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13. The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price


Chapter 13

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price

Matthew 13:45-46

Eric H. H. Chang

Montreal, September 10, 1978


Matthew 13:45-46 reads:

“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.”

An expert discerns the value of the pearl

Let us begin to examine exegetically, what this parable means. The Lord Jesus says the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a merchant. The word “merchant” here means a businessman. He is a wholesale dealer; in fact, quite a big businessman. He is looking for not just any kind of pearls, but “fine pearls”, it says here. On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold everything that he had. Remember I stressed that he was a big businessman, and that means he had a lot of property. He sold everything that he had—which gives some indication of the value of that pearl—and he bought that pearl. What does the Lord Jesus want to say to us through this beautiful parable?

I suppose none of us here are great experts on pearls. A gemologist can tell us something about pearls. But if you put some pearls in front of me, I am ashamed to say I would not know the difference from one to the other. If you put a well-polished plastic pearl, or a pearl made of sugar, or a cultured pearl, or a truly genuine pearl in front of me, I’ll have to say, I probably would hardly know the difference from one to the other. I sup­pose I could tell the sugar pearl by licking it. I am not sure how I would tell a well-polished plastic pearl, since plastics today are so advanced that sometimes, it is very hard to tell what it is. I frankly don’t have any idea how to tell the difference between a cultured pearl and a genuine pearl. So this is something that we need to bear in mind. Pearls are of enormous value, and yet you have to be an expert to tell the difference from one to another.

Today, ladies wear a string of pearls around their necks. The pearls look beautiful, but I suppose some could be bought for a few dollars, whereas others probably would cost thousands of dollars. Frankly, I am no expert on pearls. I am not sure what I am supposed to do to find out whether a pearl is genuine. Are you supposed to bite it, or put it under a microscope or a magnifying glass, or what? None of these things would help me very much since I don’t even know what to look for. But this man has discernment; he knows what a valuable pearl is! I hope that in the spiritual realm at least, I can tell one pearl from another. Unfortunately, in the area of actual pearls, I am no expert at all.

But of course, in the days of the Lord Jesus, they did not have cultivated pearls, like what the Japanese have been producing, by artificially dropping sand into the oyster and forcing it to produce some sort of a pearl. In the days of the Lord Jesus they had to find genuine pearls. These were produced in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea is swarming with sharks! Thus it means that a diver had to go down, often to a considerable depth, at great risk to his life. I am not sure exactly how they kept the sharks at bay in those days. I have passed through the Red Sea, and I have seen with my own eyes that, if you throw a piece of meat into the Red Sea, the whole place would be swarming with sharks within minutes! Also, you have to remember, in those days, divers did not go down with oxygen tanks and sophisticated gears. They had to hold their breath and dive to look for the pearl. In that time, while having to look for oysters to bring up, they had to watch out that they did not get eaten by a shark in the process!

Even though we are not experts, we know at least that pearls come in different colors and different sizes. Some pearls are of a pinkish shade, some are of a bluish shade, some are pure white, others are quite small, and still others are very big. Depending on the color, the size, the shape and the flawlessness—only if it is perfectly spherical, and of large size will that pearl be of great value.

We read that in the days pretty close to the Lord Jesus’ time, Caesar gave a pearl to his friend’s mother, which was worth a quarter of a million dollars! Wow! I don’t know where I would wear this one pearl. I would not even know what to do with it. But that was by no means the most expensive of pearls. According to the ancient historian, Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus), Cleopatra had a pearl that was worth 5 million dollars, in modern-day terms. Well, I guess we can expect that Cleopatra would go for such things. But if one pearl is worth 5 million dollars, that must have been a huge, beautiful, perfect pearl. So, it gives us an idea how enormously valuable pearls were in those days. A pearl of perfect beauty, of large size, of beautiful color, of radiance, of luster, was enormously valuable!

Once we understand the value of the pearl, it makes the pearl perhaps even much more valuable than that of the hidden lost treasure. We remember this as the Lord Jesus tells us about a merchant, a big businessman who has a wholesale business, looking for fine pearls. Clearly, this is not the first time he has been dealing in pearls, since he is looking for fine pearls. But he discovers one exceptional, rare pearl for which he has to give up all those other pearls that he has been dealing with before. Talking in modern-day terms, he has to give up his entire possessions—his yacht, his house, his car—in order to buy this one pearl, which may be worth 5 million dollars. He has to be a big businessman. How else can he afford a pearl like this? He buys this pearl of enormous price.

