There once was a group of three friends a Rabi, a Catholic Priest, and a Presbyterian Pastor. They gather together every Wednesday morning for breakfast and talks. One day as they were having breakfast, a huge fire broke out and engulfed the town. They all rush back to their houses of worship to grab the most important thing from the buildings.
The Roman Catholic church was the closest, so the priest got in first and came out carrying the crucifix with him. As he ran away from the fire, he stopped by the synagogue to see if the Rabi was fine. When he arrived, he saw the rabbi running out carrying a giant menorah with him.
Further down on their way was the Presbyterian Church, and the two friends stopped by the church to see if the pastor had saved what was essential for him. The church was engulfed in flames, but the pastor still hadn’t left the building. They began to worry and wondered what was taking him so long.
After a while, they saw the pastor’s back backing up toward the door pulling something heavy with him. When he came out, they discovered he was pulling the copier—the Xerox machine—with him. (End of story).
This story makes me think about the most important thing for me. What would you carry out if our lives were on fire and we had time to save one thing with you? Or, if a war broke out and we had time to grab only one thing before escaping, what would you take with you?
Each of us has different things that we deem most important. What’s the item in your life you treasure most, something that you will give up everything else to get or keep?
It will be pretty sad if our most important thing in life is a copier, which symbolizes technology. I might grab my cell phone with me because I can access many essential things through it, including the Bible. How about the spiritual essentials?
Jesus revealed to us that the most crucial thing in life is discovering the kingdom of God. We all know that song we’ve sung many times in Sunday School: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” But what is the kingdom of God? That seems to be quite nebulous.
Some believe the kingdom of God is in the future, the place we go after we die. But when Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God,” he used the present tense, not something in the future.
He even asked us to seek it before worrying about food or clothing. It should be our top priority. What’s incredible is that all other things are automatically taken care of if you discover the kingdom. It’s like alchemy or decoding the secret that solves all problems.
It’s like discovering nuclear energy. For our times, it’s like solving climate change. For individuals, it’s like actualizing God’s blessing of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—no more worries, stress, or anxiety.
It’s like a utopia but not the kind the communists and socialists try to fantasize about because they leave God out of the equation, which has been proven disastrous.
If the kingdom of heaven is so important, how do we pursue it? Today, we will look at how Jesus teaches us about the kingdom of heaven through his five famous parables so that we will know what matters most, pursue it as our top priority, and enjoy life to the fullest. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” …
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt 13:31-33, 44-52).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
Jesus made the kingdom of heaven very simple. Previously, I compared the kingdom of heaven to discovering nuclear energy, solving climate change, or realizing a utopia, but Jesus doesn’t use those huge and glamorous analogies. He used what we encounter daily, such as seeds, yeast, or fish.
We tend to imagine the Empire of Heaven as a grand establishment, more significant than the Tajmaha, or Buckingham Palace, beyond words that can describe it. So, when Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to something as insignificant as a mustard seed, the listeners must be shocked. They must be thinking, “A mustard seed? The kingdom of heaven? How can he compare something so magnificent to something so insignificant?”
Using a seed, Jesus reveals that the kingdom of heaven is not an establishment but the “life” within the seed with unlimited potential to grow and multiply. A mustard seed may be tiny and insignificant, but there’s life in it.
So, the kingdom of heaven is a growing organism. Like a seed, it can germinate, propagate, and regenerate. It’s a fruitful living and complete happiness.
You don’t have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to be part of the kingdom, but you do need that living seed of heaven in your heart to become part of God’s empire.
The good news is everyone is born with that seed. John Calvin said we are born with a seed of divinity and a sense of religion. Every child can sense the kingdom. However, it could become dormant or dead if we fail to nurture it, as Jesus described in the Parable of the Sower, which we discussed the other day.
I mentioned the term “alchemy” previously. Many people think alchemy is about a magical chemistry formula of turning average metal into gold, but it’s an ancient metaphor for a person’s journey of growth and maturity into their full potential. It’s about a spiritual journey rather than a chemistry wizardry.
To nurture a seed into a fruitful tree represents a similar journey of an ordinary child going through a proper process to become a hero or heroine.
The second parable describes the subversive nature of the kingdom, similar to what yeast does to dough.
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (Mt 13:33).
Again, instead of a grand scheme of things, Jesus likens God’s empire to yeast; anyone who has made bread knows what it is and how it works. Jesus makes complicated things simple.
Yeast changes the dough from the inside out. It’s like a philosophy that transforms a society. This philosophy begins with one man, Abraham, and his family, which expanded into the nation of Israel and today the United States of America and many other countries. All because of that tiny seed called “Abraham” that God planted about four thousand years ago.
You might ask, “Sam, are you saying that the United States is part of the kingdom of heaven?” My answer is, “Yes, philosophically.” “Then why is it such a mess?” As Jesus describes, wheat and weeds grow together in the kingdom of heaven until harvest at the end of age. I will jump to the fifth parable to stay on the same line of thought. Jesus said,
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 13:47:50).
That means, for now, all kinds of people are on the boat—the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, the kingdom of God is not perfect on this side of eternity until the end of the age when good fish and bad fish are sorted out. This parable is similar to the Parable of the Weeds we dealt with last week.
So, just because America is built on the seed or yeast of the kingdom of heaven, don’t expect it to be perfect. Now, we have two more parables to cover to help us understand what the kingdom is like. Jesus said,
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Mt 13:44).
Some commentators question the ethic of this parable. Is it ethical to hide it without telling the owner about it? If we put it in the context of Jesus’ entire teaching, we can fill in the gaps this single verse parable is not telling.
Maybe the owner wouldn’t treasure it even if he knew it. Jesus told us not to throw pearls to the pigs. They would not only be unappreciative but also attack you for giving them. At least the person who found it didn’t steal it. Instead, he bought the land legally and fairly to own it.
The point of the parable is to describe those who appreciate the kingdom so much that they would sell everything to get it. It’s worth your everything.
There is an ancient Chinese story about a family in a village that provided laundry services. They washed clothes at the shore, even during freezing winter days. A man passed by the village and asked them how they did it.
They said they had invented a lotion to keep their hands warm in cold water. The man offered them an irresistible price to buy the formula. The family thought the money was enough for several generations to live without working. It was a no-brainer decision. So they sold it to the man.
The man took it to the capital city and sold it to the king for his navy to win a major war that saved the nation from a fierce enemy. The happy king rewarded him dearly and honored him as a hero.
The formula was like the treasure in the parable. In the hands of the poor family, it was just a means to make ends meet in the winter. But in the hands of someone who knew the value, it saved a nation and many soldiers lives.
The next parable is similar. Jesus said,
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Mt 45-46).
The previous parable is about someone who stumbled upon the treasure, but this one is about intentionally hunting for it. Again, for those who know the value, the kingdom of heaven is worth the time seeking and exchanging with everything they own.
Jesus ended the dialogue by instructing them to find treasure from the Old Testament and New Testament. He said,
51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt 13:51-52).
The disciples understood what the kingdom was about. I hope we do, also. As disciples of Jesus Christ, Jesus wants us to be like scribes who know how to dig out the treasure from both the New Testament and Old Testament.
Studying the Bible is like treasure hunting. Sometimes, we will find God’s word like a seed that prospers us; sometimes, we will find God’s word like yeast that transforms our lives; sometimes, we will stumble upon God’s word like treasures in the field that are worth everything your have; and sometimes, we need to intentionally search for fine pearls of wisdom worthy of investing our lives.
So, seek the kingdom of heaven like a treasure hunter. You know it’s worth your time, talent, and treasure!
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.