We have been looking at the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God for a few months now where we have been studying Jesus’ parables that describe how God’s kingdom works and what it looks like. Thus far, we have looked at seven parables that Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 13, Mark chapter 4, and Luke chapter 8 in His famous “Sermon by the Sea.” We have learned some incredible truths from how the Lord established His kingdom in the first place to why He did it. And the latter was the most recent thing we have been studying by looking at Jesus’ Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price.
In these two parables, we learned that the Lord was first this man/merchant in them because He first sought out and saved we who were lost and paid His all to purchase us out of the world. Thus, He began His kingdom by seeing a valuable treasure and pearl of great price that was hidden to the naked eye. He came to seek and save that which was lost and paid the greatest price to redeem us—that pearl of great price and that treasure hidden in the field. That’s you!
But like it is with valuable things like treasures and pearls, they are not usually found on the surface. They must be dug for because they are hidden underground, underwater, within rocks, inside of oysters, etc. God designed it this way—because the true riches and treasures that are found only in Christ are hidden in Him. And since Christ now lives in us, we have those treasures hidden in us, awaiting our discovery.
So, we are those hidden treasures & pearls of great price that the Lord searched for and bought for Himself. This is how valuable we are in His sight, and it is what caused Him to pay such a tremendous price to apprehend us!
You see, sometimes we get so wrapped up in the greatness of the price that was paid that we totally miss the value of the object that was being paid for. Church, while we certainly need to always honor the great price Jesus paid for our salvation, we also need to realize that if God were willing to pay such a great price for us, then we must have had some value as well.
Do you believe God is a wise investor? Well, He did choose the Jewish people, did He not? Yes, saints, the Lord knows how to make a sound investment. Well, do you think He would have paid that high of a price if there was not some comparable value in the item he was purchasing? Of course not! No, He paid such a great price for us because of the great value He saw in us. Thank you, Jesus! He saw a treasure in each one of us and He saw a pearl of great price in this church that He saw in His heart to create!
Now we move on to the final parable that Jesus taught in His “sermon by the sea”—which is appropriate for its subject matter, the Parable of the Dragnet. This parable was the last one recorded before Jesus asked His disciples— “Have you understood all these things?”—to which they responded— “Yes, Lord.” (See Matthew 13:51). So, this parable is how Jesus chose to wrap up His teachings on the kingdom of God/heaven, and fittingly so because this parable illustrates to us the culmination of all things in His kingdom. Let’s look at it …
In Matthew 13:47-50, Jesus says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
THE COAT OF MANY COLORS
First of all, before we look at the dragnet itself, let’s consider where it was being cast and what it was intended to gather:
Jesus said that the dragnet was cast into the “sea”: We need to understand that the sea is oftentimes used Scripturally as a "type of humanity. Therefore, this dragnet was being cast into the sea of this world where all of mankind resides to gather something. And Jesus went on to say that in this sea of humanity, there are “some of every kind” that are being gathered. Amen.
Church, in the ocean, there are many different kinds of fish: There are blue fish. There are green fish. There are red fish. There are black fish. There are white fish. Likewise, in mankind we have people of all different races, creeds, and colors. The point is that it doesn’t matter what kind of fish you are or what color your scales are, we are all in the same “boat”—in this case, we are all in the same net. Yes, we all make up the church of the Lord Jesus Christ—and His church is made up of all different denominations and skin color.
You see, I see the church as Joseph’s coat of many colors: We know that Joseph was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in more ways than one. But one of the things I believe we can see in his story is how the coat of many colors that he was clothed with by his father is a type of all of us who have put on Christ. Yes, it described how we are made up of all different kinds of races, creeds, and colors, yet we are all woven together in Christ and one in Him. Amen.
So, this spiritual dragnet is cast into the waters of mankind is collecting all kinds of fish. So, let’s look at what this dragnet is …
WHAT IS THE DRAGNET?
Now when Jesus refers to the “dragnet” here, He was not referring to that television series that ran back in the 50’s & 60’s. That’s just the facts, ma’am! No, He was referring to a weighted net that was used by fishermen to drag through a body of water to catch an abundance of fish. This was the primary way that people fished back in their day, mind you—not with rods, hooks, and lures, but with nets like this.
And aren’t you glad that the Lord fishes for us this way? He doesn’t use specific lures or bait, which would only catch certain kinds of fish. No, He uses a dragnet that will gather “some of every kind.” Praise the Lord!
So, this “dragnet” is obviously the tool that you and I are to use to be the fishers of men that we are called to be. So, what do you suppose this spiritual dragnet is? What is it that we cast into the waters to catch people and bring them into the boat with us? It’s the gospel, of course! Yes, it’s the Word of God that the Lord has commissioned us to preach to every creature in the waters of this world (a point we will revisit shortly). Therefore, the gospel message is what we have been given to “draw” sinners to repentance and bring them into the boat with us.
Do you know how hard it would have been for these fishermen to catch fish without a net? In fact, what if they had no tools whatsoever to catch these fish with and were expected to do it with their hands? Well, I would imagine they would not be having fish for dinner that night! Well, just as we obviously need tools to successfully catch fish, we need tools to be successful fishers of men. And one of these tools is the gospel itself!
You see, far too many people lean on their own techniques and eloquent words to evangelize. And the problem with this is that they are relying on their own efforts to see people converted. Church, people receiving Jesus is not going to occur because we do everything perfect. People will receive Jesus when the true gospel of Jesus is preached. Why? Because the Word does the work. Never forget that! The gospel changes people—not the ones who share the gospel. This is a point we have made over and over in these messages on the kingdom of God, but it is point worth making again—the Word does the work in people’s lives. Planting its seed in our hearts will change us from the inside to the outside. Amen!
Now part of the gospel certainly involves our testimony and how the gospel itself changed our lives. Yes, it’s not just about us preaching the Bible to people, but also involves us proclaiming how the gospel has impacted us. But how many people lean on even how perfectly they share their testimony? As the Lord once showed me, all one needs to get a “conviction” in a court of law is a “testimony.” Likewise, all we need to see someone brought under the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit is the word of our “testimony.” It’s not about how great of an orator we are or how much charisma we have; it’s all about the truth we are sharing. So, if we will just open our mouths and share the good news of Jesus Himself and/or how Jesus changed our lives, the Holy Spirit can then perform His ministry of convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
THE ART OF NET CASTING
However, while we do not have to know the Bible backwards and forwards or be the most eloquent of speech to be a good witness, there is an art to “casting our net”:
How many of you know that there is an art to casting these nets and collecting the fish? If you or I were to go out on a lake today and start trying to fish that way, we would probably be unsuccessful. But someone who is proficient in using this method of fishing would most certainly catch more fish than us, wouldn’t they?
Well, I believe that when it comes to us casting our nets before people, it’s not just important that we do it; how we do it is important too. And again, I’m not talking about doing all the natural, carnal things perfectly; I am referring to doing things right “spiritually.” In other words, being Spirit-filled and Spirit-led is what greatly increases our effectiveness in the waters of evangelism.
Church, I believe that the Holy Spirit is the best & most experienced fisherman in the business! He knows how to cast the gospel before people and get the best return. The key is us being led by the Holy Spirit in who, when, and how to share the gospel with people. He will lead us to the right people at the right time if we will yield to Him.