I’ve spent some time on this so that you don’t think we are talking about some Kyoto cultured pearls, but that we are talking about rare and exceptional pearls of enormous value. Today, I am sure you can go to a jeweler and buy a beautiful cultured pearl, maybe for a few hundred dollars. But we are talking about pearls which are spoken of here, as of enormous value, and not just any kind of pearl. And this pearl costs the man everything!

What does the pearl represent?

What then does this pearl represent in the Lord Jesus’ teaching? How do we understand what he wants us to understand in this teaching? I would like to say to you again, that expounding the Bible is not a matter of guesswork. It is not a matter of everybody just saying the first thing that comes to his mind. It has to be, if it is to be responsible Bible exposition, a matter of careful checking of cross-references.

We are not left in the dark because we do see how the Lord Jesus uses this word “pearl” twice. The first time is in Matthew 7:6, and the second time is here in Matthew 13:45. The Lord Jesus says there:

“Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.”

A few things emerge when you begin to examine this passage.

1. The pearl represents something holy

Firstly, notice the Bible principle of parallelism. The word “pearls” stands in parallel to the word “what is holy.” (The English words, “what is holy” translate in fact, one Greek word.) “Do not give what is holy to dogs; do not cast your pearls before swine.” “Holy” and “pearls” stand in parallel; “dogs” and “swine” stand in parallel. This is a very well-known Biblical way of speaking, in which the same thing is stated in parallel form. You will see that very often in Proverbs and in the Psalms. This immediately gives us a clue that when the Lord Jesus is speaking about pearls, he is thinking about something that is holy.

2. The value of the pearl needs to be discerned

The second thing is that “what is holy” has to be discerned, just as what is the value of a pearl has to be discerned or understood. Dogs don’t appreciate the difference between something that is holy and something that is not holy. Dogs don’t understand what is holy. Therefore the Lord Jesus said, “Don’t give what is holy to dogs.”

Now do not give pearls to swine, that is pigs, because they don’t understand the value of pearls. In fact, if you give them pearls, notice they might turn on you and attack you after having trampled the pearls underfoot. Why? It is because pearls don’t taste very nice, and swine are only interested in food. If you give rice to pigs, oh, they appreciate that because they know rice tastes good. But if you give them pearls, which are worth hundreds of thousands times more than a grain of rice, they will attack you because they feel cheated: “We want rice and you give us pearls. You are cheating me. I can’t eat pearls!” They don’t understand the value of pearls. They don’t know that if you sell this one pearl, you could buy a whole room full of rice, maybe even houses full of rice.

We immediately realize that in the Lord Jesus’ language, the pearl is being spoken of as representing something that is holy in the first place, and because it is holy, it refers to something spiritual. That is plain. Secondly, the value of what is spiritual has to be discerned.

The apostle Paul is saying exactly this point in 1 Corinthians 2:14 onwards, that spiritual things must be discerned spiritually. A dog and a pig don’t have spiritual discernment, and therefore don’t know that this thing is holy. The non-Christian may also not understand what is holy and spiritual, for he doesn’t have spiritual discernment. Therefore from all this, we begin to understand that in the Lord Jesus’ teaching, the pearl is a picture of something that is holy and spiritual, and which only somebody who has a certain amount of spiritual discernment will be able to discern. Now what may that be?

3. The pearl is something we can make our own

The third thing we notice in Matthew 7:6—“Do not throw your pearls to the swine”—is that the Lord Jesus speaks of “your pearls.” These pearls are actually something that we can possess, that we can make our own. This holy, spiritual thing is something that we can make our own. That gives us a lot of clues. So what can that thing be?

Spiritual wisdom is more precious than silver, gold, jewels

For the next step of exposition, we need to return to the Old Testament to see what may such a thing be? If we look at Proverbs 3:13-15, we begin to see something on this line. There we read:

“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”

In these verses, the man who is spiritually happy or blessed finds spiritual wisdom and gets spiritual understanding, which is better than anything you could desire. It is “better than silver and gold”, “more precious than jewels.” It is the most precious of all. Why? As you read on in Proverbs, you will understand that it is through wisdom that you come to know God; it is through wisdom that you come to have eternal life in God. No wonder wisdom is so precious! We saw that that is exactly what the pearl represented. It is something that is holy, something that had to be spiritually understood, and something we can possess. That is what Proverbs says concerning spiritual wisdom, because it brings us to God.

