The Redeemer’s Pearl
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
For those of us who have been students of the Bible for a long time it is always good to take a moment to realize that the Scriptures are alive. (“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1). It can never be viewed lightly or with the thought of “Yes, yes. I already know all about that.” God’s Word never loses its ability to surprise and further instruct us. Our two simple verses for today are such a case in point. Many would read over these verses and assume that they know what is being taught here and then move on. We’ve all read these verses and they have been taught to us as discipleship instruction. As believers we are to surrender all that we are and have in order to appropriate the Kingdom of God into our lives. At least that’s what I have been taught in the past. Today I want to share with you a different idea that I have gleaned from Dr. Gibbs Commentary on Matthew. I will summarize rather than quote him this time but this particular interpretation originates (as least for me) with his book.
This alternative interpretation suggests that these two little parables are not about us, the followers of Jesus but instead are about Jesus Himself. Instead of seeing them as the Christian giving up everything to follow Jesus, the “man” and the “merchant” are instead Jesus Himself who gives up everything to purchase us, the pearl and the treasure. Suddenly these parables go from something that I must do (and get right), to a very Christ-centered emphasis where Jesus is the hero instead of me. With this in mind, we are instantly comforted and encouraged because now we are put into our proper place as something of great value and worth; so great that Jesus gave up all to redeem us.
Later in, Matthew 20:28, we find “. . . the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is the One who surrendered His exalted state to take on our sin, thus being humbled to a position equal to our own. Jesus is the One who gives up His life in a bloody sacrifice because of our iniquity. Jesus is the One who conquered death because we couldn’t. And Jesus is the One who brought us back from our certain fate of eternal damnation because He ended Satan’s tyranny in our lives.
When seen in this light, we cannot help but be comforted and lifted up by these comparisons of ourselves to pearls and treasure, for that is what we are! This Christ-centered approach to these verses is completely congruent with the rest of the Scriptures as God plays out His grand miracle of bringing us unto Himself.
Ultimately, you cannot go wrong no matter how you look at this parable. If you want to see it as an admonition to surrender all to follow Christ – so be it. You won’t be making a grave error. For me, I fall on the side of hearing once again of God’s incredible grace for me, placing Him at the center of this story. I am more than content to be a pearl.