Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Heaven is like a thesaurus?

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)


This is yet another agricultural parable from Jesus in Matthew 13. How so? Well, how else is a person apt to find a buried treasure in a field unless he is tilling the field? If he’s a tenant farmer, which was a common practice in the Old and New Testament periods in Palestine, then he’s either renting the field to grow his own crops or he’s working the field for the owner.

Then something strange happens. The plow unearths a great deal of money. (One can imagine coins in an earthen jar as these are frequently unearthed by archaeologist in Palestine.) And rather than report the find to the landowner, which I suppose would have been the honest thing to do, he decides to rebury the money, tell no one what he found, and “liquidate his assets” creating enough capital to make an offer to buy that very field. Once he owns the field, he owns the hidden treasure too. It's an entirely disreputable course of action, but shrewd. Perhaps kingdom living requires the shrewdness to find the hidden treasure of Life, and the shrewdness to give up everything of value to obtain the joy of that hidden treasure.


The biblical Greek word for treasure is qhsauro,j 
thesauros {thay-sow-ros'}, the source of our English word thesaurusA thesaurus is a reference book that is literally a "treasury of words." Practically every writer uses a thesaurus to find just the right (correct, true, accurate, exact, precise) synonym to reveal the power and meaning of language.


Do not miss that his motivation is joy. Not duty. Not obligation. But JOY. [cara, chara {pronounced khar-ah'} Meaning:  joy, gladness]

The parable does not suggest that you have to give up everything you love to buy heaven. Rather, it means that to the man, living the rich Life of joy in the kingdom of heaven was more desirable than any other desire of his deepest heart. He didn’t have to give up anything, especially his happiness. Joy is what jerked his chain. He wanted the joy of that hidden treasure more than anything, so he gladly sold everything else to get it. He had to have it. Nothing else mattered. We’re talking white-hot passion here folks, not cold religious duty. The man found joy hidden in the core of his being.

Paul wrote something that comes to mind. In Philippians he wrote:

Philippians 3:7-8   7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

By “gains” Paul means accomplishments, titles, and reputation. He means the sum of everything he has achieved. He says that everything he’s proud of is valueless because knowing Jesus is more valuable than the sum of his life’s work. More than that, he doesn’t consider his successes to be merely valueless, but he considers them to be garbage! The word for garbage or rubbish that Paul uses is sku,balon skubalon {skoo'-bal-on}. Yes, it’s an s-word meaning dung. He considers the best of his life skubalonexcrement—compared to the value of knowing Jesus. Jesus himself is the hidden treasure of more value than even his most precious possessions and greatest triumphs. Nothing compares to this joy. To have him is to have the kingdom is to have joy.

Let’s see. It’s chara versus skubalon. (meaning joy versus manure) What a choice!

We’re talking about the hidden, deep joy of Life. Just as there is living yeast hidden in the common lifeless dough of the world, so there is a great treasure hidden in the common field of the world. Jesus’ double-emphasis on hidden kingdom Life speaks volumes. And the exuberance and intentionality of the guy who found it is extraordinary. That common field laborer risked everything and sold everything to make the field his own. He had a great secret. There’s a hidden treasure in that field. Like Paul making Jesus his own, there was nothing else that the plowman wanted more passionately. Joy drives Life in the kingdom of heaven. We long for that joy because we’re made for that joy. Jesus said to his disciples on the eve of his death,

John 16:22 “So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

And in one of my favorite verses Jesus said,

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”


The joy of Life is hidden in the world. It’s the kingdom. It’s Jesus. He is the mystery. He is the secret. The Scriptures posit that you are already in the home you long for. But like the yeast hidden in the dough, like a treasure hidden in a field, Jesus, his message, and his heavenly kingdom are hidden in the kingdoms of this world. The biblical Greek words for “hidden” are all related:

·         kru,ptw krupto {kroop'-to} Meaning:  1) to hide, conceal, to be hid 2) escape notice

·         krupto,j kruptos {kroop-tos'} or krufai,oj kruphaios {kroof-ay'-os} Meaning:  1) hidden, concealed, secret

·         avpokru,ptw apokrupto {ap-ok-roop'-to} Meaning:  1) to hide 2) concealing, keeping secret

·         avpo,krufoj apokruphos {ap-ok'-roo-fos} Meaning:  1) hidden, secret 2) stored up

Jesus said,

Matthew 11:25 “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden (apokrupto) these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants . . .”

Matthew 13:35  This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden (krupto) from the foundation of the world."

And the Apostle Paul wrote,

1 Corinthians 2:7  But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden (krupto), which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

Ephesians 3:9  and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden (apokrupto) for ages in God who created all things;

Colossians 1:25-27   I became its (the church’s) servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,  26 the mystery that has been hidden (apokrupto) throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.  27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you . . .