In Job 28:12, we read: “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?”

Notice again, this is the question in someone who is looking for spiritual wisdom and understanding, which reminds us immediately of this Parable of the Pearl. You might say that this is the thought going through the merchant’s mind: “Where can I find fine pearls?”

Verse13 reads: “Man does not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living.”

This spiritual wisdom cannot be found in this world.

Verses 14-15 read: “The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ It cannot be gotten for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price.”

Again, you see a comparison of spiritual wisdom with silver and gold.

Verse 16 reads: “It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire.”

All the finest quality gold, precious gems cannot compare with spiritual wisdom.

Verses 17-20 say:

“Gold or glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot compare with it, nor can it be valued in pure gold. Whence then comes wisdom? And where is the place of understanding?”

Here we see the word, “pearls”. Topaz is a precious gem. Spiritual wisdom and understanding is above the value of precious pearls, precious gems and pure gold. Where can one find spiritual wisdom?

Spiritual wisdom is in the Word of God

The Lord Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is like a merchant looking for fine pearls”, like a person seeking that eternal wisdom, eternal understand­ing which leads to eternal life in God. So then, where shall we find this wisdom, this understanding? The Old Testament is not without an answer. So far, we have questions without an answer. Now we have an answer in Psalm 19:7-10 [NJB].

“The Law of Yahweh is perfect, refreshment to the soul; the decree of Yahweh is trustworthy, wisdom for the simple. 8 The precepts of Yahweh are honest, joy for the heart; the commandment of Yahweh is pure, light for the eyes. 9 The fear of Yahweh is pure, lasting for ever; the judgments of Yahweh are true, upright, every one, 10 more desirable than gold, even than the finest gold; His words are sweeter than honey, that drips from the comb.”

Where can spiritual wisdom and understanding be found? In the Word of God! God’s Word is described here in different terms as “the Law of Yahweh”, “the precepts of Yahweh”, “the commandment of Yahweh”, “the judgments of Yahweh”. “The Law of Yahweh is perfect”, It is without blemish. It is “refreshment to the soul”, It gives life. The Word of God is “perfect”—It is completely round and without blemish—like a perfect pearl. It can give life. It is “wisdom for the simple.” (Notice the word “wisdom” here.) It is “joy for the heart.” (After the merchant bought the pearl of great value, he must have been joyful.) It is “more desirable than gold, even than the finest gold.” Even the finest gold is not comparable to the Word of God, such is its preciousness.

So as we trace the exegesis of this through the Scriptures, the pearl refers to the Word of God. Now we begin to understand the message in the teaching of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine”: the Word of God is very precious to those who seek after It, but for those who don’t want It, don’t stuff it down their throats. They won’t be grateful. In fact, you will ask for hostility, with no benefit either to them or to you. Never stuff the precious Word of God down unwilling throats.

The “pearl” in Matthew 7:6 refers to the Word of God. The Word of God is holy, It has to be spiritually discerned, and we can have God’s Word as our own possession by storing It up in our hearts. As Paul says to the Colossians, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). We can possess for ourselves the law of God taught in the words of Christ, when we richly store It in our hearts. This is exceedingly precious.

Jesus is the pearl of great price

Then Colossians 2:3 says,

“all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (stored up) in Christ.”

In the Greek, the word “treasures” is the same word as “treasure” in Matthew 13:44. God has given all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge to Jesus, so Jesus is the pearl of great price.

We must follow with the procedure of exegesis, tracing through the Scriptures step by step, not any kind of guesswork, until we understand the message.

Matthew 13:45-46 read: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a mer­chant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value”, and this word, “one” stresses the uniqueness of this pearl. Jesus is more desirable than gold, even than the finest gold. There is only this one pearl of great price, there is only one Jesus.

This word, “one” also makes me think very much of Luke 10:41-42a, where the Lord Jesus says,

“Martha, Martha, you are troubled about many things, but one thing is needful.

It is not many, many things, but one thing is needful. You know, our lives have to become wonderfully concentrated. I wonder whether your life is concentrated or scattered. Many people live a scattered life, and a scattered life doesn’t have any clear purpose or direction. But this merchant knew what he was looking for. He sought after it, found it and bought that one pearl which cost him everything.

Now you would say in your mind, is it wise to lose everything for one pearl? Why not settle for some mediocre pearls, then you can still keep your car, your house, your field, your business, whatever? Is that not the thinking in most people’s minds? We have not understood the Lord Jesus’ words—you are troubled about many things, but one thing is needful in this life. Concentrate into one thing.

The importance of concentration

Think about it. A person who tries to do many things ends up doing nothing well at all. But when a person who may be diversified, never­theless learns to concentrate to become really good at one thing, that person will break through at some point. I found this method applies in every area. If you want to be good at anything, you have to concentrate in that one thing.

Take a very trivial example. I used to learn judo. Many of you know that judo has many kinds of different holds and grips, some trip over the legs, some over the hips, some over the shoulders. Now because I am the kind of person who likes to think everything through, I pondered to myself, there are so many grips and holds, maneuvers, exactly how do you become good at judo? Would I have to perfect every particular throw?

It dawned on me that if I master one throw to perfection, I would be nearly unbeatable. I decided to test this principle. I mastered the shoulder throw, where you take a person by the arm and swing around and throw him right over the top of your shoulder. One of the reasons why it was chosen is because it is a very devastating throw. You don’t get up again, after you come down from that throw, not in a hurry anyway, unless you are a judo expert yourself.

I felt that the tripping throw, throwing a person over your foot makes him fall, but he will be up the next moment attacking you again. That is not very good. If you throw him over the hip, it is a little bit higher, but not high enough to do considerable damage. After all, self-defense is to put the guy out of action, not to spend the rest of the day wrestling with him! So I felt that the shoulder throw was the most effective.

It is also effective because most other throws depend on your having to hold his clothing. Now suppose it is a hot, summer day, and he is wearing a thin shirt, what exactly do you hold? If you grab his shirt, you will end up holding his shirt in your hand. That is no good! I found the shoulder throw had the enormous advantage of not having to hold clothing. All you need to do is hold his wrist or his forearm. That means you grab his wrist, and with one flick, he ends up in a plane crash at the other end.

This suited me ideally, and so I spent hours perfecting this one throw. I worked out every movement in detail, what I have to do if the other person moves. I knew all the other throws, but I mastered this one particular throw to perfection.

The day came when I was ready to try it out. I did not want to try it out on some guy, who was on the same level as me, but on a judo expert, to see whether my move was perfected sufficiently to cope with the best. So when my instructor, who was a huge fellow came along—six foot, black belt, particularly muscular compared to my bony system—I thought, fair enough, it is “David against Goliath”. Here is my chance to try it out! He was in fact, a weight-lifter as well, so you can imagine how strong he was. He could lift me bodily off the ground with his two hands and just throw me off. That is not judo, that is weight-lifting.

I thought, “I will try my throw on him.” So I said, “Can I have a little work-out with you?” He said, “Sure, sure, sure,” thinking who am I? He is the instructor, the black belt, Second Dan.” So we had a little workout. I picked my moment, and I blitzed quickly. What a shriek of surprise came from him as the whole two hundred pounds of him went sailing through the air, and hit the tatami with such a bang! He was so taken by surprise and shocked! And I thought, “So it does work! It does work!”

I began to learn from this, not just something about judo, but a lesson concerning life as a whole. That is to say, concentrate on one thing if you are going to be good. Don’t mess around with a hundred things, because eventually, you are not good at any of them. If I tried every throw, I could not perfect any one of them, except with a great deal of time. But by concentrating on one effective throw, I was able to perfect it to such an extent that I would even be able to take an expert in it.

The same applies to the spiritual life. I find many Christians are simply scattered. They simply don’t become good at anything. If you want to live the Christian life effectively, you have got to ask yourself before God, “What are my gifts? I am going to concentrate upon that particular gift, until I become really good in serving God.” If every Christian thought like this, the church would be full of people who are outstanding! Everybody can sing quite well, but one person may become an outstanding singer, praising God with his or her voice. If you have a voice you can sing with, work at it! Train every day! Go up and down the scales. Find a piano. Just practice on it even if it is broken down. Sing until you have perfected one song. Develop your volume, your control, your range, until you become outstanding.

You will discover one interesting thing as well, that when you become good at one thing, you become pretty good at all the others as well. For some reason, this one advance raises very much higher your general standard in all the other things you do. You’ll find you are better than most people in the other things, but exceptional in one.

Or take for example, if you find that you have a gift in leading a Bible study, work at it! Learn how to study the Word of God more deeply, how to present the Word of God more effectively. I hope those training for full-time service will be doing this. As I said before, I hope they will become experts at exegesis. This was one goal of mine. For years I worked and worked, learning how to understand the Word of God, and how to expound it, because having understood it, you have to convey it to others.

You may be good at writing. Well, improve it. Don’t be satisfied with mediocrity. Train all the time how to improve your sentence structure; how to make your sentences clearer; how to improve the general presentation of your message in writing.

Thus I say again, that every one of you has a gift. If I understand my Bible, there is nobody in the church who has no gifts. Every one of you has some gift in some area that you can use for God. Concentrate on that.

Concentrate on one gift to please God

But above all, the reason you concentrate on His gift is for a further objective—to please God. I concentrated on one throw, not because I just wanted to be able to throw people for the fun of it. Perfecting one throw was the means to obtain the end of effective self-defense in any particular circumstance. Of course, you must understand that I was not a Christian in those days. In these days, I might react somewhat differently. In those days of course, I answered very speedily with action. In these days, I would remember the fact that I am a servant of God, and would have to consider how I would act in those circumstances.

Why would you want to sing well? Is not perfecting your singing the means to the end of pleasing God whom you love?Or if you are leading a Bible-study, or if you write, your objective is to bring blessing to others and be pleasing to God. Should we not so live as to be pleasing to God if we love Him? So pleasing God becomes the means to that great end that is ahead of us—seeing Him in His kingdom.

It will cost us everything to gain Christ

The Lord Jesus’ teaching to his disciples is a principle of “all or nothing.” This man sells everything. Such is his fine concentration that he counts it all as rubbish in order that he may gain this pearl of great price. Don’t be scattered! Don’t try on the one hand to love the world, to make your nest in the world, and on the other hand to win the Pearl of great price. You cannot do it! The Lord Jesus is telling us, if you want this pearl, it is going to cost you everything. If it doesn’t cost you everything, you will never get it. It is as simple as that. I think there are too many Christians who don’t seem to understand this yet, because by what I observe of how they live, they have not yet understood. They think they can have the best of both worlds and still end up having this pearl of great price, having the eternal life of Yahweh God through Jesus Christ. You will not! That is the Lord Jesus’ teaching, not mine.

The Lord Jesus always teaches: “If you want to be my disciple, you sell all and follow me.” In Matthew 19:16-22, he says the same thing to the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler cannot understand this because he said, “I have kept the Law. What must I do to inherit eternal life?” When the Lord Jesus replied in verse 21, If you want to be perfect, sell all that you have, come and follow me”, he doesn’t mean if you want to become morally perfect. We never become sinless, or morally perfect in this life. If you understand Biblical teaching, perfection is not moral perfection, but perfection of total commitment, which is the minimum requirement for salvation.

As we recall Matthew 22:34-40, a lawyer asked the Lord Jesus,

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first command­ment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.’”

The Lord Jesus says the same to the rich young ruler, “Do you want to inherit eternal life? Keep the commandments. The commandments are summed up as: ‘Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Do that and you will have life.” How do you love God with all your heart? “Sell all you have. Come and follow me.” Perfection in the Bible is about total love for God.

In Luke 12:32-33, the Lord Jesus says the same thing to his disciples,

“Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s purpose to give you the kingdom; therefore sell what you have, give to the poor. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”

How much is that pearl worth to you? Do you want to have the pearl for nothing? Do you want Jesus for nothing? That is not the Bible teaching. That pearl will cost you everything. Until it does, you have not got the pearl. It is as simple as that. That merchant, having discovered the pearl, had to sell what he had first, and purchase the pearl. What then does this mean? It simply means a total commitment to Jesus, and to fix your eyes on him. In fact, to totally commit to Christ and to fix your eyes on him reflects your total commitment to God; it means to fully concentrate your being on loving God.

If you don’t do this, your witness for God will count for next to nothing. No wonder so many Christians go through life having no witness. They are not lights in the world. They behave like any non-Christian. They think like any non-Christian. They are just a little bit more religious, that is all. That is not being a Christian in the Bible teaching! The Biblical teaching is total commitment, that wherever you go, your dedication, your commitment, your total love for God, your unconditional obedience to the teaching of Christ stands out! Everybody knows that you are a totally committed Christian, that you have given all to follow Christ.

