The Gift Exchange Series
“Best Gift Ever – Salvation”
This Advent series we are be putting a spiritual spin on some of the modern aspects of Christmas. I’ve entitled the series “The Gift Exchange” because we are attempting to exchange our modern mindset of Christmas for a spiritual perspective. Each week of Advent we will be looking at different aspects of modern day Christmas through the lens of God’s Word. Last week we considered Layaway and were challenged to store up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth. This week we will be considering “The Best Gift Ever” as we thank God for His indescribable gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. (2Cor.9.15)
Can you remember the best Christmas gift we ever received? For me it was it was Christmas 1972 when I woke up to find THIS parked in our living room!
It was a 106cc motorcycle – I was 14 years old and “ready to ride!” And parked next to my motorcycle was THIS!
125cc motorcycle for my older brother! His had a bigger engine than mine but I was a far better driver – on and off the road! Let me just say that the hills of southern Indiana have never been the same! Our adoration for our parents grew about 1000 times that Christmas morning. The only problem was that we had to wait until springtime to ride them – but that didn’t stop us from going out to the garage every afternoon to sit on them and imagine the wind, the speed, and the absolute “coolness” of riding a motorcycle.
Well, we don’t always get the best gift ever. There are times when we are sure that the person buying our gift knows actually what we want. Only to discover on Christmas morning that they didn’t quite understand what we wanted. Well, this morning I want to talk about the best gift ever, the gift that never disappoints, salvation through Jesus Christ.
Best Gift Ever
Jesus told us about “The Best Gift Ever” in Matthew 13 when He told us two short parables about a man and a merchant.
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Mt.13.44-46)
Jesus loved to speak in parables. As a matter of fact, Matthew records in his gospel that Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.” (Mt.13.34-35)
A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a spiritual lesson that usually has one main point. Whether Jesus taught these two parables in sequence or whether Matthew arranged them together topically is unknown; the fact remains that the two belong together. The parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value resemble each other in both structure and meaning and therefore they should be considered together.
There are differences in the parables, which we will discuss later, but the one main point is clear, Jesus is comparing the treasure and the pearl to the best gift ever – the kingdom of God – the rule and reign of God in your life through the salvation of Christ. The central theme is that Christ is the best gift ever! The main message of these two parables can be formulated into one short sentence: “The kingdom of God is so valuable that it is worth sacrificing anything to gain it.” (C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom) The man who discovered the treasure, like the merchant who is seeking fine pearls, stands for anyone who becomes a “citizen of the kingdom,” anyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ. (Eph.2.19; Phil.3.20)
The Great Treasure
Lets first consider “The Great Treasure.” Jesus tells the parable of a man who found a treasure hidden in a field. After discovering the treasure the man quickly buried it again and joyfully sells all that he has in order to buy that field. We don’t know who initially buried the treasure or how long the treasure had been in the ground. But we can assume that the owner of the property had no knowledge of it – if he did he would had never sold the property. What we do know is in ancient Palestine, a country very familiar with war, people often hid their treasure in a field. There were no banks – no safe deposit box – and you certainly didn’t want to keep your treasure in your house where thieves would be able to break in and steal. Burying your treasure wasn’t strange or out of the ordinary.
Back in my grandparent’s day people would bury money in a mason jar in the backyard or the garden. My dad was convinced that my mother hid thousands of dollars in a shoebox somewhere in the attic or in a secret spot she only knew about. The problem my father had was that my mother passed away without telling him where she had hid the cash! We occasionally hear stories about people buying a house only to discover during the renovations a stash of cash hidden behind the walls. Maybe the person in the parable who hid the money in the field passed away before reclaiming his treasure.
The man who found the treasure may have been a hired hand or a renter. He may have been plowing, digging a ditch, or clearing the land. He might have been a blue-collar sort of guy who wasn’t a treasure hunter. Just a common guy doing a honest days work who just happened to discover the hidden treasure. The Lord told us through the Prophet Isaiah, “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’” (Is.65.1a,b,c) This was the case with the man who found the hidden treasure and an interesting aspect of the parable that is often overlooked. The man in the field wasn’t looking for treasure. The Lord permitted Himself to be found by a man who did not seek Him.
This was the case with the Apostle Paul. Paul, or Saul as he was known at that time, was actively persecuting the church and was not seeking for salvation through Christ in any shape or form. But the Lord had chosen him to be His instrument of grace and appeared to Paul as he journeyed towards the city of Damascus. This Damascus Road experience happens to many people and it seems to be what happen to the man in the field.
You might be the man in the field! You’re not necessarily seeking for Christ – you’re here today because you want your kids to be exposed to morality or to have a church experience. You’re here because of you think it’s a good thing to go to church or maybe out of some obligation to your spouse, your family or friends but you’re not necessarily seeking for Christ. But every week the Lord is plowing away on your hard heart and then all of the sudden – THUNK! – the blade of God’s plow uncovers the beautiful treasure of the Gospel – the gorgeous truth that God loves you so much that He sent His Son to do what you could have never achieved, to adopt your as His son and daughter, and to lavish upon you’re the riches of His grace granting you forgiveness of your trespasses with complete redemption and renewal. (Eph.1.7-8) And having uncovered the beauty of the Gospel you go surrender all you are to the Lord Jesus Christ because you finally understand that He is the great treasure – the best gift ever!