Just think about it—what if when you went fishing, you were able to somehow know exactly where the fish were at and weren’t just casting your net aimlessly in places where they were not at? That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? Well, the Holy Spirit is there to supernaturally give us the best information when it comes to being fishers of men.
For example, you might be in church and someone across the sanctuary catches your eye that you don’t recognize. Your heart goes out to them for some reason and it just “seems good” that you go introduce yourself to them. So, you yield to that prompting and are “moved with compassion,” and as you are talking to them, the Lord shows you something about them—they just lost a loved one and are deeply saddened. So, you share with them things that come to you—perhaps Scriptures you didn’t even know you knew—and it greatly ministers to them.
Another example might be that we are in a restaurant, and we notice someone there who is obviously having a bad day. So, love wells up in our hearts for them and we approach them, with a desire to share the truth with them. In the conversation, we ask them if they know Jesus and discover that they are not a believer. So then, the Holy Spirit starts giving you all kinds of parable like examples to use to share the truth with them, mixing in Scriptures in with them. You didn’t even know you knew those things! The person is obviously touched by the Holy Spirit and receives Jesus right then and there in that restaurant.
So, what happened in these two examples? First, the Holy Spirit showed them to you. Then He showed you what they were going through. And, finally, He brought the verses up in your heart to share with them. So, that is just one of the myriad of ways that the Holy Spirit can help us in sharing the love of God with others and seeing their lives changed.
But it’s not going to be a formula or some mechanical method of evangelism. It needs to be a love motivated, Holy Spirit inspired thing—which will require us being flexible and willing to yield to the Spirit of God inside of us.
But as we talk about being Spirit led etc., don’t be mistaken: The Lord wants everyone to hear the Gospel. So, it won’t be a case that the Holy Spirit is not leading us to share the truth in love more times than He does. No, it will actually be few and far between the times that we are not led to share Christ with others.
You see, Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). He didn’t say go into the parts of the world that I lead you to and preach the gospel to those I put on your heart. No, the Lord already told the church to go everywhere and preach to everyone. Of course, this does not mean that you and I are to personally go everywhere and preach the gospel to everyone. That’s not possible. But what it does mean is that the Great Commission involves us being willing to proclaim the gospel where we are at. Always remember: the truth of God’s Word always trumps any perceived directions from the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is not going to lead one to do the opposite of what the Scriptures clearly teach us to do.
So, yes, more often than not, the Holy Spirit will be leading us to share the gospel with others because the Lord wants as many people as possible to come into His family. To me, this describes the purpose of the dragnet in Jesus’ parable—it is to be cast before all mankind with the intent to gather as many as possible. Amen.
THE NET IS FULL!
Therefore, this is why Jesus went on to say, “which when it was full …”
You know, the Lord is all about the net being full, isn’t He? We have a couple of instances in the Bible where the Lord showed His goodness to His fishermen disciples:
In one instance, He “rented” Simon’s boat for His ministry’s purpose, teaching the multitudes from it (See Luke 5:1-11). Well, after Jesus was done, He told Peter to launch out and let down his nets for a catch—to which Peter responded— “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at Your Word I will let down the net.” Now most people read this as if Peter was doing something admirable here in agreeing to let down the net like the Lord told him to even though they had caught nothing. I don’t believe this was admirable at all. I see Peter as saying something to the effect of— “Lord, we haven’t caught nothing, so this in on you that we are casting the nets down again and will continue to catch nothing.” In other words, I believe Peter was relieving himself of all responsibility, so he didn’t look bad if they tried again and failed. Also, notice that Jesus told him to let down the nets (plural), and he responded by saying he will let down the net (singular). Therefore, he was being obedient, but only partially obedient. So, guess what would have happened if he would have let down all of the dragnets? I think we all could agree that all of them would have been filled! This is why I believe Peter responded the way he did, when he saw the great number of fish they had taken in (i.e., “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”). He knew what was in his heart. He knew what he had done.
But the fact is, the Lord desired to fill all of their nets up, not just the one Peter let down. Therefore, it was them who did not allow the full magnitude of that provision to occur. I wonder if we’ve ever done that. Have we ever only partially obeyed the Lord and not had the best attitude while doing that? I’m sure we have all been guilty of this at some point. But Isaiah 1:19 teaches us that we have to be willing and obedient to eat the good of the land—not just obedient. Sure, you might eat of the land just by sheer obedience, but you might not eat the good of it without a willing heart. Amen? The Lord wants our nets to be full of the good of the land!
The other instance I refer to is after Jesus’ resurrection: In John chapter 21, He appeared to His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, but they didn’t recognize them. He speaks to them from the shore, asking them if they had caught anything. So, when they answered Him that they hadn’t, He told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they would find some. Now, the word “some” is not in the original text, and that is because they didn’t wind up catching just some; we are told that they caught a multitude! In this case, they had to drag the net to land because it was full of 153 large fish. However, the net did not break (See John 21:1-11)!
Now the interesting part of this story to me is that they initially didn’t recognize Him. For some reason, their eyes were constrained from knowing that it was Him just like those disciples on the Road to Emmaus. But it was when they experienced yet another miraculous catch of fish that they recognized Him, saying, “It is the Lord!” In other words, while they didn’t recognize Him physically, they recognized His goodness! Yes, they were reminded of how the Lord is in the “net filling” business.
Now the net being filled in this parable is indicative of when the fullness of time comes where all things are complete and ready to be pulled ashore. Jesus told us that this gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world and then the end will come. And the reason that it works this way is because the Fisher of men wants His net full. In other words, He wants as many in His net as possible—all because He is merciful and not willing that any be wasted or perish. Yes, He wants His gospel being heard by everyone!
And, church, there absolutely is a “fullness of time” where the dragnet will be pulled out of the waters and drawn to the shore. That will be the end of time where we will all be brought before the judgment seat—the thing which this parable is speaking of where the good will be separated from the bad, the just from the wicked. Jesus described this event elsewhere when He spoke of the time when the sheep would be separated from the goats (See Matthew 25:31-46).
This is a very serious and sober time, friends—because we need to know that just because we are in the net doesn’t automatically mean we are “just fish.” In other words, just because one calls themselves a Christian, goes to church, etc. does not mean that they really are a child of God. No, what makes us good and just in the sight of God is not whether we are good and just in our behavior and actions, but whether we have been born again or not and walk by faith in Jesus. Yes, it is not whether we simply name of the name of Christ or not but whether we have truly put on Christ and born of His Spirit.
Church, when we consider God’s kingdom, what is truly important is the outcome—and that is the point Jesus is making in this parable. He was teaching us that the gospel is sweeping through the world, and it is collecting all kinds of fish, and there is a Day of reckoning that’s coming soon and very soon. As one of our elders, Donna Nye, likes to say, “Get ready! Get ready! Get ready!”
So, we have been covering the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God for a couple of months now where we are studying Jesus’ parables that describe how God’s kingdom operates and what it looks like. And thus far, we have covered various parables such as Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, and the Parable of the Growing Seed where we have learned some awesome truths from how the Lord established His kingdom in the first place to how the principle of sowing & reaping is the law that governs God’s kingdom.
