“Bought and Paid For”
February 25, 2015 (Canceled)
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LA
INI + AMEN.
C.S. Lewis said in his book Mere Christianity that “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Lewis gets at something very profound. He actually has a habit of doing that, but it’s true: just because you think less of yourself doesn’t mean your humble. You can think that you’re of a lower degree, and you can even talk about yourself in a demure way, you can talk yourself down as much as you want, but the conversation is still revolving around whom? It’s still revolving around you. The outward mask of that sort of humility, talking down about yourself, can actually be hiding a prideful heart. I guess what C.S. Lewis writes is true about humility in general, but what about, I guess I’ll call it, “Christian humility?” When it comes to this Christian humility, if we’re gonna talk about ourselves less, then who do we talk about more? It should be like what John the Baptizer said, “He must increase and I must decrease. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” “One ought not talk about oneself, it may hide Jesus from view.”
This is all important stuff to keep in mind as we meditate on tonight’s parables. Tonight you get two for the price of one! “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Where’s Jesus? When Jesus preaches, He preaches in such a way that He points us to Himself. This happens even in His story sermons, His parables.
To find where our Lord and Savior is in the Parables and what He wants to tell us about Himself, takes true Christian humility that is worked only by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God and the Sacraments. Through those things, the Word and the Sacraments, the Spirit works in us this humility because these don’t rely on us but on God’s own promise in Jesus Christ. But this is difficult for us to accept, we want something more than what the Lord Himself has decided in His infinite goodness, mercy, and wisdom to give us. We take the things that the Lord Jesus took time and great care to give to His Church and us, and we tend to think, “Uh huh. Yeah, I know that already. Do we have to keep talking about it? Can’t we move on now?” We may not verbalize it in exactly that way, but we look down on what Jesus Himself gave us. As if there’s something more important than what comes from His mouth and hand.
We do this because
3. We want to help Jesus out.
This can really be the case in Lent. Lent is a time set aside to do what we should be doing all time: giving up our sins. Don’t think about them. In fact, actually stop doing them. But instead, we’ll give up cookies. We’ll give ourselves another shot at our New Year’s resolution. Because giving up soda is a lot easier than giving up gossiping. Not only that, we fast. Which is a good thing! But we then turn it into something that’s about us. How many people know what you’ve given up for Lent? Jesus said, “But when you fast”—when not if—“don’t become sad looking like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces”—maybe with ashes—“so that men would see them fasting. Truly I tell you,” says Jesus, “they’ve received their reward.” So we’ve taken something that should focus us more on Jesus, and we’ve turned it into something where we can throw Jesus a bone. Help Him out a bit.
But this is how our faith walk tends to work the rest of the time too! It’s not just a Lent thing. We give all sorts of things to the Lord. But what do we hold back from the Lord? We’re supposed to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” We let Him take charge of most things, but then we’ll keep something back that we’re sure we can handle. It could be our careers, our family life, our kids, our marriage. You know what it is for you. We may in tough times pray about it, but then, once things are going along smoothly again, we’re content to take back the reigns. We let God take control only as a last resort. And this really happens when it comes to our sins! We tend to view most of them as little bad habits that we’ve got mostly under control, instead of things that make us worthy of hell. But we only think that because we compare ourselves to others.
Our mouths should be used to sing God’s praises, to tell other people of His love for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus, to speak kindly to and about our neighbor. We’re not to “tell lies about neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way,” or as Thumper says from Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” We tend to think like this: “I know it’s not right to gossip, but I at least I try to be a good person.” Or it could go more like this: “Did you hear what she did…I know! I’d never do anything like that.” So instead of confessing OUR sins to God, we confess our NEIGHBOR’S sins and so we feel better about ourselves.
In all of these our value, our worth is based on what we’ve done or haven’t done. What we’ve given up for Jesus. How serious we are for Him. How we compare to others. We base our value on what we say or do, so that we feel that we’re worthy or deserving of God’s salvation, love, and forgiveness.
(2. We can’t help.)
What we must confess is that we can’t help. When it comes to our standing before God, He doesn’t care what good you’ve done to make up for the bad. But more than that, whatever we keep for ourselves becomes the most important part of our Christian walk. I stopped XYZ. Good. You should’ve done that long ago. But that doesn’t make you good before God’s everlasting throne. More than that, there’s no choice or decision to follow. As Paul says, “Dead in trespasses and sins.” Dead people don’t do anything except stay dead. Or let’s put it in terms of our parables this evening. There’s a buried treasure and a pearl lost amongst the many jewelers’ shops. Tell me, what does a buried treasure do to be unburied? This is especially so in Jesus’ day. No metal detectors. A buried treasure stays lost and buried. A pearl stays lost in a pile of other pearls. The treasure stays hidden, if it weren’t for the man who searched for and found that treasure. The pearl stays where it is if it weren’t for the pearl merchant searching endlessly for that one pearl.
In His parable Jesus wants to show that
1. Jesus does it all.
Jesus says, “The Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” He goes out searching in a dirty field. He goes out scouring all the markets He can. When He finds that pearl, He “went and sold all that he had and bought it.” As Paul says in Philippians, “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God something to take, but made Himself of no reputation…He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” When He finds that treasure, “for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” As it says in Hebrews, “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.”
Jesus sets the value for the treasure and pearl. It will cost Him dearly. It will cost Him everything. He must endure the cross and grave. For you and I have been purchased, redeemed, bought and paid for “not with corruptible things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ,” as St. Peter says. More than that, how do we remain in Jesus’ possession? What does the treasure do? What does the pearl do to stay in the Merchant’s hand? Nothing at all. Jesus guards and keeps you. Jesus hides you, as the treasure from the parable was hidden, to keep you safe. He hides you in His Church. Where you rest in the hand of Jesus. Just like that merchant would’ve held that pearl in his hand. Not only that, one day, when you die, He buries you and preserves your body until life everlasting, and will dig it up on the Last Day “to serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Just as He is risen from the dead; lives and reigns to all eternity.”
JESUS DOES ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING TO REDEEM YOU.
Let us rest in the crucified and risen hands of Jesus this Lent. He’s given up all things for you and for me and for all. That’s where we get our value from. He set price. It was His own blood. Now we’re His treasure, His pearl. Bought and paid for. No need to talk about ourselves. We’ll talk about Jesus because
JESUS DOES ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING TO REDEEM YOU.
INI + AMEN.