There is one more aspect in the parable of the great treasure that I want to quickly point out. Notice that the man after discovering the hidden treasure experience great joy over it. Receiving salvation through Christ will cause us to greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. (IPt.1.8)
The Great Pearl
Now, lets consider “The Great Pearl.” In Old Testament times pearls apparently were not known, but by the first century pearls had become a status symbol of wealth. (Mt.7.6; I Tim.2.9; Rev.18.11-12) By the time of Christ, pearls were in great demand and merchants had to travel the world to find them. Inferior pearls could be found in the Red Sea region; better ones came from the Persian Gulf; and even better ones from as far as India. A merchant had to travel in search for the finest pearls.
The merchant portrayed by Jesus in the parable had been on a long and faithful quest seeking fine pearls. But one day he came across one pearl of great value. This pearl was worth the value of all the pearls that he had spent his life collecting. So, the merchant went and sold all that he had to buy that great pearl. You see, unlike the blue-collar field worker, the pearl merchant was a world traveler – an international trader of expensive merchandise. And unlike the man in the field who was not looking for treasure, the merchant had been seeking for the finest pearls for his entire life.
The pearl merchant was like the Magi who travel for months seeking for the King of the Jews and when they found the baby Jesus they fell down and worshiped Him presenting to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Mt.2.1-2, 11) The pearl merchant was like Simeon who had spent his whole life looking for the fulfillment of God’s promises through the coming of Christ. When he took the baby Jesus into his arms Simeon blessed God and said, “Now, Lord, You are letting Your bond-servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all the peoples: A light for revelation for the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” (Lk.2.25, 29-32) The pearl merchant was like the prophetess Anna who had spent 84 years looking for God’s plan of redemption to be fulfilled through Christ. At the very moment she saw the infant she began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak about Him to all those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Lk.2.36-38) The pearl merchant had spent his entire life searching for the finest pearls and then one day he came upon the finest of all pearls – the pearl of pearls! When he saw that pearl – all the other pearls paled in value and beauty. He knew exactly what to do. He wasn’t going to let this great pearl slip through his hands. He had the opportunity of a lifetime and he surged upon it with no hesitation. Jesus said, “Everyone who seeks will find” and the merchant knew what he had been looking for and that he had finally found it. (Mt.7.8)
You might be the merchant! Seeking for truth – searching for spirituality – but the problem is that you have been looking for love in all the wrong places. You searched Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and New Age Spirituality. You search worldly philosophies and popular opinions. Like a spiritual American Picker you have spent a lifetime sifting through the religions and philosophies of this world only to discover that the beauty of the Gospel is the most precious jewel.
You discovered the truth that no amount of religious effort or good works is needed because Jesus Christ pleased God the Father perfectly. You discovered that the heavenly Father loves you so much that He lavishes upon you all of Christ’s accomplishments granting you forgiveness of your trespasses with complete redemption and spiritual renewal. (Eph.1.7-8) Having found the beauty of the Gospel you surrender all you are to the Lord Jesus Christ because you finally understand that He is the great pearl – the best gift ever!
The Greatest Gift
What, then, do these parables teach? That Christ is the hidden treasure, Christ is the pearl of great value, and Christ is the greatest gift. Both the man in the field and the merchant gave all that they had to obtain the greatest gift. The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon calls this “the great bargain.” Pastor Spurgeon points out that to give all we have – to gain all that we will ever need for all of eternity – is the greatest bargain ever! The great missionary Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep – to gain that which he cannot lose.”
But what do we have to sell off to obtain the greatest gift? We must sell off our self-righteousness that would cause us to think that we are already good enough. We must sell of our philosophies that would cause us to think that we are wiser than God and His plan of redemption. We must sell off our pride that would cause us to hold on to our guilt in fear of confessing our sin. We must sell off our preconceived notions of spirituality that would cause us to hold on to elementary principles of man-made religion. We must sell off the old man and put on the new man in Christ as the greatest gift. Every Christmas Eve I quote the last verse of an old tradition Christmas hymn that reads, “Want can I give Him as poor as I am? If I were a Shepherd I would give Him a lamb. If I were a Wise man I would do my part.
But what I can, I give Him, I give Him my heart.” That is exactly what the Lord wants from each one of us!
The man in the field and the merchant purchased the field and the pearl immediately. There was no haggling – no bargain shopping – no waiting for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. They knew what they were purchasing had great value and so do we in Christ. We are obtaining forgiveness for our sins, the righteousness of Christ, adoption into God’s family, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, and the promise of the resurrection unto eternal life. What a deal! All of that in exchange of my filthy rags so to obtain the beautiful robe of righteousness in Christ. (Is.64.6; 61.10) As the Apostle Paul exclaimed, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor.9.15)
The challenge today is clear – obtain the best gift ever – salvation through Jesus Christ. Whether you are wandering or searching the Lord is saying, “Here am I, here am I.’” If you have already taken hold of Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord the challenge is to value what you have in Christ as the greatest gift you have ever received!
I want to challenge each one of us to value our relationship with Jesus Christ as the best gift ever! That motorcycle my parents gave me back in 1974 became my prized possession. I took care of it. Cleaned it every day. Changed the oil regularly. Kept up with all the maintenance that was needed. Parked it in a safe place. But we often tend to take our lives in Christ for granted. We tend to neglect God’s Word. We tend to neglect our spiritual growth for other things like our jobs, our careers, a relationship, or the things of this world.
I want to challenge us this morning to value our relationship with Jesus Christ as our best gift ever by considering whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. To count everything as rubbish, so that we may gain Christ. (Phil.3.7-8)
The man in the field and merchant had one thing in common. They surrendered everything to gain the treasure and the pearl.
Let’s surrender everything to gain Christ!
Call to Prayer
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. (Eph.1.18)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. (IPt.1.3-4)