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May 2, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”—Matthew 13:45-46 (NKJV)
As we work our way through Christ’s parables, we come to one known as The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. This particular story shares a lot in common with the parable directly proceeding it, which reads as follows: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44 NKJV).
These two parables share the same basic structure; the main character purchases something very valuable at a great cost. The greater narrative points to Jesus—the main character in God’s redemptive drama. He paid the ultimate price to secure something very valuable, and this clearly foreshadows the message of the gospel.
But there’s a differential detail in these parables that unlocks a deeper level of meaning for us. Notice that the objects of value are a treasure in one and a pearl in the other. Let’s take a moment to focus on the treasure first.
In Exodus 19:5, God refers to the nation of Israel as His treasure. This comparison is repeated in Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2, and in Psalm 135:4. If we connect the dots, we can conclude that the treasure represents Israel, which has been set apart from all other nations according to God’s purposes through Christ.
This brings us to the pearl. Pearls weren’t highly valued in the Jewish culture. After all, they were the by-product of an animal their law prohibited them to eat (Leviticus 11:12), and they’re never mentioned in the Jewish Old Testament. It’s not until we get to the New Testament, where God’s work expands to the non-Jewish peoples (Gentiles), that we even see pearls. This makes sense, because pearls were highly valued among Gentile cultures. So just as the treasure represents that which is Jewish, the pearl represents that which is Gentile.
Looking at the parable through this lens, we see that Jesus is forecasting that He would give, “all that He had” (even His very life), so the Gentile world could belong to Him. We know this is precisely what happened on the cross, as Jesus willingly laid down His life so all people could belong to Him. If you’re a Gentile, you’re the pearl in the parable . . . and Christ gave all He had so you could be His!
DIG: What’s the significance of the pearl in this parable?
DISCOVER: How would you interpret this parable in your own words? What does this parable reveal about Christ’s heart for you?
DO: Thank the Lord today for giving all that He had for us, to purchase us with His precious blood!
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.