The movie The Vow is based on a true story where a wife loses her memory after a car accident and can’t even recognize her own husband. Rather than letting her go, the husband works to win back her love. It’s an inspiring story, one that makes women swoon to see the husband go to such lengths to win her back. We like this kind of story, because secretly we’d all like to be that valuable in someone’s eyes. We’d love to have someone go to all that trouble to win our affections. But the fact is that someone has gone to incredible lengths to win you back. That Someone, of course, is Jesus.
Yesterday’s Gospel reading is one of my favorite passages in the New Testament. We read in Matthew 13:44-46 two parables that are very similar—in one, a man finds a treasure buried in a field and sells all he has in order to buy the field. In the other, a man searches for fine pearls, and when he finds one of great value he, too, sells all he has to buy that pearl. On the surface, these two both imply that the kingdom of God is of such value that we should be willing to give up all we have in order to gain it. That’s what the footnote in one of my Bibles tells me, and that’s what a lot of Sunday school lessons teach. But that’s not what it means at all.
Yes, we should be willing to give up all we have to gain eternal life, but that also implies that somehow we can buy or merit salvation, and the Bible is quite clear that we can never do that. And even if we wanted to, none of us could ever truly give up all we have to gain eternal life. There’s only one Person who can and did do that—Jesus. He gave up His throne in heaven to come down to this broken world. He gave up everything that was rightfully His in heaven to become a man like one of us. And why? Because you are that pearl. You are the treasure in the field. Jesus gave up all He had to come die on this earth because you were worth it to Him. He would rather give up everything He had to come die in utter humility than be separated from you forever. He loves you that much.
Look with me a moment at another well-known passage in the New Testament, Hebrews 12:2: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Again, what is the “joy” that was set before Him? You are, dear one. You are His joy. Jesus scorned the shame of the cross because He knew that was the only way to win you back from bondage to sin. Jesus’ joy was in accomplishing our eternal redemption. He endured temporary pain and humiliation to gain you eternally. You are worth that much.
Now read with me the words of Titus 1:2: “a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…” Okay, so God promised eternal life before time even began. We weren’t around then, so to whom did He promise this? To the Son! God the Father promised the Son our salvation from all eternity! From all eternity, the Trinity has longed for, planned, and worked to establish our salvation. What an incredible promise! Through all the people and generations of the Old Testament, and even the years in exile, God preserved His people and Jesus’ family line so that Jesus could be born one day to a poor Jewish couple, Mary and Joseph. He waited through 4,000 years until the timing was exactly right. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons,” Galatians 4:4-5 assures us. This was a carefully planned event. Jesus coming into the world when He did was no accident. God carefully planned His entrance into humanity, and He carefully planned your salvation as well.
No matter how you came to faith, it was no accident. Perhaps you were born to a family who has passed on the faith for generations. Maybe you came to faith later in life because of the faithful prayers and witness of a friend. Perhaps you grew up in a different religion and had a nagging thought in the back of your mind that something didn’t quite fit, and so you started reading the Bible out of curiosity, and God worked through His Word to bring you to saving faith. No matter the “how,” God planned your salvation from eternity, because, you see, when He looks at you He sees a pearl of great worth, a priceless treasure, His joy. And He has been working from all eternity to establish your salvation.
Mind you, He didn’t choose you because of any inherent goodness on your part. We truly have nothing of any worth to offer the Lord of the universe. He makes us worthy by giving us His own righteousness. You see, He really did give up everything for you—even His own sinless righteousness. He gave that to you and took instead your sinfulness upon Himself on the cross. Whenever you doubt your worth or your purpose in this world, remember the words of 1 John 3:1: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” You are God’s own child. He has seen to that, and He went to incredible lengths to win you back. Now that’s a love story. And even better, it’s your love story. A true love story of a Savior who loved you enough to give up all He had just for you. Thank God for His amazing love!