Analogies

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

  • When John Kennedy was elected President in 1960, I remember my father saying, “That man sure knows his politics.” I  remember asking my father, “What is politics?,  but I don’t remember the answer. How do you explain “politics” to a nine year old? A nine year old doesn’t have the life experience or knowledge base to understand “politics.” The best you could do would be to use some sort of analogy;.
  • Try this one, Politics is like catching fish. How so? Suppose your Mom agrees to have your two best friends over for a fish fry, but you have to provide the fish.  
    • You alone know where there is a secret fishing hole, but you aren’t really sure you want anyone else to know about it.  
    • Also, you have no fishing equipment, but your friend, Bobby, has a new fishing pole.
    • Except Bobby is loath to share it with anyone and he has no money to buy any bait.  
    • But your other friend, Jimmy, has some money from his paper route.
    • He could buy the bait, but Jimmy knows nothing about fishing.  
    • If you could get Bobby to share his fishing pole and Jimmy to share his earnings, and you share the secret fishing hole, you guys could enjoy a fish fry.
    • Politics is the way you get the three of you together to catch those fish.
  • An analogy can explain something complex in language that a nine year old can grasp. Jesus uses the same device to explain the Kingdom of Heaven. So, Jesus uses analogies from everyday experience that we can understand. He uses analogies drawn from their everyday experience. 
  • I want to focus on 4 of those analogies.
    • The Kingdom of Heaven is like the smallest of seeds that grows into the greatest of shrubs to provide nesting places for birds. OR – The Kingdom of Heaven is like a little yeast that leavens 8 gallons of flour.
    • In both cases you have something very small and simple growing into something very big.
  • The Good News of Christ is in most measurable ways very small, very simple. Here it is: For  God so loved that world, that he gave his only begotten son that all who believe in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” That’s pretty much it.
  • When you think of the great philosophies and ideologies of history, it looks pretty miniscule.
    • How can the Sunday School stories of Jesus compare with the philosophies of Platonism and Marxism?
    • But look back a history.
    • See  how the simple story of Jesus moved men and women of great intellect.
    • People like the great composer George Frideric Handel who wrote his masterpiece Messiah in just 24 days.
    • Or people like Sir Isaac Newton who figured out the missing piece to understand the physics of creation.
  • The simple story prompted men and women to leave everything and travel to the mission field. Like Hudson Taylor who – the missionary to India and China.
  • Too often we make Jesus complicated.
    • We figure that sharing the Good News has to happen in a certain way, at a certain time, among certain people.
    • Indeed, we often feel incapable of sharing that Good News.  
  • It isn’t all that complicated.
    • It’s as simple and small as a seed, or a bit of yeast.
    • But it’s powerful.
    • The power is in the message, not the messenger.
  • A seed might be very tiny, but it’s alive and packed with potential.
    • A bit of yeast works to grow dough because its alive.
    • When we share the simple Jesus story, we aren’t sharing the history of dead people.
    • We’re sharing something that is alive.
  • Some find it too simple.
    • They want to supplement the story.  
    • They want to make it relevant.
    • And so they’ll around the barn – they’ll sign up for this cause or that charity.
    • They’ll spend hours consoling, counseling, comforting.
    • But what they won’t do is share Jesus.
  • Surprisingly, I found evangelical seminarians guilty of this. It happened when I was going through my chaplaincy internship at the Pittsburg VA Hospital. In the morning we ministered on our assigned hospital ward.
    • We were taught to first check the patient’s medical file and familiarize yourself with the diagnosis and treatment history.
    • Then you take note of the surroundings: room temperature, lighting, the patient’s condition.
    • Notice the patient’s nonverbal communications.
    • Practice your active listening skills, hear what the patient is not saying.
  • I went to call on my first patient.
    • Checked his file first.
    • Then I walked into his room ready take note of the surroundings.
    • What I found was a big man lying in bed with restraints on both arms.
    • During my entire visit, he was struggling to get free of those chains.
  • But I dutifully continued checking off all the procedural points.
    • Recall his medical file information – check
    • Taking in the surroundings – check.
    • Noticing the nonverbal communications….lot’s of chain tugging – check.
    • Practice the listening skills – check.
    • I completed my visit and wrote up my summary.
  • I met with the other interns and we each reviewed our cases.
    • Each one of us was diligent about covering all of our checkpoints.
    • When we finished, the instructor asked, “Did any of you pray with your patients?”
  • None of us prayed had with them.
    • That would have been too easy. – too small 
    • We were so focused on all the other stuff, that we forgot about the most important stuff.
    • Something as simple as a little prayer before we left.
  • We could have planted a seed.
  • In Jesus’ analogy, the yeast grew the dough big enough to feed 40 people three meals a day for several days.
    • The point of the two parables is not that the whole world will be converted – it won’t.
    • Jesus is telling his disciples, 
    • “Have confidence in the good news.  It goes out as a little seed, but that seed comes back with big things like food, shade, and shelter.”
    • The little Gospel has very big effects.
  • We saw that in the life of a man born in Poland in 1920.
    • Karol Józef Wojtyła (Voj’ tiwa) was the youngest of three children in his family.
    • His older sister died before his birth and his mother died when he was 8.
    • And as he grew older, his brother would die of scarlet fever.
  • Young Karol was a man of many talents: actor, linguist, soccer player, academic.
    • He could have enjoyed success in any number of pursuits.
    • But early in life, the gospel seed had been implanted in his heart.
  • That seed took root and grew through the adversities of life.
    • It grew as he survived being run over by a truck.
    • It grew when the Gestapo came to town and rounded up 8000 of Krackow’s young men and boys – 
    • – Karol ducked out by hiding in a basement.
