Matthew 13 is famous for its parables. Jesus mixes in some interesting themes: judgment, the kingdom of heaven, and more. Recently, I read through this passage, and I was struck by three parables. These parables are significant when we consider the missionary task and our motivation for missions.
In Matthew 13:44-46, we see two beautiful pictures of how precious the kingdom of heaven is to those who find it. The first is a picture of a man who finds a treasure in a field and then sells all he has to buy that field so he can have the treasure. We aren’t told anything about the man. Is he rich? Is he married? Does he have kids? What did the field actually cost? How did he know the worth of the treasure? Those details aren’t ultimately important. The most essential thing is that the treasure is of greater worth than anything he could imagine so he sold everything to get it. The kingdom of God is that valuable. Nothing compares with the riches, joys, and benefits of the kingdom.
The second parable (v. 45-46) is similar, but we get a few more details. There is a merchant in search of pearls. He startled to find a pearl of such incredible worth and beauty that he sells all that he has to get that one pearl. I don’t know many business owners that would risk their entire business on one purchase. I also don’t know many people that would sacrifice everything for one thing. Yet again, the merchant like the man in verse 44 sells everything to get the one thing of great value.
Clearly, the treasure and the pearl were worth more than everything else they had. It is a bold move, but the evident result is that both men gained much more than they lost.
As you read this, you are most likely in a place where it is safe and even applauded that you believe in Jesus. Because of this, it may be more difficult to grasp the incredible value of the treasure you’ve been given. As we worship Sunday after Sunday with other believers, we sometimes forget the preciousness of the gift of salvation. Yet, at some point, we like the men illustrated in these parables gave up trying to save ourselves and put our lives into the nail-scarred hands of Jesus.
Therefore, it comes as a shock when Jesus shifts the focus away from the joys of discovering the kingdom in the next parable (v. 47-50). Instead, Jesus says that one day there will be a great sorting like fishermen do with a catch of fish. The good will be kept, and the bad will be tossed away. We will have neighbors, family members, and friends who have not found the treasure in the field. It’s a sobering reality. And it should motivate us to share with them.
To an even greater degree, so much of the world has not ever had the chance to hear the gospel. As I write this, I am in a U.S. state that claims around a 38% Evangelical population and almost 80% Christian1. Most people here have heard about Jesus and they know where to go if they have questions.
When we look at the numbers in a place like Bangladesh, with a mere 0.3% Christian population2 we should be deeply concerned. Even “reached” places like most of Latin America, the entire Christian population amounts to less than 10%. Within that 10%, there are many smaller groups and demographics that struggle to have impact on the general population.
What I want to remind you today, is that there is a great sorting coming. You and I as recipients of the gospel by grace through faith in Jesus will be (by His merits) sorted into the group fit for His kingdom. But so many that we know and others around the world will not be sorted into the kingdom.
So, today, please consider:
- What are you doing to engage in faithful evangelism?
- Have you ever given a thought for the nations that have never been given the chance to hear the gospel message?
- If given the opportunity to do something about the great worldwide need for evangelism and discipleship, would you be willing to take that opportunity?
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