Scripture: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46 ESV
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Observation: In continuity with The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (yesterday’s Daily Focus; click here to read), Jesus tells a similar parable with one marked variance: the man who finds the hidden treasure stumbles across it, whereas the merchant deliberately searches for fine pearls. Hence, the audience would assume this man is a prosperous wholesaler seeking to expand his inventory, and he diligently finds a pearl far exceeding his expectation. Thus, as an expert at ascertaining value, he sells all he possesses to acquire this exquisite pearl—anticipating a return on investment far surpassing all he previously owned.
Of note, this is Jesus’ second teaching utilizing the metaphor of pearls. Whereas pearls represent the kingdom of heaven here, during his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus likened their precious nature to his Gospel to emphasize discretion to whom we present the Good News. For pigs (those who repulsively despise Christ and his message) will revile our sharing of his Gospel (trample over our pearls) and even attack us (7:6).
Takeaway: Theologian J.D.M. Derrett notes a rabbinic parallel among God’s people in this parable: “One wins eternal life after a struggle of years, another finds it in one hour” (b Abodah Zarah 17a). Derrett adds that we see this contrast in the conversions of Saul and the Ethiopian eunuch (Law in the New Testament, p.15). Whereas Saul struggled over the years to do everything by the book as a Pharisee among Pharisees, only to learn he had fought against Christ (Acts 9:1-9), an angel directs Phillip to pursue the eunuch, resulting in the eunuch taking immediate possession of this priceless gift without a fight (Acts 8:26-32.).
Thus, as D. A. Carson contends, “Jesus is not interested in religious efforts or in affirming that one can “buy” the kingdom; on the contrary, he is saying that the person whose whole life has been bound up with “pearls”—the entire religious heritage of the Jews?—will, on comprehending the true value of the kingdom as Jesus presents it, gladly exchange all else to follow him” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, p.329).
Our takeaway? Whether we search for years to find something of exceeding value worth living for or stumble across Christ’s Gospel amid our life journey, we still have to empty our hands to take possession of it and enter his kingdom. But this will never happen if we see superior worth in what we already possess. As mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Focus, the rich young ruler grievously walked away from Christ’s invitation because he saw greater value in his wealth (19:16-22).
This reality stirs in most of us a sense of concern because it’s hard to let go. Thankfully, our part is to receive the Good News (saved by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8). The Holy Spirit will, over our remaining years of life, lead us to places of surrender to receive more of the Father and Son’s love (which inspires us to let go and make room for more). Indeed, this is good news, for Christ and his kingdom are priceless, whether we earnestly search for or serendipitously discover him.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who emptied himself through his life and death to receive the wounds that healed our sin-marred hearts. And we thank you that in doing so, he rose from the grave filled with glory and now leads us by his Holy Spirit on this heaven-bound kingdom journey. So would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit to let go so that we may receive and share more of your love with those still searching? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling