I don’t care how many movies, TV shows, and books continue to have stories about searching for lost treasure in them. I’ll still want more. There are stories of treasure, maps, and the possibility of untold riches if only you are smart enough, or daring enough, or foolish enough to attempt it. I love those stories! Maybe you like them, too.
Stories like that spark something inside of us. They give us that feeling, if only for a few moments, that maybe it is possible. Just maybe, those riches could be ours. Just maybe, that map would lead somewhere exciting. Just maybe, it’s all true. Those are fun stories. We enjoy them. And then we go back to school or back to work, or even back to church with our feet firmly planted in the “real world.” We become confident that there is no treasure. There’s just regular life.
But wait just a minute here. Stop everything and hear this: the real treasure isn’t just for storybooks or movie screens. The real treasure, in fact, is no story. The real treasure…is real. It’s out there. And it’s more valuable than a billion dollars. It’s worth more than anything and everything put together. It’s more than we could ever ask or imagine.
And here’s the thing. It’s yours. The treasure is yours! It’s been given to you, gifted to you. The treasure is in Christ, our Savior, our Rescuer and King. He alone gives us the treasure of rescue from this sinful, dying world into true life forever and ever. This treasure is found in his Word, freely given to us, always there to feed our faith and grow within us more and more each day.
But amazingly, tragically, this treasure isn’t always valued. It’s not always seen as a treasure. Maybe even by people like you and me. The treasure of our rescue, of our salvation can at times be met with a shrug and a yawn. It’s nice, sure, but maybe later. Maybe if there’s no sports to be at or other appointments on the calendar. Maybe if there’s nothing better to do.
Friends, don’t let this treasure disappear. Instead, treasure it! Look to Christ and his Word as the most precious possible thing that exists in this world. God has given it all to you. The treasure is yours! Search for it! Hold on to it! Share it!
Jesus liked stories. And he knew that we do, too. It’s not surprising that Jesus would use so many stories, or parables, to teach us. Listen to this one from Matthew’s Gospel. 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. (Matt. 13:44)
Two short sentences and Jesus has given us a story. We don’t know if this man was looking for hidden treasure or if he was just going for a walk in a field and stumbled on it. It doesn’t really matter. The point is he had found treasure, real treasure. The man recognized this treasure for the amazing value that it was. So much so, that he was willing to give up everything else he had, all his worldly possessions, just to guarantee that he could buy that field and with it, the treasure hidden there. Is anything worth that much to you? Is there anything you would give up everything for?
But before we’ve even had a chance to think about it and figure out the answer to that question, Jesus is on to another story. 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. (Matt. 13:45-46)
This merchant was looking for pearls. He wasn’t a casual collector of them; it was his job to buy and sell them. But with all his searching, he finally found a doozy. This wasn’t a pearl; this was the pearl. This was the pearl to end all pearls. And this merchant recognized it for what it was. He saw its value, and he knew that everything else he had paled in comparison. He knew this pearl could not be let go. He knew he’d give up everything to get it. Would you recognize something that had that great of value if you saw it?
The reason I ask is that Jesus wasn’t just telling these stories for book sales or box office receipts. He was teaching; he was driving home a very important point. These weren’t just stories; this was about our salvation. This was life and death, heaven and hell. And it still is. In both of these stories we looked at, Jesus started them with, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”
That’s how we know these aren’t just stories. The kingdom of heaven is another way of saying the way that God, our ultimate King, rules over things for us. The kingdom of heaven is the way that God has decided to save us. Inside that phrase “the kingdom of heaven” is wrapped up everything that has to do with our salvation. We sinned. We deserved death and hell. But God sent his one and only Son. He was perfect for us. He was punished for us. He died, but he rose to give us life. That is how God rules over everything for us. That is the kingdom of heaven.
And that is the treasure that we have. Yes, I had said it earlier, and it’s true: the treasure is yours! God has poured it right into your lap. He’s given his one and only Son. He’s won you forgiveness, life, and salvation. He’s given you faith to believe and trust it. That’s why you’re here, today, after all. This treasure is yours!
