Friday, August 26, 2011

The Price of Love

I took this photo of one of dozens of posters that have been stapled to power poles all over our neighborhood. I called the telephone number earlier this week to inquire whether the cat has been found. I was informed that the cat has been missing since Aug. 3rd and has not been found.

I took the photo because it struck me how much these people must love their cat. These posters are everywhere within at least a one mile square, perhaps farther. I count 30 staples in this one poster, and it is a high quality poster. Just the cost of the posters and staples amounts to a considerable sum. Then the time invested is substantial. Additionally a $300 reward is offered.

At first I thought that this is an absurd amount. I would not pay $300 for a dog, much less a cat. But then I began to think of the fact that to fill the fuel tanks on my chipper truck costs over $350. That is just to enable me to get to the job site and do the work of attempting to earn a living. And that is only for my chipper truck. I also have the regular fuel costs of my pickup truck, my chipper, the stump grinder, and all of the chainsaws and other equipment.

From this perspective, I realized that $300 is not as exorbitant of a price as I had first thought. I still would not spend that for a cat, but it causes me to realize that it is not such a large cost in the mind of someone who has lost a pet that is dear to the family.

While I would not spend that much outright on a pet, I certainly have invested many times more than that in time and effort in letters and emails and phone calls and trips to visit family and friends. I have invested many times that in helping needy neighbors, both in actual monetary expenditures as well as in time and effort. The amount of my time and energy and resources and education and emotions that I have invested in preaching the Gospel I cannot even begin to estimate.

All of this reminds me of the endless goodness and mercy of the Lord. His love for us is poured out freely and without measure, and yet at a cost to Him that cannot be calculated. Moreover, His love is despite our arrogant belligerence and defiance and betrayal and blasphemy and disobedience. Such is His fatherly love and will concerning us.

In Matthew 13 we are told that the Lord Jesus told a series of parables concerning the kingdom of heaven. Over the years I have come to realize that my understanding of two of these in particular has probably been entirely wrong. All of the preaching that I have heard and all of the commentaries that I have read seem to share in hearing these two parables exactly backwards from what they really teach and mean.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)

For the greater part of my life I have heard these, both from my own perception as well as everyone else’s, as describing how one who hears the Gospel rightly will respond. However, this does not at all fit with the context of the other parables in this series. In fact, this perception and understanding directly contradict what the preceding and following parables declare.

In the parables where Jesus begins by saying, “the kingdom of heaven is like” who is being set forth as the man or the king or the person of action? Is it not the Lord Himself? Is it not God who is being shown to us?

In the two parables above, the treasure that is found and the pearl that is found is us. The Lord is the one seeking that which is lost and we are the ones whom He finds and purchases. In what way do we imagine that we could possibly purchase for ourselves the Gospel and the kingdom of heaven? Selling all that we have would never give us the price or authority to make the Gospel and the kingdom of heaven our own. All that we have is filthy and bloody rags to offer. No, it is the Lord who is making the purchase in these parables. It is the Lord who sold all that He had, and came to the earth to purchase us to be in His kingdom.

Much more can be mined from these amazing parables, but for now I will let this important thought be pondered and move to the objection that our minds tend to raise from the following statment:

Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. (Matthew 13:51-52)

Our selfish hearts are inclined immediately to cry out: “But see! Here the Lord says that we are the ones to find and bring forth the treasure.”

But this is because we are always inclined first to understand from our own perspective rather than hearing what the Lord is actually saying. The scribe is said to be one which is instructed. Thus the scribe is already a baptized believer, one who has been made a recipient of the outpouring of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and has been thoroughly catechized in the doctrine of the true faith. Moreover he is identified as a householder, that is, a lord or ruler of a house, which makes him a pastor/teacher in a congregation. From his treasure, that is, from the office that has been entrusted to him, the office of the Word, this scribe brings forth both new and old things. So, from what he has already been given by God this scribe brings out for all both old and new revelations. These revelations themselves are already in the texts of the Scriptures, but some have been heard many times within the household of faith and some will be things from within the great treasury of the Scriptures that have not been recognized before. They are from eternity, but nevertheless are new to those who now hear them and receive them.

We do not enter the kingdom of heaven by anything that we do. We do not seek and find it, until we ourselves have been sought and found by the Holy Spirit and baptized into the kingdom. Once we are within God’s Holy Communion, like little children we find the many gifts that are piled up in the great treasury of the Father’s house and we rejoice in the discovery of His wonderful gifts that He has stored up for us from eternity. These are ours in accord with the faith of Jesus, who has made them to be ours, having purchased us at the cost of all that He is. The more deeply that we ponder this the more marvelous we perceive it to be.

† † †

No comments: