First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, January 16, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“A New Year, a New Pursuit!”
Psalm 16:5-8; Matthew 13:44-46
The Kingdom of God is so central to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Someone said that Jesus spoke about God’s Kingdom probably more than any other topic. In teaching His disciples how and what to pray, Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray for God’s Kingdom “to come on earth as it’s in heaven.” Christ invited His followers to “seek first God’s Kingdom” and all the other things shall be added unto them. His everyday encounters with ordinary people aimed to bring them closer to God’s Kingdom and bring God’s Kingdom closer to them. As a matter of fact, the gospel writers tell us that Christ’s life marked the coming of God’s Kingdom in a very special way. Matthew captures this truth in chapter 4:17 as he says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
If God’s Kingdom was so important to Jesus, it should be so central to our lives today too. In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus delivered a group of parables that primarily focus of God’s Kingdom. In this collection of parables, Jesus talked about the meaning of God’s Kingdom, its dynamics, and its implications on our lives.
The two short parables we read this morning from Matthew 13:44-46, invite us to seriously pursue God’s Kingdom and make every effort to make it our top priority. Why should God’s Kingdom become our top priority? Why should God’s work in our lives and in the lives of those around be so central to us? Why must we diligently and intentionally pursue it? Jesus gave at least two reasons:
First: The Great Value of the Kingdom of God
In Matthew 13, Jesus says that the Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure. It’s like a pearl of great value. Basically, Jesus was saying there is nothing that is of greater worth in this present world than the Kingdom of God. It’s our greatest asset. It’s our most valuable treasure.
What God counts as valuable, we need to learn to count as valuable. Someone said that we need to adjust our sense of value. The world distorts what we value and here comes the gospel lesson today to remind us what is valuable and priceless in the eyes of God and what we are to value.
Second: The Great Joy we Find
Jesus gives a second reason regarding pursuing the Kingdom. There is so much joy, great joy, in pursuing the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 13:44 Jesus said, “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.”
There is joy in discovering and finding the Kingdom of God. Whoever finds that treasure will be filled with joy. Seeing the Kingdom of God, belonging to the Kingdom of God, and participating in the activities of the Kingdom of God should fill believers with great joy. Why should we pursue the kingdom of heaven? Because this is the most valuable thing we could ever do. Not only that, but Jesus says in pursuing the kingdom of heaven, we also find our greatest joy.
The Hidden Aspect of the Kingdom
But Jesus also talked about the hidden aspect of God’s Kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field,” said Jesus. The idea of a treasure hidden in the ground was something usual during the time of Jesus. In the ancient world, it was much more common to bury one’s riches. Today we place our money in a savings account, or invest it in stocks and bonds. If we possess valuable jewels or other items, we might place them in a safety deposit box. But in Jesus’ time, this how they kept their valuables. During attacks by foreign nations and in times of resettlement, treasures were hidden in fields to be retrieved at a later date.
The Kingdom of God had a hidden aspect to it. Yet, to the disciples and to us, Jesus revealed the secrets of the Kingdom of God. God is at work behind the scenes. God is building His kingdom in a way that is hidden to most, but visible to those who belong to Him and are willing to obey Him and see Him at work. We who believe have been given the enormous privilege of seeing the Kingdom of God and of being part of that Kingdom, though the priceless value of God’s Kingdom is hidden to most people. Yet, when we realize the priceless worth of the Kingdom of heaven, we will be willing to pay the cost of acquiring it. We will be willing to sell all what we have to own it.
Friends, life is a treasure hunt, in the sense that we are always seeking something which will add value to our lives. There is nothing wrong with that. In order to find this value, we make friendships, we pursue good education, we build careers, we make money, we get marry, we raise children, we own a home, we keep a good reputation of our lives, and so many other things. Joy comes in when we get a treasure that we believe will add value to our life. Depression comes in when we think we’re going to lose a treasure that we believe essential to the value of our life: whether it be losing a job, a friend, our marriage, our reputation.
As I said, nothing wrong with that. These are all blessings from God, but the problem is, all these treasures, as precious as they are, are an echo of a deeper longing in our hearts. They do add meaning to our lives but we always have a sense that there is something more, something we’re missing. That can lead some people to feel despair, depression, emptiness within, and fear. Yet, as followers of Christ, it invites us today to pursue more of God’s Kingdom because if we gained the whole world but failed to enter the kingdom of heaven, we have profited nothing. But if we have nothing else, but have the kingdom of heaven, we have everything. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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