So for the past few days I’ve been spending time in the Gospel of Matthew. Each time I read a Gospel I think, “no, this one is my favorite.” And it’s happening again. This is seriously some powerful stuff he’s dishing out. Matthew’s gospel is about a King and a Kingdom, it’s about an upside down world that thinks it’s right-side up, and it’s about a Jewish carpenter that says the most bizarre things that turn out to be the way things are.
Matthew is about choices.
Like the wise men at the beginning of the gospel. The dominant reality that people are being told is that Herod the Great is King. To be honest he looks the part, he’s regal, wealthy, and knows how to get things done. If you were to see Herod in a line-up of royalty from that time, he’d blend right in. But he’s not the King Matthew is wanting to tell us about. Because Matthew tells us in that the baby being born in a shed is actually the King of the Jews. And the wise men have to choose which reality they are going to choose to believe.
Flash forward about 30 years and 13 chapters, and we see this baby King all grown up. He’s teaching a series of parables about the Kingdom that his very presence is initiating. And one of them I think is interesting. Jesus says:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
Think about being this guy. The choice here is pretty clear right? This was somewhat common in this day, Wells Fargo’s weren’t just on every corner, and people would bury their savings on their property, and then die. So this guy has the chance of a lifetime to cash in on a secret that no-one else knows about. But think about this a bit deeper, in order to do this he’s got to liquidate all his assets, break the bank, and what if it turns out to be one of those fake pearls, or someone finds it before he gets his junk in order. This guy is taking a risk. But his overwhelming response isn’t anxiety, but joy.
Which brings me back to those wise men.
The choice that they have sitting before them is a bit more risky. Everything seems slanted toward the guy on the throne being the one who’s actually King. He looks the part, he’s actually got a crown, and he’s giving them orders. Orders that if they don’t obey could cost them everything. They have to choose, they have to take a risk, to listen to the dominant reality that most have chosen, or to go against their better instincts and trust that this little baby could be King.
And they choose well.
But there is one phrase in this little story I’d like to hone in on. Matthew tells us that when they finally get to the baby King, when the star finally stops over his little shack, “They were Overwhelmed with joy.”
Which just happens to be what the man who sold his field experienced. And here is the point Matthew is making all through his gospel. There are a lot of intelligent sounding reasons on why the stuff Jesus is saying sounds out of tune with reality. You can explain him away pretty effectively, in fact, that’s what the majority of people manage to do. But for those with ears to hear, this is an invitation to a different reality, one that will cost you everything, but be worth every cent.
Because, as the Wise Men found out, Jesus is the Pearl, and he’s worth the risk.