January 10, 2021
The Biggest Decision of All
Matthew 13:44-58 by John Paterson
Series: Wonderful Words of Jesus

                                       THE BIGGEST DECISION OF ALL                              Trinity

                                                   Matthew 13:44-58                                     102.1.21



                              Who doesn’t want all evil eradicated, all false religions stopped dead in their tracks, and only goodness to rule across the whole world?  That’s not going to happen – at least, not this side of the return of the Lord Jesus.  There is no golden age this side of the new heaven and the new earth.


                              Jesus told us last Sunday the parable of the weeds and the wheat, and how both grow side by side in the same paddock?  Until when?  Until “the close of the age”, when “the Son of Man sends his angels” to gather in the wheat.  That is when they “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (vv40,41,43).


                              He says it again in his parable in our passage today.  A net encloses good fish and bad fish.  When are the good fish gathered up, and the bad fish tossed out?  Again, “at the close of the age” (v49a).


                              There might be more Christians here than there, or later rather than now … or the reverse.  Until the end when the sheep and the goats are separated, it is always a mixed bag in this world.


                              How do we explain why the mix isn’t more toward Jesus than away from him?  Why don’t more people believe into him than reject him? 


                              The  people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, which is where we find him in verse 54, we find  Jesus is taking his turn preaching in the local synagogue.  The locals are impressed by the depth of the things he says, and by the things he can so obviously do.  Will they believe?

                              No, because  they think they already know enough about Jesus.  He is their neighbour.  Didn’t he grow up with their kids?  Hasn’t he always shopped where they shop and eaten what they eat?  Is he now trying to upstage his elders?  They won’t believe his words because of what they think they know from before.


                              How many people still reject Jesus because he doesn’t fit with what they already know?  Or with the conclusions they came to about him 10 years ago?  Or with what other people say.  Even though what he says and does are plainly so astonishing that a re-think is needed. 


                              How hard it is for any of us to admit our old verdict was wrong, inadequate or didn’t take all the facts into account.


                              Why is it so hard?  It is because there is another player at work in this world.


                              Two Sundays back, when Jesus told us the parable of the seed sown into the four soils, he spoke about “the evil one (who) comes and snatches away what has been sown” (13:19)


                              When last Sunday he told us about the weeds that an enemy sowed into the wheat paddock, he said “the enemy who sowed them is the devil” (v39).


                              There is an evil enemy from another world who is busy in this world, working on the minds and hearts of men and women and boys and girls.  Paul says when people do not believe the gospel, it is because “the god of this world (this paddock, this ocean) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)  

                              That’s why the people of Nazareth didn’t get it, even though they heard and saw things which should have shocked them into giving up all their preconceptions about who Jesus was.


                              That explains why people who hear some of the best preaching in the world don’t get it and why people who’ve been taught as children by the most faithful parents don’t get it, and why people you love and speak to about Jesus don’t get it. 


                              There is another player from another world at work in this world.  He is the enemy of God, he is therefore the enemy of people God made.  He stops us from seeing what God makes clear.


                              People who do not believe into Jesus are not the enemy.  They have been captured by the enemy.  They are in “the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:26)


                              Why, then did I believe?  Or why did you?  Was it because Satan was having a day off, or decided we were too nice, or that he should make some concessions?


                              It had nothing to do with Satan.  It had everything to do with God.  God shone through the darkness.  He made you see what you had never really seen … get over your pride and believe.


                              How did God do that?  By the words of Jesus, which he spoke past blind eyes into your dead heart. 


                              After Paul spoke about the god of this world blinding the eyes of some 2 verses later he writes “God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6).

                              Isn’t that what Jesus said back in the parable of the four soils?  While some people find the words of Jesus too much, too vague, too unrealistic, too challenging, there are others who get to see what the words really mean.  He said to his disciples “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears for they hear” (v16).


                              When Jesus speaks, there is more going on than what you can see.


                              The world here, the world down there and the world up there, all in play whenever the words of Jesus are being spoken.  Things are happening which are both natural and supernatural at the same time, things which have huge and eternal consequences.


                              What should I say to you this morning, in the light of all this?  May I come back to the two short parables at the start of our passage?  To the story of the man who finds the treasure in the paddock and the story of the man who finds the most precious pearl ever.


                              Zach was a restless guy.  After school, he went off to university, began with a science course, swapped to philosophy then art, but finished none of them.  He joined this activist group then another.  He tried the strictness of a Buddhist sect and then the do-whatever-you like approach of a hippy group, before trying to find himself in the hard and lonely work of a Northern Territory cattle station.  All this before the age of 24.