Most recently, we covered the Parable of the Leaven and learned how the devil himself even puts this kingdom principle to work in an attempt to corrupt and pervert us. We learned this by considering that every time leaven is used in the Scriptures as an example, it is not used in a positive sense. In fact, it is used to describe sin, false teaching, wrong belief systems, etc.
We saw that “leaven” (or what we would call “yeast”) describes a single-celled organism which belongs to the fungi kingdom used to make bread rise and tastier. But since leaven is essentially a fungus, we can see why it is used in a negative sense in the Scriptures because fungi aren’t usually good things, are they?
So, we looked at some Scriptural examples of “leaven” and we saw that the first example we have of leaven is in the Book of Exodus when the Lord instituted the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And we saw how those things were simply types and shadows of spiritual realities because we looked in First Corinthians chapter 5 and saw what they represented—things like sin and wickedness. In this chapter, the apostle Paul likened the toleration of wickedness in their church as “a little leaven leavening the whole lump.” Therefore, we learned that it is not about simply observing a feast and performing some rite or ritual; the issue is us purging wicked things from our lives that the leaven symbolizes.
But we learned that Jesus also compared this leaven to other things such as the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod—and we learned that what He was referring to was the teachings, the way of thinking, and the agendas that these parties projected on people which were:
So, we learned that the devil is constantly trying to sow these various kinds of leaven into our hearts. And why? So that he can leaven all three measures of meal within us—that is, our spirit, soul, and body. And we learned that this is not done in some overt manner. It is a sly, cunning, and subtle “leavening” just as the woman in this parable was said to have “hid” the leaven in the three measures of meal (i.e., dough). The fact that Jesus describes her as “hiding” it shows us that it will not be on the surface, apparent to everyone, but will work underneath everything doing its corrupting work. But we learned that even though the leaven is all around us, the Lord has promised that He Himself will sanctify us completely and our whole spirit, soul, and body will be “preserved” blameless (See First Thessalonians 5:23).
So, while there certainly is the negative side of it, there is good leaven that can infiltrate our lives and cause us to “rise” and be more “flavorful,” and that is God’s Word and His Holy Spirit.
We saw that Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” So, just as that woman hid the leaven in the three measures of meal, you and I can choose to hide His Word, the Gospel, in our hearts and when we do so, it can keep us from sinning against God! Hallelujah! Therefore, we saw that the key is us learning to sow God’s Word in our hearts and letting that seed spring up and affecting all the issues of our life. Yes, His Word is what sanctifies us (See John 17:17). That’s what we’ve been learning for weeks now—that the kingdom of God works like this—seedtime and harvest. But the devil has perverted this kingdom principle and now is trying to hide his leaven to where our whole spirit, soul and body is infected by his deception.
So, let’s continue this teaching on the mysteries of God’s kingdom by looking at two more parables that Jesus gave us in Matthew chapter 13—the Parable of the Hidden Treasure & The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (See Matthew 13:44-46). I believe that these two parables will reinforce to us these very truths of how God views us, His church.
WHAT IS THE TREASURE & THE PEARL?
You see, these two parables are yet another attempt by our Lord and Savior to illustrate to us how His kingdom operates. But this time, Jesus attempts to reveal to us another aspect of His kingdom.
Now there are two ways that you hear these two similarly themed parables being interpreted:
One is that the treasure and pearl illustrated in these two parables are the kingdom of God itself and we are the man and the merchant who discover it. Then, having found this precious commodity, we sell all we have for the joy set before us by laying down our lives for the cause of the kingdom. Therefore, most believers see these parables as how the disciple of Christ will react once discovering the kingdom—we will forsake all to experience the life of the kingdom. This is probably the most common interpretation of these Scriptures.
Secondly, these two parables have also been interpreted to mean that the treasure and the pearl is us, and the man or merchant that sought out and found the church was Jesus. The Lord then forsook all He had to purchase us by first leaving His glory in heaven, becoming a man, and then ultimately by giving up His life for us on the Cross. So, this interpretation could be summed up by saying that Jesus sold all He had in order to redeem us as His own.
So, as I have considered both of these possible interpretations, I asked the Lord which one was correct. Is it that the treasure/pearl is Your kingdom and the salvation one experiences when entering your kingdom or is the treasure/pearl the church that You died for? Is the man/merchant us discovering the kingdom or is this person Jesus who was seeking after us?
As I asked the Holy Spirit these questions, He responded to me saying that the answer is both. Yes, He told me that both interpretations are correct because, as He put it to me, you cannot have one without the other. Let me explain …
You see, the Lord never encourages us to do anything that He Himself has not already first done. Always remember that. He, as any good leader, will first practice what He preaches. And these two parables perfectly illustrate this principle of God’s kingdom.
The Lord was first this man/merchant in these parables: He discovered this kingdom in first seeking out and saving we who were lost and paying His all to purchase us out of the world. Thus, He began His kingdom by seeing a valuable treasure and pearl of great price that was hidden to the naked eye. He came to seek and save that which was lost and paid the greatest price to redeem us—that pearl of great price and that treasure hidden in the field.
Now there was a slight difference in both of these parables regarding this interpretation. So first, I want us to begin by looking at Jesus’ Parable of the Hidden Treasure—for in it, we learn some tremendous truths about God’s kingdom …
THE HIDDEN TREASURE
Now Jesus “again” begins this parable by saying, “…the kingdom of heaven is like …” But this time, He begins by saying, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like …”
By using the word “Again,” I see Jesus saying that this is yet another way that we can illustrate how things work in the kingdom of God. And one important take away from this is just how important it is that we hear over and over how things work in the kingdom. Why? Because faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s Word. So, hearing and hearing again and again about God’s kingdom is evidently an important part of hiding these truths in our hearts.
But when Jesus said that “the kingdom of heaven is like,” what He was saying was that the kingdom of God can be illustrated like so. In other words, this is yet another way that God’s kingdom can be described and how it works.
So here, Jesus uses the example of a treasure hidden in a field to describe how the kingdom of God operates. And like we said, this treasure was first us and Jesus was the Man who discovered us, but then because of what Jesus did for us, it can also be the kingdom of God itself and we were the ones who discovered it. But I want us to focus mainly on how it all started—how we were that hidden treasure that Jesus found and hid for Himself.
You see, the fact that Jesus describes this treasure as being hidden in a field reveals something to us—that the world itself (which the field represents) is not aware of the treasure contained within it. Yes, it’s hidden. So, that means that when it comes to this natural, carnal world, it’s hard to see what is truly valuable.
Let me tell you what’s important, church—people are important. All of the gold and silver and other things that this world values are not the real treasure—human beings are. That’s what the Lord esteems.
So, this ought to be something that we seek to discover since the world and our flesh are hiding it from us. We should seek to know in our hearts just how valuable others are while also knowing that we too are valuable to the Lord. Amen? And I can assure you—you will have to “dig” for this revelation like one digs for buried treasure. Why? Because it not something that the flesh will generally focus on. It is spiritual truth that must be sought out and revealed by the Holy Spirit.
