This whole thirteenth chapter of Matthew is devoted to two things: parables of the Kingdom, and people’s response to them. Earlier in the chapter, the disciples ask Jesus why he describes the Kingdom in parables rather than speaking plainly. Answering this, Jesus references the prophet Isaiah, explaining that there are many in Israel who hear without understanding, and see without perceiving—that there is a dullness about the hearts of God’s people. So parables are necessary in order that Jesus might put forth the Kingdom, while simultaneously concealing it from the dull. And he seems to be concealing the Kingdom from the dull because their dullness is self-inflicted, it’s a matter of choice: the people of God have decided to be unreceptive because the Kingdom Jesus is so fond of talking about doesn’t match their criteria of what the Kingdom of God should be like. In other words, the hearers of Jesus’s parables were struck with much the same dullness as hindered Pharaoh from listening to Moses and the elders. In our Old Testament lesson this morning, we hear of this same contrast between those who will hear and those who will not. On the one hand, we have the Hebrews, longing to be delivered from the weight of their slavery. On the other, we have mighty Pharaoh, the chief slave driver, who will not listen unless compelled by a mighty hand. This phrase is what we call an ‘Egyptism’: it’s a phrase in the Torah borrowed from the Egyptian context to which the Torah speaks. In this case, we have a phrase which, in its Egyptian setting, referred to the might of Pharaoh, now applied to the God of the Hebrews—but in a very particular way. It doesn’t seem from this passage that God desires to show off his power by smiting the kingdom of Egypt—something we might expect from a character like Pharaoh. It instead sounds like God is recognizing that Pharaoh will not acknowledge a deity who doesn’t look like one of his. The way he imagines and paints his own power and the power of his gods stands as the norm by which he will evaluate any claim to power or divinity. Thus God knows that Pharaoh will not heed the request of Moses: the one who turned his back on Pharaoh's power and wealth, becoming a wandering shepherd in the wilderness, now advocating on behalf of a slave-people’s God. Someone like Pharaoh—whose understanding of the world is founded on violence and grasping and hoarding—just doesn’t have the tools to understand a kingdom or a power like God’s. His heart is dull because he cannot imagine a god without a mighty hand like his. And when we confront Jesus and the Kingdom he comes preaching, we face a similar dilemma to that faced by Pharaoh: namely, are we willing to respond in faith to the Kingdom he describes and demonstrates in his ministry? While at first glance we may be tempted to say ‘of course. I’m here, aren’t I?’ we need to consider that perhaps we are more dull than we would like to believe--that perhaps we have let the world’s description of power and kingdom and divinity colour our perception of Jesus a little too much. Because if we have, then we are those to whom these parables conceal the Kingdom, rather than reveal it.As near as I can tell, the difference is that for someone like Pharaoh—or Jesus’s original hearers— the smallness of God and the meekness of his Kingdom are scandalous. Pharaoh couldn’t respond to the shepherd and his slave-God—he needed a demonstration of strength in the way he defined strength. Likewise, the religious leaders couldn’t receive Jesus because they were convinced that the Kingdom would come with the restoration of Jewish autonomy and custom, rather than the restoration of the lame or the feasting of prostitutes. And to the extent that we look for the Kingdom in personal or national prosperity, or the demonstration of might over our perceived enemies, or growth in the church’s societal influence, or even growth in numbers rather than in the exaltation of the poor or the liberation of the oppressed, we will be always hearing and never understanding, because we will be looking for a Kingdom that is not founded on the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.The structures and norms of our world dull us to the Kingdom of God because they deceive us into thinking that power and hope can be found somewhere other than the humility of a God who would die for the good of his enemies—and it can’t. The cross reveals those structures to be a sham. At the cross Satan thought that he had won when Jesus was swallowed up by death, but in the greatest cosmic prank ever pulled, it turned out that death had swallowed a firecracker, and Jesus couldn’t be contained by the grave. By the death of God on the cross, Satan—that chief slave driver—has been revealed to be a laughingstock, and the grave has been transformed into a bed of hope.So I invite us to spend some time wondering about the ways in which we have been dulled to the kind of Kingdom and hope the Crucifixion and Resurrection have to offer, and what each of us might need to sell in order to get our hands on such a curious and delightful pearl.Amen.