                              He had been asking big questions about life and meaning since he was 16.  His school teachers had had no answers.  Booze, drugs, political causes and gurus had no answers.  So many big questions, but no answers.


                              Sarah, on the other hand, had never asked a big question in her life.  Straight out of school into a good job.  She was raised in a good family, was popular with friends and married a lovely guy.  What questions did she have that had to be answered?


                              Life for Sarah was uncomplicated and comfortable.  For Zach it was one restless episode after another.


                              One day Zach’s search ended.  God sent a Christian man God sent into his life on that lonely cattle station – a man who spoke Jesus’ words to him, and showed him the real Jesus. 


                              Zach later said that for the first time in his life he had real answers to big questions: Why was he here?  What is life all about?  What really matters?  He said it was the end to his long search, and the beginning of life.


                              God spoke also to Sarah.  She was sitting in a Sydney church she attended once or twice a year, content, and not thinking about anything in particular.  The words the preacher said that day came to her like a shot out of the blue.  She saw things about Jesus she had never seen.  She bet all she had on Jesus from that day on.


                              Zach was a restless seeker.  Sarah was a surprised finder.  That year they both became followers of Jesus.  They both found the same treasure. Each of them was found by the Living God who speaks into the dark and says “Let there be light”.

                              The man in verse 44 tripped over treasure buried perhaps by a retreating army, or by a man who didn’t use a bank.  He wasn’t looking for it – he was a FINDER.  He knew what he had to do … rake up every cent he could get his hands on, to buy the paddock, and own the treasure for himself. 


                              The second man, in verse 45 is a seeker.  He is a trader in pearls who is searching for the perfect pearl, “the” pearl above all other pearls.  A pearl perhaps like the Koh I Noor diamond, now in the Tower of London, and which is priceless.  To get it, he had to sell everything else he owned, but it was worth it.


                              Sarah was like the man who tripped over the treasure – she found treasure she wasn’t looking for.  Zach was like the pearl merchant, a seeker after bigger and better things. 


                              Both men in the parables did whatever it took once they saw the treasure for what it was.  Zach and Sarah knew that following Jesus was a decision that was worth any cost.  The Living God found them and so convinced them or the worth of Jesus that they each knew they would do whatever it took to follow him. 


                              Are you a seeker, or maybe you’ve just stumbled onto Jesus and found him?  It doesn’t matter which.  What matters is that he is such a treasure, it is worth selling all you have to take hold of him.


                              In the synagogue in Nazareth that Saturday there was treasure and beauty, and people didn’t see it.  They neither sought it nor stumbled on it.  In their small minds they couldn’t see past Jesus the little boy, Jesus the neighbour, Jesus who is perhaps too big for his boots.  They all went home as bankrupt as when they came, when they could have gone home the richest people in all the world.

                              Do you think Satan was not blinding their eyes even as God was opening the eyes of Jesus’ disciples?  Is God opening your blind eyes, even right now?  Then whatever else you do, do whatever it takes to get hold of this treasure.


                              Many of us here fall into one of two other groups:



It shows in the way you now sideline his words.  Earnest Bible reading is out the window; hearing him speak in consistent church attendance is no longer a priority.  Like a flashing warning light at a railway crossing, it all says something is wrong. 


Perhaps you’ve been slipping because you see the weeds growing happily enough alongside the wheat, and good and bad fish in the same net, and there doesn’t seem much point in being different from the others who do not know Jesus.  You’ve forgotten that there is a serious and eternal separation at the end, not now.


Or Satan has tricked you into thinking you’ll find richer treasure somewhere else other than in Jesus and his words?


If I were in this group, slowly slipping, cooling off, and in danger of swapping true treasure for false, I’d be going home today pleading with God to stop my slipping steps, and remove Satan’s blindness from my eyes, before it were too late.


We know that when the angels are sent at the end to burn up the weeds and the bad fish, we shall not be among them.  Rather, we shall be gathered to be in the immediate presence of Jesus with the wheat and the good fish.  We know that we shall be among those who shall “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (v43).


We know that no one will be in any doubt at all on that day who did whatever it took to own the real treasure. 


If I were in this group, I’d be going home today praising God for his life changing work in me work of grace in me.  Celebrating the certainty that the work from the world up there is stronger and more wonderful than the work from the world down there.


                              Wherever you are today, what could be big enough or precious enough to stop you doing whatever it takes, to take hold of Jesus with both hands?