You know, things that are precious and valuable are usually never found on the surface. They must be dug for because they are hidden underground, underwater, within rocks, inside of oysters, etc. God designed it this way—because the true riches and treasures that are found only in Christ are hidden in Him. And since Christ now lives in us, we have those treasures hidden in us, awaiting our discovery.
But lest we get the wrong idea—these riches and treasures are not something that we don’t already possess. No, if Christ—the One in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge dwells in—lives in us, then these treasures are already in us! Yes, they are not hidden from us; they are hidden in us! Glory to God! Therefore, we are not digging for something like we don’t already have it. We are looking within us for all the riches and treasures of all Christ is in us and all we are in Him. And how we do look for these things? By the treasure map, of course!
So, all we need is that treasure map to guide the way—and that is the Word of God. Yes, we will discover this treasure contained within us by looking in the mirror of God’s Word and digging for all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are contained in the Holy Scriptures! But do you know what it is going to reveal to you? That the X that marks the spot is not going this way or that way; the X that marks the spot is in you! Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, saints (Colossians 3:16) and discover the treasures buried within you!
A beautiful illustration of this is found in the account of Joseph and his brothers reuniting in Egypt: If you recall, Joseph hid his identity from his brothers when they came to Egypt during the famine to purchase food. So, at one point, he put their money that they brought to pay for the grain back in their sacks. When they returned and confessed to Joseph that their money was returned to them, he said, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks …” (Genesis 43:23).
The Lord referred to His original covenant people this way—as His own special treasure (See Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6 & 14:2). So do you think He would view His church any different. I tell you the truth—if He did, it would be better than even this because the blood of the Lamb of God does what the blood of bulls & goats could never do. Amen?
THE TREASURE CHEST
But it is not that we are His treasure because of who we are in the natural & physical. No, it is not our works or anything else we are or do in the flesh that gives us our value to God. It is what Jesus Christ did on the inside of us that is of great value! The apostle Paul describes this in Second Corinthians chapter 4. Let’s look at it …
In Second Corinthians 4:7, Paul tells us— “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
The word “earthen vessel” describes something like a household utensil that is made of the earth like a porcelain cup or a jar of clay. In fact, the New International Version translates these words that way by describing these earthen vessels as “jars of clay,” which is where a Christian band got their name from.
And oh, how people love to emphasize this about themselves—how they are just of the earth and how they are only human. And the connotation is that we are all just broken, cracked, and fragile—full of flaws and imperfections. Well, while a lot of those things are certainly true, why do people tend to focus on the imperfections in themselves instead of celebrating the treasure that is contained in these cracked and broken vessels.
You know, if I were digging for treasure and came upon an old chest that was molded, dilapidated, and worth nothing, would I just throw it away because of how flawed the chest was? No, I would do everything I could to open it up to see what was inside of it. Why? Because if there was a treasure inside of it, then it just became a treasure chest and, therefore, has great value! So, if this happened, how do you suppose I would describe what I found to others? Would I say, “I found this disgusting old chest.” No, no, no! I would basically only refer to the treasure I found, not to the chest it was buried in. Amen?
Well, we have this treasure in these earthen vessels and so our value is not based on who we are on the outside, but who we are on the inside and what we have contained within us! Amen.
But then notice what Jesus said in His parable … He said that this man “found and hid” it.
I think it is interesting that when Jesus found this treasure hidden in the field, He then re-hid it Himself. In other words, in His wisdom, He knew He needed to put that treasure in a secret place so that when He purchased the field, the treasure wouldn’t be discovered by someone else.
But notice that Jesus said that this man “found” this treasure. Now the fact that it was a treasure that was hidden in a field and he “found” it indicates that he was looking for it and didn’t just stumble upon it. (A point we will touch on momentarily in the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price).
FOR JOY OVER IT
But in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, after finding the treasure in the field, he did not simply attempt to attain the treasure. No, he paid the price to purchase the entire field—knowing that in purchasing the field, He was purchasing the treasure hidden in the field. What a wise God we serve!
This paints a beautiful picture of the lengths that love will go to redeem the object of its love. And in this illustration, we can see how God paid the price for the whole world and not just for those who would receive His call for salvation. In other words, He paid for all man’s sin, not just the redeemed people’s sin. He went to such great lengths to offer this free gift of salvation to the whole world to where all one needs to do is receive the price paid—the blood of Jesus. Then, if they receive the price that was paid to redeem them, all other sin issues are taken care of. But if they reject the lamb who was slain for their sins, then they reject the gift of salvation.
But not only did Jesus pay the price to redeem all of mankind, He also paid the price to redeem all of the world itself. Yes, this planet which has thrown into a sin-cursed state when Adam sinned, was also purchased, ready to be redeemed when Jesus returns, bringing with Him the new heavens and the new earth. Come Lord Jesus, Come! Amen.
Now like we see that the field here represents the world itself—God’s creation, if you would—I also believe we can see the “field” here as representing our physical flesh & blood body. So, like we’ve seen, the treasure hidden in the field can represent all of the worth, value, potential, and capabilities that are contained within us. And, church, that is what this Man, the Man Christ Jesus, saw in us—and it was the thing that motivated Him to sell all that He had on the Cross to buy us with His very own blood! Amen!
And do not be mistaken by thinking that Jesus did this reluctantly or as a matter of obligation. No, this parable shows us that the man in this parable goes and sells all He has “for joy over it.” Amen!
You see, church, we are what Jesus was looking at when He died on the Cross! We are what enabled Him to endure such suffering! Hebrews 12:2 says that it was “for the joy that was set before Him …” that He “… endured the cross.” And based on this parable of the Hidden Treasure, we were that joy.
Oh, church, I wish we all saw our Lord this way—as One who rejoices over us and would do anything to possess us! He truly is this good! Amen!
So, yes, the treasure was first us in that Jesus sold all He had to purchase not only us, but the whole world. Yes, Jesus paid the ultimate price to redeem this entire planet and all that is within it—and that includes you. And why? It’s because He values you and gets joy out of you!
So, what is the response this should generate in us? Well, that’s the other possible interpretation of this parable: We then ought to sell all we have—that is, lay our lives down for the One who laid His down for us—for the seeking first of His kingdom and His righteousness. Amen?
Let’s sell out for Him today, church. Let’s give Him our all, in return, since He gave us His all on the Cross. It is our reasonable service, and it is our privilege & honor. Amen.
THE FATHER’S BUSINESS
Now let’s look at Jesus’ Parable of the Pearl of Great Price because while it is very similar to the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, it does have some differences that are worth noting.
First of all, notice that Jesus uses the example of not just any man, but of a “merchant.” So, as we saw in the previous parable, the Lord is this man. So, what does this teach us? It teaches us that the Lord is a merchant. Now this is much more significant than I have personally ever considered it to be:
You see, a merchant is defined as someone who is involved in wholesale trading and/or supplying merchandise to a particular trade. In other words, a merchant is a businessman (or woman, of course).
When Jesus was a young boy, He referred to His “Father’s business.” Church, we need to understand that while we are a part of the family God, having been born (again) of our Heavenly Father, we have also become a part of our Father God’s business. And He absolutely has expectations as to how His business is being run by His children.
