Buried Pearl Fish (Matthew 13)

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Service Notes

  • Order of Service: Matins
  • Hymns: LSB #350, 743, 749

Sermon Text

Last week, you heard from Luther how dangerous it can be to misinterpret a parable. Matthew 13 has many parables that get misinterpreted. Especially these last three. This is why Jesus asks the Apostles, "Have you understood all these things?" (v51) Your biggest problem is that you say you understand but you really don't understand what Jesus says.

If you pick up almost any commentary (even some of the Lutheran ones), their interpretation is wrong. As the parables of the Sower (two weeks ago) and the Wheat and Tares (last week) are different, these three parables are completely different from how you think they should go.

Most commentators and preachers will take these parables and put Jesus as the main object--the treasure, the pearl or the net--and not the actor in the parable. But they have the parables backwards. And I'm not immune either. I had an entirely different sermon ALMOST DONE before I realized my mistake interpreting the parables. We'll see more examples of this this fall as we take a look at how often Scripture is misquoted by centering and focusing them on ME. Reading yourself into the Scriptures, you find yourself in the wrong place. You instinctively see yourself as the hero of the Bible stories.

But you aren't the hero. You're the loser. You're the Goliath slain by David. You're the unholy stream of -ites living as parasites in the Promised Land until the holy Israelites come in and wipe you out.

Instinctively, you want to be the man in these three parables. The man who finds the treasure hidden in the field. The man who finds the pearl of great price. The man who throws the net into the sea. BUT YOU ARE NOT THE MAN! These parables are not ABOUT YOU. They are FOR YOU.

The man in these parables is THE Man, Jesus Christ. Jesus finds the buried pearl fish. He finds you. You are a buried pearl fish.

Jesus tells you that you are a treasure hidden in a field. Christian artist Edward Riojas recently painted the parable of the hidden treasure. In it, Jesus stands in a cemetery, digging out a coffin from a grave. This is probably the best visual interpretation of the parable you can find. This is the great treasure hidden in the field. This is the pearl of great price. Your dead and rotting corpse. Buried in your grave. Jesus came "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).

You WERE the lost. But Jesus found you. He came and dug you out of your grave of sin. You were laid low in your sin, but He has raised you high in His righteousness. He has exalted you as His "treasured possession ... [whom He] redeemed ... from the house of slavery" (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). He sold everything He had to buy you. Everything He had was His life. He sold His life to buy your eternal soul. Everything else in this whole universe He forsook so that He could buy you. Exalting you, He gives you vast riches (LSB #350.2). Salvation, forgiveness, mercy, steadfast love. All these are yours because He has bought you.

But He has not only bought you. He didn't just buy the treasure. He bought the WHOLE field! Jesus bought the entire cemetery! Just as He casts the net into the sea to gather up all the fish. As He hauls the net ashore, He goes from grave to grave. He sorts everyone into two categories: the good and the bad.

Everyone is a buried pearl fish. Some are good. Some are bad. The difference between the good and the bad is faith in Christ. The good stand out because of their faith. They believe that God "is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers" (Deuteronomy 7:8). Faith separates the pearl of great price from the rest of the fine pearls. Not your own intrinsic value. His value for you. "The LORD your God has CHOSEN you to be a people for His treasured possession" (Deuteronomy 7:6). The good and the bad live together, even "as the mountains surround Jerusalem" (Psalm 125:2). They are all gathered together in the net. But the difference is Jesus. The Man who found and bought you.

The bad get thrown away into the fiery furnace. Where there will be nothing but weeping and gnashing of teeth. They are condemned to burn forever.

But you are among the good. You have been dug up and set into the most beautiful and glorious setting in His eternal crown. The crown He comes out with as that master of His house to display His treasures both old and new (v52). Each pearl, whether old or new, shines alike. The new look exquisite. The old look like they've never aged. Old and new have been "conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29). And His Son's image continues to shine with His glory from eternity to eternity. The glory of the "faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love" (Deuteronomy 7:9). By purchasing you, He has made you "more than conquerors" so that absolutely nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39). This is your priceless treasure in Jesus. His precious Ransom brings us blessing and salvation forever.

His salvation and forgiveness is the "balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole ... [and] to heal the sinsick soul" (LSB #749.refrain). His salvation and forgiveness move from us to rest of the buried pearl fish. That there may be more treasures that Jesus may dig up in this world. "In order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29). And these many brothers find their steadfast faith unshaken and unmoved in Christ. "Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever" (Psalm 125:1). As His unearthed pearl fish, you will abide with Him forever as His priceless treasure. Amen.