We must abandon these former things and instead base our lives on our new lasting relationship with Adonai.
But it can be hard for us to let things go for God’s treasure. There is the example of the rich man in Matthew 19 who was offered the chance to be a disciple of Yeshua. Yeshua told him to sell everything he had for the poor and He would receive great treasures in heaven. But the man left sad because he was rich and couldn’t let it go. Imagine having the opportunity to live with and learn from Yeshua, to be counted among the 12 Apostles. But he could not give up his small treasures for something lasting and greater.
I think a lot of us are like this rich man, despite probably owning a lot less. We would sell everything for physical treasure like a chest of Gold, but for spiritual treasure we find it harder to give up the things that bring us comfort. Like the rich man we do not truly understand the value of what is being offered to us. That the cost of following Yeshua is worth it. We forget the value of the treasure and then start prioritizing other desires above Adonai. We may also believe giving up the things of this world will rob us of joy, forgetting that there is only lasting joy in God’s kingdom. We need to be willing to let go of the fleeting and false joys for the real stuff.
Understanding the worth of God’s Kingdom should also affect our sharing of it with others through Evangelism. If you had a sure-fire way to make everyone you meet a millionaire would you tell them about it? Would you tell your family and friends about it? Sharing with others about the kingdom of God is to share with them how to become spiritual millionaires, no purchase necessary. If the Good News is actually good than we really should be sharing it with others and sharing it as something good! Sharing how God has transformed our lives and the blessings we have experienced through Him. We need to share the real unchanging truth of God’s Kingdom and not try to rewrite or “re-interpret” it to fit our current cultural and political climate. We cannot swap out God’s real treasure for fake stuff that looks more appealing to our society.
There is a final lesson in these parables, the fact that after these people found their treasures they were satisfied. There was no need to buy another field or another pearl. In their treasure they found everything they ever wanted. In Matthew 11 Yeshua invites us to enter the rest of His kingdom. That everyone who is weary, and rundown should come and learn from Him. In Him alone we find real rest for our souls. Only in Him will we find true Shalom for our souls. In Him we find all the promises of the Lord for us, the promise of peace and joy beyond the suffering of our present lives.
Yeshua’s parables challenge us to ask what are the treasures of our lives right now? Have we found the perfect treasure He has prepared for us or are we still searching? Are we willing to let go of everything that keeps us from it or are we still holding on to what we think is treasure but is a knock-off? Are we patiently waiting for His kingdom to come or we part of a different kingdom?
Throughout the whole world, the Lord is methodically building His kingdom as each of us enters and receives the treasures He has prepared for us. God is marching on and many of us here today are a part of that kingdom. If you are, I encourage to remember what your life was like before you received His treasures and then what life was like after you were saved. To remember the wonderful joy that is found in Him and be encouraged to make God’s kingdom the priority of your life. To be involved in the work He has called you to, giving Him that F.A.T. portion, Finances, Abilities, and Time, to borrow Rabbi Glenn’s analogy. We have been made rich by the Lord and it is our obligation to follow His command to give back, especially through sharing the treasure of the Good News.
If you are not part of His kingdom, then today is the day to change that. The Lord has freely given us all the treasure of salvation that we must accept. If you have been looking for pearls throughout your life and coming up with fakes that disappoint, then I encourage you to make it this day to take home the real thing. In both parables the seekers immediately sold everything they owned to receive the treasure. It was not something they could put off until next week or month because they, and we, only have the promise of today.
As God continues to make His kingdom here on Earth, kneading the dough of our lives, may all of us become citizens of it. May the Lord enable us to let go of the knock-off riches of this world so we can hold onto spiritual riches that will never lose value. May each one of us lay claim to the great treasure He has prepared for us through Messiah Yeshua. Finally, may He also encourage us to joyfully share this incalculable treasure with all those who are lost and looking for it.