You see, merchants are not in this just for fun or a hobby. No, they are in it for profit. Likewise, our Heavenly Father is in the business of making a profit too. No, I’m not talking about income like we think of it, but in the things that are truly valuable—souls! As we learned already—people are what are valuable to Him. So, that is the kind of increase He is looking for—people coming into His kingdom, family, and business. Amen!
Another thing I found interesting when I looked up the definition of a merchant was that they described this person who was involved in trading and merchandise as “especially one dealing with foreign countries.” In other words, this is indicating that merchants oftentimes do business with those in other geographic locations, supplying goods that they might not have.
Well, this makes me think of how the Lord Jesus came from heaven to earth on His Father’s business in search of these valuable commodities. Yes, like a sea merchant will go out into the waters on a ship to find these beautiful pearls, the Lord left His abode in heaven in search of a foreign commodity that to Him was and is precious.
SEEKING WITH ALL HIS HEART
And that is a big point not only in Jesus’ Parable of the Pearl of Great Price but also in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure—that the Lord sought us out!
You see, one thing I think a lot of believers’ miss is the fact that if God commands us to seek Him with all of our hearts, He does the same. No, He is not going to tell us to do something that He is not first willing to do. And the truth is—He wants us to seek after Him because He already sought after us. Amen?
You see, in His Parable of the Hidden Treasure, Jesus said that this man “found and hid” the treasure. Now the fact that it was a treasure that was hidden in a field and he “found” it indicates that he was looking for it and didn’t just stumble upon it. And here in Jesus’ Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, He said that this merchant was “seeking” beautiful pearls.
Did you know that this was one of Jesus’ primary missions of coming from heaven to earth—to seek after the lost? It was. He said in Zacchaeus’ house, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (See Luke 19:10).
This is the point that we see Jesus making in Luke chapter 15: In this chapter, we see that when the Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus was receiving the sinners and eating with them, Jesus began to give them three parables that illustrate God’s heart for seeking to save the lost.
The first one was Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Sheep where He illustrated how any person who lost one of their sheep will leave the ninety-nine to go in search of the one that was astray (See Luke 15:4-7). But what Jesus did in this parable that most people miss is He showed the heart of the man who had found his lost sheep. He describes him as laying the sheep on his shoulders and rejoicing as he brought it home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors, inviting them to rejoice with him.
The next parable was very similar: It’s the Parable of the Lost Coin. In it, there was a woman who had ten silver coins, and when she lost one of them, she turned her house upside down trying to find it. But when she finds it, she does the same thing that the man who lost his sheep did—She rejoiced and invited others to rejoice with her!
Then Jesus concludes with the more commonly parable known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. However, I do not like this title because this parable was not just about the lost son (which is a better title in itself because it fits the context better), but it was a parable of three people, not just one.
You see, there were two sons in this parable—the older son and the younger, prodigal son. Then there was also the father of them both—which is what we fail to see a lot—that we have a Heavenly Father and a Savior who seeks us out, desiring to have us in His house. This is our God! He’s looking for us and searched high and low to find us all because He loves us passionately and extravagantly! Amen!
So, both His Parable of the Treasure Hid in a Field and the Pearl of Great Price are meant to illustrate how the Lord searches for treasure and beautiful pearls (which are you and I) with the same kind of heart that we do the things we value. You see, church, God values you, and He will search high and low to find you, His lost sheep. He will turn everything upside down to find you, His lost coin. He will look for you like a Father whose child is lost. He loves you, and He moved heaven and earth to find you. Amen.
And like in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, we see why the Lord seeks after us like He does—it’s because He truly values us! Yes, we saw that He sees us like a treasure, and we see here that He sees us like “beautiful pearls.” Therefore, He sought us out like one seeks after pearls.
Do you know what the odds are of finding a pearl in an oyster? They say that it is like one in every 10,000! Wow! That is not good odds, church. But that would require a lot of effort, hard work, and time to find the one beautiful one, wouldn’t it?
So, look at someone today and tell them— “Sorry, you are not one in a million; you’re more like one in 10,000!” But actually, we might be one in a million because notice how Jesus says that this merchant was seeking “beautiful” pearls. That speaks to me that he wasn’t just looking for any old pearl; he was in search of a certain quality of pearl—the beautiful ones. Amen!
You see, this is, in my opinion, one of the biggest problems we have in the world today—the insecurities in people.
You do not have to look too far to see people starving for attention, communicating through their actions “Look at me! Tell me how important I am! Tell me I’m handsome or pretty!” Things like Facebook, Instagram, and Tic Toc are all used to fuel this drive that is in people for recognition and to feed their insecurities. Don’t get me wrong—that’s not how everyone uses them—but you can see how these various platforms are used to post picture after picture and video after video that screams for attention.
But the problem is not the pictures, the videos, or the posts; the problem is the insecurities that drive these things. Yes, the issue is that there are so many people who are not complete, who hate themselves, and who are in desperate need of attention to make them feel better. That’s not right!
And this is not just a problem in the world. Even in the church, these same insecurities exist. This is why people flock to hearing messages that tell them how important they are, how much they are loved, what all Christ has done for them, and what their calling and giftings are.
Now don’t get me wrong—There is certainly a place for us hearing these truths. You will hear me teach & preach these truths with the best of them, but there is still a reason people, as the Bible says, love to heap up for themselves teachers. Second Timothy 4:3 goes on to say that it’s because they have “itching ears.” And that’s the problem—people tend to want to hear what satisfies that part of them that is still in need.
But let this truth resonate in your heart today—If the Lord is the merchant here and you are the pearl that He has found, then you are beautiful. That’s the way the Lord sees you!
So, it doesn’t matter if the world has told you that you’re ugly, good for nothing, and unimportant. The Lord thinks otherwise. And I can guarantee you—He is the One who is right, not the world. Yes, His value system is not the one that is incorrect; the world’s is. Therefore, what makes one beautiful is not our eyes, weight, hair, skin, etc. What makes us beautiful is the Lord! We are light! We are love! And we are life! That is who we are and that is how He sees you today! Amen!
For example, in Hebrews 11:23, we see this is how Moses’ parents saw him. Let’s look at it because I believe it reveals to us some important things …
Hebrews 11:23 says, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.”
Now I’ve never heard parents who give birth to a baby say that their baby is ugly. No, they all think their baby is beautiful. So, this isn’t talking about “beautiful” in the sense of they thought their new baby boy was good looking physically. No, they saw something else in Moses—and we have to assume that what they saw was a purpose, a calling, and something special about him.
Well, what do you think the Lord sees when He looks at you—His born-again children? He sees a beautiful girl and handsome boy. Others might look at His babies and say, “Man, I don’t know what He sees in them because they are one ugly baby.” But the Lord says, “They are mine, and I think they are beautiful” Yes, church, like Moses’ parents, the Lord looks at us and sees purpose, destiny, and someone who is special. Sure, we might have poop in our diapers and spit up on our chin, but the Lord, through His eyes of love, sees someone beautiful whom He can use. Amen.
BOUGHT WITH A PRICE
So, if this is the way the Lord sees us—as beautiful, precious, and a treasure—what do you figure His response would be? Jesus told us that when this merchant found that one pearl of great price (like the man in the prior parable) he sold all he had and bought it.
