Scriptural References: 1 Kings 3:5-7:12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52
We’ve just heard three parables that are only recorded in Matthew’s Gospel and, very significantly for Matthew, are only told to the disciples. It may be very gratifying to Jesus that, in the midst of his ups and downs with these men, and against the background of growing opposition from the established order, the disciples understand the parables and require no explanation.
Two of the parables, in fact, describe their discipleship—all they relinquished, all they bartered to follow him. The other describes the organic interweaving of good and bad that must have been their experience three chapters before when Jesus sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom. Jesus, at that time, warned them not to expect a welcome everywhere and that discipleship would entail persecution.
We’re now almost half way through Matthew’s Gospel and it’s good to know that his disciples are learning something. They have a lot more to learn, that they’ll only learn from their great failure of courage when Jesus is arrested.
But there’s another element in today’s Gospel that’s noteworthy, especially at this point in the narrative when negative forces have been closing in. It is the joy involved in discovering the Kingdom of Heaven, a joy greater than the sacrifice.
I find I need to be reminded of this when I accent too heavily the sacrifice involved. I can too easily dramatize the cost and inappropriately appropriate a sense of heroism for making the sacrifice. But how dreary, how serious I have become at such junctures! The enterprise has become about me and not about the Kingdom or following Jesus. When I turn again to him, when I practice gratitude for his invitation, then I find the joy right there. It has always been there, courteously waiting for me to notice, never forcing itself upon me. And how impoverished I am without that joy! Can I really share anything of the Kingdom with the dreary, determined earnestness that kills joy?