Describing the Indescribable
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Describing the Indescribable
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Jesus certainly had a lot to say about the kingdom of heaven in the 13th Chapter of Matthew!
Just last Sunday, we heard Jesus say the Kingdom of Heaven’s like a field sown with wheat... and weeds. And that one day, the day of God’s choosing, the wheat and weeds will be separated... the weeds will be burned away... the wheat will be gathered and brought to the Father.
Then today, Jesus continues: the kingdom of heaven’s like a mustard seed. Or, it’s like yeast... it’s like a treasure hidden in a field... it’s like a pearl of great value... it’s like a net cast into the sea.
Jesus had obviously missed class the day his high school English teacher discussed never mixing metaphors! Or was it an Aramaic teacher?
We have a double fist full of choices here! Of course, they’re all just metaphors - they’re just objects/things that are symbolic of something else - the kingdom of heaven, of course, is not a mustard seed. It’s like a mustard seed... it’s like a pearl... it’s like flour mixed with yeast...
So... in other words, the kingdom of heaven can be difficult to describe or explain... even for Jesus!
We talk about pearly gates, streets paved with gold, walls of jasper and rare stones... angels strumming harps in heaven, but not in a literal sense. It’s a way of expressing how in heaven, the very rarest of things here on earth... the most precious of materials... will be seen as common... everyday things in heaven.
Have you ever tried to describe something to another person... something they’d never seen before... or something beyond their frame of reference? Or maybe, a better way to think about it... is... has anyone ever tried to explain something to you, that was beyond your frame of reference or experience? Like, for instance, the laws of thermodynamics! Or Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity! Or how to program a VCR, or use your “smart-phone”... you know, complicated things like that!
What usually happens when we’re presented with things that are beyond our experience/interests? I’ll tell you what happens: our eyes glaze over and our brain shuts down... It takes an incredibly gifted person, a talented writer or storyteller, to adequately paint a picture with words.
And the same thing was true for Jesus. As gifted and as knowledgeable as Jesus was (and listen; Jesus was the best of the best!), he was still limited by the language he spoke... he was limited by the words his audience could understand.
Our language is woefully inadequate in describing the kingdom of heaven... just like we struggle in our efforts to describe God. We think of God as creator, as king... judge... father... a shepherd... a mighty fortress... our helper... comforter... sustainer... redeemer... friend. And all of those things are true, but they still fail to describe God. Because God is ultimately beyond description. We’re attempting to describe the indescribable!
So, what’s the kingdom of heaven really like? With all these metaphors, and different ways of describing the kingdom of heaven... what’s Jesus saying?
Well, first of all, God’s Word says the kingdom of heaven is an actual place... scripture’s clear that one day the followers of Christ will be gathered together in a place that Jesus has prepared - himself - for each of us, as his children. (John 14)
But it’s more than just a place... it’s also a way of life that begins here... and can be experienced here... now!
Paul offers us a pretty good picture of that in our first lesson today, from Romans. Paul implies the kingdom of heaven is present when we realize that there’s absolutely nothing - in this world or the next - that can separate us from the love of Christ. Absolutely nothing!
Saturday, a week ago, I watched the movie “Hacksaw Ridge” for the first time. It’s the true story of Pfc. Desmond Doss, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor despite refusing to bear arms during WWII on religious grounds. He was a “conscientious objector” who was determined to serve his country... by saving lives instead of taking lives. Doss enlisted in the Army after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor... but was ostracized by fellow soldiers because he wouldn’t not fight - he refused to kill - but went on to earn respect and adoration of his comrades for his bravery, self-less-ness and compassion - after he risked his life - without firing a single shot - and is credited with saving the lives of 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa. Doss served as a medic... and his Christian convictions were so strong, so determined, so secure, so unshakable... that he refused to set those convictions aside, even if it meant losing his own life!
Doss had found something very rare... He had found the pearl of great value... the mustard seed that blossoms into a tree... the yeast that transforms the flour into bread, the net that hauls in a boat-load of provision.
In other words, Doss had tapped into the Kingdom of Heaven... he’d caught a glimpse of God’s kingdom of love and light... and he was unwilling to let it go... for anything. He’d found the treasure worth giving up everything he had (or ever hoped to have) in order to possess it.
Jesus said, “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.”
I read an illustration this week about a little girl who was quite troubled after hearing this parable in Sunday school. She thought it sounded like the person was cheating. Wouldn’t it be the honest thing to tell the original owner of the field about the treasure? If the man found the treasure, and then bought the field so he could get the treasure, wasn’t that person stealing from the owner? It just didn’t seem right!
But like I said last week... every analogy, every metaphor has it breaking point... they can be stretched too far!
Of course the little girl was missing the point of Jesus’ story. The point is that the kingdom of God is of such great value that anything else we may own pales in comparison.
If we truly knew what the kingdom of heaven means... it would be easy to give up everything else in order to have it.
But un-like the treasure hidden in the field, everyone can have it! God offers this treasure to each and every one of us. The love of Christ from which no one and no-thing can separate us, is a treasure everyone is invited to possess.
But once we’ve found it... once we’ve experienced it... we’re compelled to share it! The kingdom of heaven is not meant to be hidden. The kingdom of heaven is meant to be shared...
Many of us probably remember a song we may have sung in our childhood: “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” And the verse, “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine!”
You & I have found the greatest treasure on earth. Let it shine! Amen.