Search for it. That might seem like strange advice. The treasure is yours; search for it. If it’s already ours, why do we need to search for it? Well, think about Jesus’ stories again. The man found treasure in a field. He recognized what a treasure it was, and then he made sure he got the field. Same with the pearl-merchant. He recognized this was a special pearl and he had to have it. Think about it, someone else owned that field before the man bought it. Someone else owned that amazing pearl before the merchant bought it. Well, if those were such great treasures, why would they sell? Why would they let them go?
Sometimes in those stories of treasure maps and X marks the spot, the treasure is hidden in plain sight. The trick, sometimes, is that someone doesn’t realize they really have treasure. They think it’s no big deal, or even worthless.
That sounds an awful lot like the treasure of Christ and his Word, doesn’t it. God has given us his only Son. He has rescued us from an eternity in hell, and we sometimes barely bat an eye! The Bible? Boring! I heard that when I was a kid. I know that already. Tell me something I don’t know.
Think about going to church. Why are you here today? Nothing better to do? Today is one of the days when your busy schedule allowed it? Maybe you’re here because someone else is expecting you to be. Maybe you’re here out of habit, out of guilt, out of expectation that you’ll get something out of it that even you can’t explain.
Well, think of this: here, we preach God’s Word. Here, we preach Christ crucified. Here, the ultimate treasure of God’s good news is given to us again and given a chance to take root and grow in our hearts all over again. This is the most valuable treasure of all, and it’s given to us free of charge. Does it make us do anything to get it? Do you find yourself wanting to break down the doors of church to get it? Or maybe it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
The men in the stories gave up everything they had to get their treasures. No price was too high. But us? The treasure of God’s Word and Sacraments, the treasure of God’s Son our Savior himself? How little we are willing to part with. How much inconvenience does it take to take us away from God and his Word? For a lot of us, a lot of the time, not much. Often we are all too willing to part with the treasure we have in our Savior. Often we are willing to let just about anything become more important to us.
But, friends, there are real consequences to this. You see, we don’t just want to search for this treasure. We don’t want to just recognize the value of what’s been given to us. You see, the treasure is ours! And we also want to make sure we hang on to it!
Jesus’ next story in our text shows the dire consequences of not hanging on to our treasure. 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. (Matt. 13:47-48) This wouldn’t necessarily be a riveting story to most fishermen. You catch fish, you throw out the bad and keep the good. But this is really about the kingdom of heaven!
Jesus explains it. 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 fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 13:49-50) He’s not talking about fish. He’s talking about life and death, heaven and hell. When this world ends, not everyone goes to heaven. As Jesus said in Mark’s gospel, Whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16) Our Savior and his rescuing us from hell and giving us faith to trust him is the greatest treasure we could ever have!
So why don’t we always want to hang on to it? Why don’t we cling to the gospel and hear and study God’s Word every chance we get? Why would we not rather give up anything else than lose this treasure? Because we are sinful human beings tempted and easily pulled away from the truth. Hang on to the treasure you have! Because if you let it go, the consequences are deadly and eternal.
Thank God that he doesn’t give this treasure to perfect people, or to people who never do anything wrong. Because then we’d all be in a world of hurt. No, God gives this treasure, he sent his Son to poor, miserable sinners. He sent him to you and me! My sins are washed away in Christ’s blood. Your eternal life is guaranteed in Christ’s rising from the grave. Friends, the treasure is ours! Hang on to it! Don’t ever let it go!
And, amazingly, share it! Most treasures disappear when you give them away. Winning the lottery always sounds like a great fortune, but many of those people spend through their money pretty fast. And then it’s gone. Our treasure isn’t like that. There’s always more to share.
Jesus knew this. Every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old. (Matt. 13:52) Yes, share it! The treasure never becomes less because you use it or give it away. You keep coming to church and receiving his good news and gifts. You receive Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper and there’s never less of him and he never disappears. You tell someone else about this amazing treasure you’ve found and you don’t lose it in the process. Instead, you grow, and you give that amazing gift to someone else.
Friends, rejoice in the treasure you have. Search for it. Realize the value of what you have in your Savior. It is the difference between a life that means nothing and his life that has given us everything. Hold on to this treasure! Don’t ever give it up. Don’t throw it away. Cherish it and grow in it everyday. And finally, share it. Don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t keep it hidden. Live it and grow it and give it away every chance you get. And don’t be afraid. This treasure is God’s gift to you. It’s from his love. He loved you enough to die for you. The treasure is yours!