The Value of the Kingdom. Matthew 13.44-46
Dang, I love a good story! I love it when the guy gets his gal. I love it when the bad guy gets his come-uppance, and I like it even more when the bad guy gets remade into a good guy. Case in point, evil serial killer David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam who came to trust and follow Jesus Christ.1 Indeed Jesus’ parable about how a little yeast can change the entire composition of a mound of dough just as the entrance of Jesus Christ into a life can radically transform a human being for eternity. That said, I could just hear the thoughts of some folks following “The Transformative Power of Yeast.” ‘Really, incarcerated for some 360+ years, why not try God? What could Berkowitz possibly have to lose—his freedom? He did not have any. His rights? None of those either. His life will never be his own again anyway, so why not try Jesus?’
Yes, at 4.10 a.m. this morning, these were the thoughts I was chasing, and finally climbed out of bed to open my Bible and computer and a myriad of books, splaying them on the arms of my office chair for easy reference.
Only to discover--here he goes again. Jesus starts a parabolic statement with, “the kingdom of heaven is like . . .” Perhaps we ought ask ourselves what is meant by the kingdom of heaven, or in other places, ‘the kingdom of God’? The Kingdom of God or Heaven is the same, and is at once referring to our present doing of the will of God in our lives, knowing that in Jesus, the kingdom came, but is still not what it will be in all of its fullness ~ when God’s will is perfectly done on earth and among mankind as it is in heaven and in Jesus Christ, for that is the kingdom.2 The Kingdom of God captures the past, present and future state of things to come.
Take a look at what Jesus says next, “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.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.”3
Where do you keep your money and valuables—not just your pocket change, but that which you have saved? ‘A bank, savings and loan, a brokerage, or under your mattress? In the ancient world, the banks were available for only the very wealthy. Most ordinary people dug a hole in the ground, and buried their treasure—coins, medals, etc., which helps us understand Jesus’ illustration. And to the ancient people, a pearl was rare and the loveliest of all possessions, a beauty to handle and behold.4
His point: the kingdom of God is so valuable it is worth sacrificing anything to get it.
So Berkowitz gave his heart to Jesus … what did he sacrifice anyway?
And so in the wee hours, I set to search the internet for those today who have sacrificed much for the pearl of great price—Jesus Christ. I found this man, this powerfully-positioned Muslim, Mosab Hasan Youssef, son of Hamas’ most powerful man.
Listen/watch Mosab Hasan Youssef/radical transformation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlvYjFvMpfE ~ the story of the son of one of Hamas’ most powerful leaders becomes disillusioned with the motives and actions of the Muslim underpinnings of Palestinian Hamas. First, he goes undercover with Israeli intelligence to pass information to the Shin Bet for ten years, and in the process, has a ‘chance meeting’ with a British missionary and gets introduced to Jesus Christ.
Eventually, Mosab is disowned by his father, though he understands what his family back home in Ramallah (about six miles north of Jerusalem and the unofficial capital of the Palestinian authority) must do, in order to survive.
Then again, I am taken by the biographies of faith in Finding God at Harvard.6 Story after story of honest searches for truth in the very institution founded in 1636 so that students and faculty members alike ‘might be free to know truth and life in relation to Jesus Christ’ and I wonder if there might be any room for them to actually be able to do so in the 21st century.
There is nothing like the transformation of the human heart, turned just so, that it might gaze upon its Creator with loving eyes transfixed at eternity beyond. No wonder Jesus talked about the treasure of the essence that is the kingdom, the unequalled beauty of the pearl! There is nothing greater than the value of the kingdom of God. Though our finite minds struggle to comprehend either its magnitude or greatness, just a glimpse of it keeps us longing to feast on more.
Christine Todd DiGiacomo
1 - Planning to order his book that includes his prison journals, The Son of Hope
2 – The Mind of Jesus, William Barclay, 1960.
3 – Matthew 13.43-45, New International Version
4 – William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew – The New Daily Study Bible
5 - May 4, 2015 Interview with Greg Laurie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4T-8JwoO3qs ;
6 – Finding God at Harvard, edited by Kelly Monroe Kullberg, revised 2007.
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