  • That seed called him to the ordained ministry.
    • And that call took him to Rome where he would served as the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
    • The timing of the election of a Polish pope coincided with the Solidarity movement in Poland to throw off a communist government.
  • The Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa (Va wen sa) said that 
    • John Paul II was the spiritual inspiration behind the downfall of the communist government, he was a catalyst for a peaceful revolution.
  • The world was divided into blocs.
    • Nobody knew how to throw off communism.  
    • Pope John Paul went to Warsaw and delivered a simple message: “Do not be afraid.”
    • Pretty simple – but very alive, and very powerful to effect change.
  • Years later, Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev  said, 
    • “The collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II”
    • The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a tree so that birds of the air might make their nests.
  • Jesus offered two other analogies.
    • The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and carried away by his joy he goes and sells absolutely everything he has and buys that field.
    • The Kingdom of Heaven is like a businessman seeking beautiful pearls; and when he found one particular pearl of immense worth he went out and sold absolutely everything he had and bought it.
  • How would you feel if you discovered a trunk filled with treasure?  
    • Who wouldn’t be overjoyed!?
    • In these parables, Jesus focused on the joy.
    • It’s the joy of the gospel and the power of that joy.
  • In the course of life, each man in these parables comes upon something of great value: a pearl, buried treasure.
    • In his joy, each man puts everything on the line for that find.
    • They each sell EVERYTHING they own.  EVERYTHING.
    • It’s the joy that drives them to give their all….
      • ▪…to sacrifice all for the sake of the treasure that they found.
    • And yet, selling all wasn’t a sacrifice, it was smart.
    • They knew what they had found.
  • Yesterday’s Powerball lottery paid out $117 million.
    • If I offered to sell you the winning ticket for that lottery last Friday for everything you owned, is there anything you would have held back?
    • Would you have held back any of your family photographs?
    • Would you have held back the wedding ring?
    • How about the family dog?
    • We’re talking $117 million dollars.
  • And if you sold everything you had for that ticket, would you consider that a sacrifice?
    • I doubt it.
    • I think you’d be crying all the way to the bank.
  • Throughout history, it is the joy of the gospel message that has moved men and women to make life-changing decisions.
    • It causes them to make huge acts of sacrifice.
    • But they didn’t see them as sacrifices.
    • Because they already had that treasure.
    • And the joy of having that treasure prompted them to give all.
  • Unfortunately, a lot of people have it in the reverse order.
    • They think that by making the sacrifices, they can acquire that treasure, that joy.
    • If I just do more good works, if I just give more money, I’ll get that saving faith.
  • But the kingdom of heaven is just the opposite.
    • It’s not by first preaching God’s law that people do God’s law.
    • It’s by telling people of God’s treasure that people make the sellings needed to follow God.
    • First the tellings, then the sellings.
  • But know this.
    • Selling all – making the changes in your life – 
    • it isn’t a condition for getting the treasure, but it is a condition for having the treasure.
    • And it’s joy that prompts the selling.
    • It’s joy that prompts people to put it all on the line.
  • Martin Luther understood that better than most.
    • Young Luther was a striving, fearful man.
    • As a young law student, he was on horseback during a thunderstorm returning to the university from home.
    • A lightning bolt struck near him.
    • It so terrified him of death and divine judgment, that he cried out, “Help! Saint Anna, I will become a monk!”
  • Shortly after that, he abandoned law school and entered the monastery.
    • He studied his bible, 
    • He endured long hours of prayer, 
    • he went on pilgrimages, 
    • he made confession after confession, and still he feared for his immortal soul.
  • And then one day during his Bible reading he discovered a treasure.
    • He was reading Romans:
    • “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’”
    • Luther discovered that he was saved not by his own righteousness.
    • He knew he could never be righteous enough.
    • But he didn’t have to be.  
    • He wasn’t saved by HIS righteousness.
    • The bible told him that he was saved by God’s righteousness.
    • That was a pearl of great price.
  • After that, life changed dramatically for Luther.
    • An emissary from the Vatican came to town selling indulgences – pay him the money, and shorten someone’s time in purgatory.
  • But that didn’t square with Luther’s reading of Romans and Luther wasted no time in challenging the Pope.
  • This was good news for the common folk, but bad news for the Pope’s fund raising.
    • It didn’t take long before Luther’s challenge landed him before the Emperor.
    • The Emperor didn’t need a religious squabble between a monk and the pope causing unrest among the people.
    • So he offered Luther an opportunity to recant.
    • And now Luther faced his decision.
    • Bucking the Emperor could cost him his life.
    • It was Luther’s moment to sell all that he had for the treasure he discovered.
  • A younger Luther had lived in fear of thunderstorms.
    • But this Luther stood before the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
    • And when the Emperor demanded that he recant, Luther replied:
    • Here I stand, I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.”
  • That’s selling all – that’s putting it all on the line.
    • No one forced him.
    • But knowing the treasure he possessed, he could do no other.
    • Luther’s stand would spawn a long needed reformation in the church that would change the course of history.
    • And it all began when he found a pearl of great price while reading his bible.
  • The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
  • What is the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus used analogies to explain eternal realities. And history has shown us what life is like in the kingdom of God. It’s a place where a young man who lost all of his family and lived in obscurity would turn back the Soviet Union – with no armies, but a message of hope. It’s a place when a young fearful monk afraid of a thunderstorm would stand up an Emperor and trigger a reformation.
  • You and I are called to much more than the life this world has to offer.
  • We’re called to nothing less than the joy, the wonder, and the fulfillment of living life in the Kingdom of Heaven.