Colossians 2:2-3    I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ himself,  3 in whom are hidden (apokruphos) all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 3:2-3  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,  3 for you have died, and your life is hidden (krupto) with Christ in God.

Revelation 2:17  Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden (krupto) manna . . .

These “hidden” quotes prove the presence of a New Testament theme. The kingdom’s presence is a mystery hidden in the world, even as believer’s lives are hidden with Christ in God, and while, conversely, Christ is hidden in believers. His presence is hidden in a way that confounds the intelligent and delights children. The kingdom is hidden among us—in our relationships—like a treasure buried in a field. As Paul Kreeft put it:

“The practical point of this theology is that since Christ is our joy (not just gives it), and since we always have Him (“Lo, I am with you always” Matthew 28:20), therefore we always have joy whether we feel it or not. We are in heaven already, whether we know it or not, just as a fetus is already in the world, though the womb masks it from his eyes.” Kreeft, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven, p. 198

A mystery revealed by mysteries

The kingdom of heaven’s humble presence gets in under human radar often unnoticed. Yet to deny its mystery is to rob heaven of its essential nature. Jesus speaks of heaven only in the mystery of parables. The method matches the makeup. Mystery presents mystery. A mystery is presented in mysteries. The method is in synchronicity with the message.

Have you ever played Hide and Go Seek? I was just wondering.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Heaven is like yeast?

"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened." (Matthew 13:33)

Jesus shifts from farming to baking in a series of Kingdom of Heaven parables in Matthew 13--first a parable about a sower of seeds (beginning in 13:3), then a parable about mustard seed (13:31), then a parable about a woman mixing yeast into flour (13:33).

In Jesus' culture, baking was done by women and girls. So in this parable it is a woman who put a little yeast in with a lot of flour. Let me show you seven cool things about this parable.

First, Jesus used an example from the everyday lives of women. Women not only play important roles in his life and ministry, but a woman here gets to be the star of her own parable! Moreover, the woman is the “God character.” Jesus shows us heaven in a woman’s everyday chore.

Second, the NRSV translation I quoted above says she “mixed in” the yeast. But the Greek word here is evgkru,ptw ekgrupto {eng-kroop'-to}. It means literally “hid.” The yeast is hidden in the dough. And apparently there’s something about heaven that is hidden in the world. It’s not conspicuous. We’re not talking about something that is self-evident, just as Jesus himself was not self-evidently the Son of God. He didn’t glow or have a halo. Neither does the kingdom of heaven have a red neon light flashing above it to identify itself to all. Heaven is hidden in the world.

Third, yeast is not a dead ingredient like flour. Flour can’t rise all by itself. But yeast is not dead. It’s alive. And it brings the dough to life. Yeast is a germ that when placed in moist kneaded dough containing a little honey or sugar, grows like crazy causing the whole lump to expand. It’s a little pinch of Life, and a little pinch of Life is enough to leaven a whole lot of flour. Because of a small pinch of Life, the whole world comes alive. Jesus’ teaching in the world is like yeast, as is his own presence. He is Life, says the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul said that “He (Jesus) who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:10) He fills us with himself, therefore we are filled with home, heaven, the kingdom, eternal Life.

Fourth, how much flour is Jesus talking about? He says three measures. A measure in Greek is sa,ton saton {pronounced sat'-on}, and it equals the Hebrew term "seah." A saton or seah is a little over 16 pounds of dry flour. So three of these is approaching 50 lbs of flour total, enough to feed over a hundred people! This huge amount of dough represents everything, the woman is God, and the yeast is Life (Jesus and his words and his resurrection) hidden by God in the cosmos.

Fifth, the yeast causing the dough to rise is a reference to resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection and Life leavened the whole world. The promise of Scripture is that because he rose, all will rise (like dough). This rising of the whole Loaf is the result of a single solitary Life. Because he “rises,” all “rise.”

Sixth, something tiny and insignificant, just like the mustard seed, can become something great. It only took that little bit of yeast hidden in a huge batch of dough to make the whole thing rise. The amount of yeast is insignificant like a single tiny mustard seed, or a single messenger, or a single word: Life. But it seems that when it comes to the kingdom of heaven, “a little dab’ll do ya!”

Seventh, in contrast to Jesus and his heavenly yeast, Jesus warned about someone’s yeast: “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!"  Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (underline mine) (Matthew 16:11-12) I suppose Jesus intended by this to convey that the yeast of the Pharisee and Sadducees either did not rise because their teachings were not Life-filled, or their yeast rather than causing Life to rise caused death by law to increase. Either way Jesus finds them guilty of keeping people out of the kingdom and not entering its Life themselves: But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell (Gehenna) as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:13-15) Perhaps Jesus is implying that the yeast of these leaders rises to hell,* not heaven.

*For definitions of hell, Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus see Hell Defined 1 and Hell Defined 2.