Did you know that you’ve been “bought”? Yes, the Bible teaches us that we have been bought with a price by our Lord. Amen. This is what the Bible calls “redemption.” We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus—which means that we who once were in slavery to sin and Satan were purchased out of our bondage and brought into the family of God. Amen! And what was the price that was paid? It was the blood of Jesus spilt on the Cross. His blood is what purchased our freedom! Glory to Jesus!
First Peter 1:18-19 puts it like this— “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
So, the apostle Peter is making the point here that we were not redeemed with money or any other corruptible thing, but with the “precious” blood of Christ. Now the word “precious” here describes something that is valuable, costly, or “of great price” as the Blue Letter Bible puts it. So, our God took something that was valuable and costly to purchase and redeem us. Wow! I hope you are seeing this!
But since we have been bought at such a high price, there is a responsibility we have. It’s not just so we can go around talking about how valuable and important we are; there is an expectation the Lord has on His purchased possessions.
First Corinthians 6:18-20 teaches us what these expectations are when the apostle Paul says, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
So, Paul is laying it all out there in these verses, isn’t he? Because we have been bought at a price, our responsibility is to glorify God both in our body as well as in our spirit. Why? Because they are God’s possession. Amen?
But the point we really need to see here is how the Lord did indeed buy us, and He did so with His own valuable & costly blood—His blood “of great price” if you would. So, if you and I are those pearls of great price, then it took blood of great price to purchase those pearls. Amen?
In fact, the words that were used in Matthew 13:46 when describing this one pearl of “great price” was only used one other time, and that was in John chapter 12 when Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with a “very costly” oil of spikenard (See John 12:3). Now we know from that story that this indeed was an extremely valuable perfume that she offered to the Lord—so much so that it was the equivalent of a year’s salary for the average worker.
So, again, while we would view this extremely extravagant offering that Mary gave to Jesus as being something we ought to strive to give the Lord ourselves, this is the same terminology that Jesus used to describe us, His pearls of “great price.” Amen.
So, the point I want us to understand about these two parables—the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price—is how Jesus chose to describe us as a treasure and a pearl of great price. Oftentimes, we get so wrapped up in the greatness of the price that was paid that we totally miss the value of the object that was being paid for. Now, please understand me: This is in no way an attempt to diminish the focus on Jesus’ precious blood. Oh, how we should always pay great honor and reverence to His redeeming sacrifice! But at the same time, we need to realize that if God were willing to pay such a great price for us, then we must have had some value as well.
Do you believe God is a wise investor? Well, He did choose the Jewish people, did He not? Yes, saints, the Lord knows how to make a sound investment.
Well, do you think He would have paid that high of a price if there was not some comparable value in the item he was purchasing? Of course not! No, He paid such a great price for us because of the great value He saw in us. Thank you, Jesus! He saw a treasure in each one of us and He saw a pearl of great price in this church that He saw in His heart to create!
Now the truth of the gospel is that once we see this great love that God has for His church and for each of us individually, we can truly sell out ourselves. Amen. We can sell all that we have to gain entrance into this grand and glorious kingdom that is so precious and powerful.
Always remember that it is the goodness of God that leads man to repentance (Romans 2:4). This is why our message to the lost is called the gospel: It is because it is good news, not bad news! And the good news is that we have a Lord and Savior who sold all that He had to purchase and redeem each one of us to rule and reign with Him in His everlasting kingdom.
I pray that you see this great love that has reconciled you today! May you see the value you have and as that kingdom principle is birthed in your heart, may your light begin to shine brightly as you give Him all that you are in gratitude for all that He has done. Amen.
THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART SEVEN – LEAVENING THE WHOLE LUMP
We have been covering the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God for a couple of months now where we have been studying Jesus’ parables that describe how God’s kingdom works. Church, Jesus gave us these parables to teach us what His kingdom is like. Therefore, we need to get an understanding of these analogies and examples as well as apply these truths to our lives so that we can get these principles of how His kingdom works working for us.
Thus far, we have covered Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, and last week, we looked at the Parable of the Growing Seed. And we saw how in this parable, we have what I consider to be the most concise description of how His kingdom operates.
I made the point that it could be considered the kingdom principle. That’s right—not a kingdom principle or one of the kingdom principles—This is the law that governs God’s kingdom. Now I understand that this is a strong statement to call this the absolute law of the kingdom, but I can assure you, just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the law of sowing & reaping is the way, the truth and the life of the kingdom of God. Amen!
We learned that when Jesus said at the beginning of this parable— “The kingdom of God is as…”, Jesus was saying, “This is how the kingdom of God operates! This is a law of the kingdom, and it will work this way every single time!”
Then Jesus went on to say it is “… as if a man should scatter seed on the ground …” We took note that by using the word “if” here, Jesus was saying that this principle of the kingdom is conditional. Conditional on what? Conditional as to whether or not this man should scatter seed on the ground! What this means is that it is not up to God! It is our responsibility if this kingdom law will take effect in our lives or not.
Now we also learned that the seed is the Word of God and the ground is our hearts. Jesus told us this in the Parable of the Sower. So, the condition to seeing this kingdom principle becoming effective in our lives is if we are going to take the time to sow the Word in hearts that are good, noble, and pure. But we saw something else that is very interesting: In His interpretation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus told us what both the seed and the ground represent, but He never told us who the sower was? And do you know why? Jesus doesn’t tell us who the sower is in these parables because it does not matter who the sower is. Yes, the seed will produce when sown into good ground every single time, and it doesn’t matter how the seed got there. That’s right church, the seed and the soil are no respecter of persons or we could say that they are no respecter of “sowers!”
But the main point we saw from this parable is that this man just simply scattered seed on the ground and then went about his business. He didn’t stay up all night, wringing his hands, fretting over whether he was going to get a harvest or not. No, Jesus told us that after he scattered the seed on the ground, he just went to bed and rested.
Church, whenever we begin to fret, get anxious and worry about the things that we need or desire to see change in our life, we are not operating according to this kingdom principle. No, when we are abiding in this law of the kingdom, we will enter into His rest. And this is such a super important part of kingdom living even though it is so hard on our flesh—for to enter into His rest is what faith does.
But we learned that resting does not mean we just kick back, relax, and let God do everything. No, we have a part to play in it, and that is to sow the Word! Yes, our only job is to sow the Word into our situation and sit back and watch God’s grace do the work.
This is why Jesus went on to say that “he himself does not know how,” which I believe is the most powerful statement in this parable. Why? Because when we are living in this kingdom principle, we will not be able to explain how all this fruit is being produced in our lives. Yes, we will be like this sower who had to respond when asked about the harvest he had in his field— “You know what? All I did was put the seed in the ground. I couldn’t tell you how those little seeds produced all this. It just happened on its own. I can’t figure it out. I don’t know how this happened!”
And the thing we learned last week was how Jesus then gave us the steps for how this harvest took place, and this speaks of patience. Therefore, patience is a big part of this kingdom principle because we cannot expect all this fruit overnight. How ridiculous would it be for a farmer to plant some seed and then after a week or two, when it hasn’t produced, dig up the seed and say this farming stuff doesn’t work? No, reaping a harvest is a process! And we learned that patience is certainly one of the most important virtues in the kingdom of God because the fruit we desire rarely comes when our flesh wants it to. No, growth in the kingdom is a process.