I have said endless times that I am not talking about full-time service. I am talking about an attitude of heart to God. I have said this so many times because many people who are in full-time service have not got any total commitment. For them, being a pastor is a profession, their bread and butter. In Chinese, you would say it is their bowl of rice; it is their job. It has nothing to do with total commitment. I hope that if a person has a pastoral job, they are also totally committed, and not conduct themselves as though these two don’t necessarily go together.

Seek God with all your heart and soul, and you will find Him

Are you like the merchant in this parable, looking for the priceless pearl? Do you seek what is spiritually valuable, or don’t you? If you are only seeking the world, then this parable is no use to you, because it talks to people who are seeking this pearl of eternal value.

Why does Jesus compare himself to the pearl of great value? It is because only when you have Jesus will you be able to build a relationship with God. God reveals Himself to us through Jesus, and we only come to know the only true God through Jesus. This is why the Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Are you willing to come to know God, to build a friendship with Him, and give your all to follow Jesus? Do you have this unhesitant determination to seek God?

Perhaps when the Lord Jesus told this parable, he had in mind Deuteronomy 4:29, because those are the words Moses spoke to the Israelites:

“But from there you will seek Yahweh your God, and you will find Him, if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

I would like you to bear in mind this promise that you will obtain, if you search for Him with all your heart, with all your soul. Now if you have not yet found God, remember these words. You may be seeking, but not with all your heart and with all your soul. You still lack this determinat­ion of purpose.

Who can find God? It is only those who totally commit to look for God with all their heart and soul. God will be found by those who search for Him and for the truth, with that total commitment which says, “If I find God, I’m willing that it should cost me everything.” Why are you seeking Him if He doesn’t mean very much to you? What does His Son, Jesus mean to you? One pearl among many? Then you have not understood the value of this pearl and you are not worthy to obtain it. The Lord Jesus said, “He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38), because he has not yet understood the preciousness of Jesus.

We are not talking about believing in some religion. We are talking about the Son of God, Jesus, who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), whose value is without price! You cannot put a price tag on him. If you have not yet understood this, then clearly you think that what you possess is worth more than that pearl. If this merchant thought that all his possessions were worth more than that pearl, then clearly he would not sell all that he has to buy that pearl, would he? Of course not! It is not necessary to do it.

If you go to a jeweler’s and you find a pearl that costs $300, and checking your possessions you say, “I can pay $300. I don’t have to sell everything to buy that pearl,” then you have not found it worth all you have. But if you see a pearl with a price tag which says $300,000, that is a different matter! Then you realize that this pearl is of such value that the only way you can get it is going to cost you more than everything you have.

How much value do you put upon Jesus? By the way many Christians live, I see Jesus is obviously not very valuable to them. They are willing to give one or two hours on a Sunday, maybe one or two hours, maybe even five or six hours on the weekdays. Maybe they will give a few dollars, or maybe even a $200 offering in a month, but is Jesus worth everything? That is the one question. That pearl goes only to the person who sells all, who is totally committed. Maybe it sounds different from the Christianity you have heard, but that is the Christianity of the teachings of Jesus. How does your Christian life compare to that?

Or can you say with Paul in Philippians 3:8, “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may win Christ”? To Paul, Christ, this pearl of great price is worth more than everything. In fact, he counts all the valuables he has ever had not just as valueless, but as rub­bish, that he might win Christ. Do you have the same mentality as Paul?

The pearl represents the characteristics of Christ

In conclusion, consider the picture of this beautiful pearl that represents Christ. The roundness of the pearl represents the perfection of Christ. The whiteness of the pearl represents Jesus’ holiness. The radiance of the pearl represents the glory and beauty of Jesus. The production of the pearl is by suffering, so also is the holiness of Jesus produced by suffering, for the sake of doing his God and Father’s will. As Hebrews 5:8-9 reads: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”

Do you think of Christ as that one, beautiful, priceless pearl worth selling everything you have to get it? I hope this message of the Lord Jesus’ teaching comes through to you.

The whole emphasis of this parable lies in this one thing: to obtain this pearl will cost you everything. If it doesn’t cost you everything, you have not obtained that pearl, and you will not obtain it. Ponder that carefully.


(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church