So, when we desire to see the fruit of God’s kingdom coming in our lives, sow the Word! When it comes to situations and circumstances in our lives that we know need to change, sow the Word! Find Scriptures that promise what we want to see and begin to let God perform His good Word and let it prosper in the thing for which He sent it! It works every time, my friends! We just have need of patience and knowing that God’s kingdom comes by grace as the God of grace does the work. Amen.
Now let’s move on into looking at the Parable of the Leaven—a parable that Jesus told immediately after the Parable of the Mustard Seed. And this particular parable is even shorter than it, in that it is only one verse.
Matthew 13:33 says, “Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.’”
Now when Jesus began by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven …” this doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus was specifically likening God’s kingdom to the leaven itself. It can also mean that the kingdom of heaven works like leaven works. Therefore, He is just simply describing that in the spiritual realm, where the kingdom of God exists, this is how things work.
And the reason I make this point is because when we consider Jesus’ use of leaven here, we have to consider that every time leaven is used in the Scriptures as an example, it is not used in a positive sense. In fact, it is used to describe sin, false teaching, wrong belief systems, etc. So, for Jesus to compare God’s kingdom to this thing that is never used to describe anything but evil & wicked things would be inconsistent with the rest of the Bible.
However, there is a group of people that believe that is exactly what Jesus was doing here. Yes, they take this parable as an illustration of how God’s kingdom is infiltrating the earth. And while I believe that we can see how God’s kingdom is indeed doing just that, I also believe that what we are meant to see in this parable was how in the unseen realm, there is a hidden spreading of things from the spiritual realm that affects this natural realm. So, let’s look at this parable in detail …
Now “leaven” is not the terminology we would use today. Today, we would call this thing “yeast” because what Jesus was describing was that single-celled organism which belongs to the fungi kingdom. So, leaven is essentially a fungus. No wonder it is only used in a negative sense in the Scriptures because fungi aren’t usually good things!
But when it comes to the making of bread, “leaven” (or “yeast” as we know it) is indeed a good thing in some respects because of how it makes bread rise and provides it with a better flavor. But while those benefits of yeast are appealing to our flesh, they are not necessarily the healthiest things. Likewise, the things that the Bible uses as illustrations for leaven might be things that appeal to the carnal side of us but are not necessarily good for us spiritually. Let’s look at some of these Scriptural examples of “leaven”:
Of course, one of the first Biblical examples we have of leaven is in the Book of Exodus when the Lord instituted the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, telling the congregation of Israel to eat no leavened bread, and not even have any leaven found in their houses during that prescribed period of time.
Now we know all of those things were symbolic in nature—for God doesn’t have anything against yeast in and of itself. But what He is vehemently against is what yeast symbolizes.
You see, in First Corinthians chapter 5, the apostle Paul likens the toleration of wickedness in their church as “a little leaven leavening the whole lump”—and he continues to describe how purging out vices like malice and wickedness is how we today fulfill the feast of unleavened bread (See First Corinthians 5:6-8).
So, it is not about simply observing a feast and performing some rite or ritual; the issue is us purging wicked things from our lives that the leaven symbolizes.
THE LEAVEN OF THE WORLD
But Jesus also compared this leaven to something else: For example, one thing that Jesus spoke out against on a number of occasions was the leaven of the Pharisees, the leaven of the Sadducees, and the leaven of Herod (See Matthew 16:6 & Mark 8:15). So, what was He referring to here? It was the teachings, the way of thinking, and the agendas that these parties projected on people. No, it was not just the words they spoke, but the leaven in their hearts that inspired the words that they spoke.
Let’s look at the first example: In Matthew 16:6-12, we see where Jesus, in speaking to His disciples, said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.’ But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, ‘O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? — but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Now let me explain what happened here: Jesus was attempting to give His disciples some spiritual insight and told them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. But when the disciples heard this, they thought Jesus was giving them a subliminal message—rebuking them for forgetting to bring the leftover bread from the feeding of the thousands. And don’t we do this, church? Perhaps you were making some homemade bread for one of our church luncheons, but you messed it up, not adding enough yeast, and it fell flat. And then Pastor Robert stands up here during announcements and says, “Watch out of the yeast of false teaching out there.” You might start thinking what the disciples did— “Did Pastor Robert say that because he knew I messed up the bread I was bringing today?” We’ve all done things similar to this, but this is very eye-opening.
As Jesus goes on to explain to them that He wasn’t talking about physical bread when He spoke of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, we need to understand that there is a tendency in our hearts to gravitate towards this natural, carnal way of looking at things. We might call this the “leaven of this world”—that is, the mindset and way of thinking that is in the world around us that just naturally adapts us into its mold.
So, we need to beware of this as well—that there is just this carnal, natural and “worldly leaven” that is trying to take us from all that is spiritual and eternal and “dumb us down” to where the truth of His kingdom is not on our radar in the least.
But notice that Jesus spoke specifically here of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and how Mark specifically tells us how He was referring to their “doctrine” (i.e., teachings).
THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES
So, let’s first look at the leaven of the Pharisees: What is it that they taught that had the capability to do this kind of damage? Well, the Pharisees were obviously very legalistic. They believed themselves to be such strict observers of the Torah to where they aspired to follow every jot and tittle of the law. However, they took it to another level to where they even added their own ideas and philosophies to it.
So, the leaven of the Pharisees is that subtle, religious, and legalistic way of thinking that enveloped their teachings. And it wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the Torah in and of itself, but the spirit in which it was handled by the Pharisees and projected on the people from them was the “leaven” Jesus spoke of.
You see, even today, folks can take something that is as good and perfect as God’s Word and teach it in ways to where it affects people in a way that it was not intended to. For example, the Pharisees were known for placing these heavy burdens on people, telling them “you have to do this” and “you have to do that.” It was never enough. There was always more to do. And these Pharisees are still with us today, church. Yes, there are those who lace their teaching & preaching with a spirit that only brings people into bondage and condemnation—thus rendering them powerless. Yes, these modern day “Pharisees” might have good motives and think they are doing God a service, but the leaven is still there and it’s not God’s best.
But it’s not just the preacher’s fault. It can also be in the hearers’ heart already, so they take what it is being said and hear it in this legalistic, condemning manner when that was not at all the way it was being said.
The bottom line is that this “leaven” is here in the church today—preachers are proclaiming it like the Pharisees did back then and congregants have already been infected by it. So, these are things we need to guard our hearts against—from not letting this leaven pervert how we hear God’s Word and certainly not adding our own views and ideas to it like the Pharisees did. As Jesus said, this will make the Word of God of non-effect in our lives.
THE LEAVEN OF THE SADDUCEES
Which brings us to this other example of leaven that Jesus used—the Leaven of the Sadducees.
You see, while the Pharisees tended to strictly observe all that the Torah said and even add to it, the Sadducees were the opposite. Their tendency was to subtract from God’s Word.
In Acts 23:8, we have a concise description of their beliefs. It says, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” So, here was the difference: While the Pharisees were the “Word-people” of their day in that they believed and embraced all that was in it, the Sadducees didn’t believe in all that supernatural stuff like angels, demons, a resurrection, etc.
Can you see how this same spirit is still in the church today? And the apostle Paul prophesied it when he said that in the last days people will have a form of godliness and deny the power (Second Timothy 3:1-9). This same “leaven” of doubting the supernatural and miraculous things of God is and has been at work in the body of Christ. It will try to explain everything naturally or scientifically, excluding any existing power of God. It believes that the signs, wonders and miracles died with the church of the Book of Acts. Many teach these things, and I would compare this to the leaven of the Sadducees in Jesus’ day.
Saints, God has not changed! Miracles still happen, angels are real, and the healing, resurrection power of the Holy Ghost is still with us! The only thing that has changed is the church’s faith in these things, which is due to this leaven of the Sadducees infiltrating people’s belief systems!
You see, these religious leaders had a way of instilling their doctrines and mindset on the people. So, the Lord was quick to tell His disciples to beware of this leaven. Why? Because if the Pharisees and Sadducees way of thinking and subsequent teachings were allowed to influence them, it would have a leavening effect on their hearts.
THE LEAVEN OF HEROD
But Jesus did not just warn His disciples of the leaven of religious leaders. In Mark 8:15, He warned them of the leaven of Herod as well. So even the king had his own leaven—that is, his own agenda and mentality that he projected on the people—showing us how even secular leadership can easily influence people just like religion can. And Herod’s influence obviously came from his position as king, but it was his self-serving, wicked, political wheeling & dealing example that Jesus referred to as the “leaven.”
So, likewise, we need to beware of even the leavening effect that those in secular leadership positions have on us—for it is easy to get swept away by the indoctrination & agendas of those who seem to be somewhat among us. And in case you haven’t noticed, that is exactly what the world has been successful at doing because people have been conditioned to think a certain way and do certain things because of what has been projected on to us by the media, etc.
HIDDEN IN THREE; HIDDEN IN THEE
And don’t be mistaken: This is not done in some overt manner. It is a sly, cunning, and subtle “leavening” just as the woman in this parable was said to have “hid” the leaven in the three measures of meal (i.e., dough). The fact that Jesus describes her as “hiding” it shows us that it will not be on the surface, apparent to everyone, but will work underneath everything doing its corrupting work.
But notice that this woman in Jesus’ parable hid it in three measures of meal. Why three? Why did Jesus choose to use three measures here and not some other number? Well, there are various opinions and speculations regarding this, but let me give you why I think three was used. It is because the god of this world is looking to affect and infect all of who we are. Yes, he is not just after your spirit, he is not just after your soul, and he is not just after your body. Like God wants to sanctify you completely that your whole spirit, soul, and body remains preserved and blameless (See First Thessalonians 5:23), the devil would love that your whole spirit, soul, and body are set apart completely unto him and that you are utterly and thoroughly corrupted by his leaven. And he doesn’t accomplish this by kicking down your front door wearing red pajamas and carrying a pitchfork. No, he does it as an angel of light, in a cunning and crafty manner, sowing a little tare here and injecting a little leaven there, here a little and there a little, until the entire meal is perverted.
I’m reminded of how Balaam did this in the Book of Numbers: We know the story—how Balak paid off the prophet Balaam to curse the children of Israel. But when Balaam tried to curse them, only blessings came out. Why? Because you cannot curse whom God has blessed. So, realizing this, Balaam came to Balak with another idea. Since he couldn’t defeat them from the outside, he would try to do it from the inside—by tempting the men of Israel to break God’s law. This worked and brought swift judgment on them, thus accomplishing what Balak wanted all along.
This is called the “doctrine of Balaam” in Revelation 2:14, and we are warned that the enemy of our soul is using this same principle against us—attempting to sow this leaven in us by getting us to make poor choices and wrong decisions. Contrary to what a lot of people say, the devil cannot make you do it. He cannot put this leaven in you without your consent. It’s up to us what we let in and what we keep out. The Lord ultimately does the sanctifying work in us, but we must let Him do it. Which leads to my final point …
WHERE’S THE GOSPEL?
Now while this is certainly referring to the negative side of it all, I don’t want to leave it at that: How many of you know that all of this works in the positive too—for if we will allow the Word of God to influence our way of thinking and let the Lord Jesus determine how we view things, that good leaven can infiltrate our lives and cause us to “rise” and be more “flavorful.”
Psalm 119:11 says it best— “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” That means that you and I can choose to hide His Word, the Gospel, in our hearts like that woman hid the leaven in the meal, and when we do so, it can keep us from sinning against God! Hallelujah!
Now I believe this has a two-fold meaning:
Number one, God’s Word can remove any and all of the bad kind of leaven out of us as we sow it into our hearts and allow that seed to germinate and grow. In other words, the Word of God hid in our hearts can eliminate the sin and grow us into maturity.
I had someone ask me not too long ago what is the thing that I would attribute my spiritual growth to, and while I might tend to think hard about things like that before I answer, I didn’t need to with that question—the answer was God’s Word!
You see, while I know it all begins and ends with the Alpha and Omega Himself—the Lord Jesus. And while I know that the Holy Spirit plays such an integral role with helping us walk this Christian walk. I have personally found that by reading, studying, speaking, and meditating on God’s Word, I have been grounded and have grown up in Him. Yes, all these things work together, but as Jesus said, as I have continued in His Word, I have come to know the truth, and His truth has made me free. Amen.
Number two, God’s Word also can keep us from stumbling when we are exposed to the leaven of this world.
You see, by studying to show ourselves approved, we can be so familiar with the light that the darkness is exposed every time. And, church, this is how the counterfeit—all the bad leaven out there—is detected. It is by knowing the true genuine article!
Like I have learned through years in banking, the best way for one to recognize a counterfeit is to study the genuine article thoroughly. When I handled money for hours on end, I found that when a counterfeit bill was presented to me that it stuck out like a sore thumb. Now the client who accepted the fake bill didn’t recognize it when someone passed it off on them nor did they recognize it when I told them it was fake. But to the person who handled money all day, a counterfeit bill was obvious.
It is for that reason that I strongly believe Christians should spend the majority of their time studying the truth as opposed to error. I have seen believers spend their time studying this false religion and this bad doctrine in an attempt to become more familiar with it. They do it for noble reasons, such as wanting to reach the people who ascribe to those wrong beliefs, or to make sure they don’t fall for those lies. But I am of the persuasion that we need to be doing the opposite—both becoming so familiar with the Word of God and spending time getting to know the Word Himself. The reason is because, as it is with recognizing counterfeit currency, the more we know the true, genuine article, the more we will be able to distinguish between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
So, the key is us learning to sow God’s Word in our hearts and letting that seed spring up and affect all the issues of our life. That’s what we’ve been learning for weeks now—that the kingdom of God works like this—seedtime and harvest. But the devil has perverted this kingdom principle and now is trying to hide his leaven to where our whole spirit, soul and body is infected by his deception.
My prayer for us is that of the apostle Paul—that the God of peace Himself with sanctify us completely, that our whole spirit, soul and body are preserved blameless until the Lord’s coming. And how did Jesus tell us that He does this sanctifying work? By His truth—and His Word is truth (See John 17:17). Amen