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The Parables of Jesus Part 10
Matthew 13:45-46; John 16:33 - Seek after the real pearl, not the fake ones!
““Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Matthew 13:45-46 NASB1995
This short parable is another way to describe the Kingdom of Heaven. In the case of the treasure in the field, the man finds the treasure by accident, realizes its inestimable value, sells everything that he has and buys the land to gain the treasure. In my write-up for that parable, I included commentary with examples of those who were not seeking but found the great treasure (the Samaritan Woman, the Apostle Paul).
In this case, a merchant is already seeking fine pearls and he finds one that is of great value, so he sells all that he has for that one pearl. Two Biblical examples of those seeking a great treasure are the Eunuch from Ethiopia (Acts 8:26-40) and the Roman Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). All those two needed was the right nudge (from Philip the Evangelist and Peter, respectively) to find the right pearl.
There are many “pearls” that are being sought in this world. Let’s take a look at five of those pearls (I normally call on more astute Biblical commenters for some of my message, but I thought of this on my own thanks to the Holy Spirit!):
The Pearl of Power:
In the news while I was writing this, the Death of a prominent Senator from California was reported. She was 90 years old and in very poor health and missed quite a few days in the Senate earlier this year, yet she would not give up her seat, although the current governor of that state would certainly appoint another person to replace her from her party; she even voted in the Senate on the same day that she died. She served in the Senate for over 30 years and was the mayor of a major city, so her life was dedicated to political power.
Another representative from that same state who has been the Speaker of the House on and off has announced that she will run for reelection again for her 19th term at the age of 83. The current occupant of the White House is 80 and he may likely run for re-election in 2024 against the previous WH occupant, who will be 78 next June.
Having power is indeed powerful! No one wants to give it up and it outweighs any concerns for health, advancing age, family and having a quiet life in your golden years. But power does not buy any President or Emperor or King or Senator or CEO any more time on this earth and, in fact, an obsessive grip on power might have shortened the years that they had and even created other more powerful and deadly enemies. Power is a fake pearl.
The Pearl of Popularity:
Our society is centered on celebrities and their popularity. If you don’t believe this, just look at the time and effort recently expended by Major new sources investigating the Taylor Swift (a popular singer)/Travis Kelce (a football player) rumors of romance. Many celebrities are social media “influencers”, living for the number of likes and followers and nudging others to adopt their favorite foods, hobbies, clothing and opinions.
Before social media, celebrities lived through TV show ratings or box office earnings or the number of awards that they have received (a power trip of its own). Quick, name an EGOT (a person who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar AND Tony)! The answers are good for trivia games, but those awards will return to dust, although that EGOT’s Wikipedia entry might be quite long for a few years (unless they are no longer “popular” in the prevailing culture).
Popularity is here one day and gone the next. Just ask any sports team that has suffered for a long time in the losing column. I know a person who was a very popular football player in High School who still lives his life centered around the sports activities of that school 50 years later. Jesus showed us how truly fickle the public is, when He was cheered entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and jeered before His crucifixion that same week. Popularity is a fake pearl.
The Pearl of Possessions:
A race is on for who can possess the most things or experiences or both in this life. I confess to being guilty of this, particularly for experiences in my life. For years, we collected physical stuff on our travels, but now we face the purge cycle that happens in every life as we get older (and we have no children that we can dump the junk with, so it’s up to us).
Experiences are really the new “possessions”. How many countries, how many cruises, how many concerts, how many top sporting events, how many “curated adventures” can be collected? This is my thorny soil, my distraction. I have thoroughly enjoyed most of the experiences I have had and like looking back at the pictures and memories, but those experiences were all transient in nature, over before it even seems that they begin. Was I transformed? I probably learned something in those experiences, but nothing, other than Jesus, has been transforming. Possessions are fake pearls.
The Pearl of Pride:
I chose a different photo above this section rather than the usual stuff that litters a search for “pride” in photos. Humans have a tendency to become very proud of themselves for academic success, intelligence, creativity, inventions, discoveries, and knowledge, besides being proud of their sexual preferences, as long as those preferences are not “mainstream”.
Scratch an atheist and you will often find a person just swelling with overweening pride and arrogance (I know this from experience). Most scientists these days are atheists or agnostics, refusing to acknowledge any purpose or intelligence in this universe and not wanting any of their peers to discover that they might harbor secret desires for a Creator. However, I think I nailed it in my last devotional, describing scientists as merely scribes for the things that God has created. Good for them, but He was there first!
Social media is also full to the brim with prideful armchair experts on everything and they will tell you their opinion whether you want it or not. I read a great article recently at the Gospel Coalition about how the “prophets” of today are heartless (more like Jonah than Jeremiah), wanting the worst for others who disagree with them on any topic, including religion. Jesus says we should mourn for sin and death, not cheer it (and be poor in spirit, too). Pride is a fake pearl.
The Pearl of Perfection:
Humans are restless and usually unhappy about circumstances, even when we are the most prosperous people in the history of the world at this time (in this country and many other countries are right behind us or in step). Utopia is the goal, the creation of an idealistic world that is “sustainable” and “just” and “perfect” and “equitable”. I may step on some toes discussing this pearl, but many humans want the world that is described in the lyrics one of the most insipid and dangerous songs ever written - “Imagine” by John Lennon.
Whenever there is a tragedy, it seems like someone always sits down at a piano and bangs out that dreadful song and nearly everyone in the vicinity swoons, forgetting that the implementation and sustainment of the society that the former Beatle envisioned would require a brutal dictatorship that would make Pol Pot and the Kims of North Korea seem benevolent. But that doesn’t stop people from trying, does it? I know that I have struggled with perfectionist tendencies my whole life and it is mentally draining and a foundation for antisocial behaviors and opinions.
People want the world-wide climate to be the perfect temperature (whatever that is), they want equity in possessions and jobs and money (meaning that everyone is equally poor and owns nothing), they want every little human foible or what used to be called sin to be normalized and cheered. They want people that don’t share in their vision or even their opinions to be removed from society, if possible. When perfection is not achieved, they pout and shout and argue and march and glue themselves to museum paintings and arena floors and roadways. Millions and millions have died because a few like Hitler, Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, and Pol Pot (to name a few) sought a perfect society and were also power-hungry. Perfection is the worst fake pearl of all.
As Jesus said in John 16:33:
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.””
John 16:33 NASB1995
The Priceless Pearl:
Now that I have described five false pearls (and I’m sure there are many more), let’s get back to this parable. I did want to share something from commentary that I thought was important from the last parable and this one, from Precept Austin, referencing John MacArthur. By the way, Bruce Hurt, the editor of this vast online resource, does not agree with the David Guzik interpretation for the hidden treasure that I shared in the last devotional. So many Biblical opinions, so little time!
[John] MacArthur says "we can learn at least six valuable lessons about the Kingdom of Heaven, and therefore about salvation:
The Kingdom of Heaven must be personally appropriated,
The Kingdom of Heaven is priceless,
The Kingdom of Heaven is not superficially visible,
The Kingdom of Heaven is the source of true joy,
The Kingdom of Heaven may be entered from different circumstances
The Kingdom of Heaven is made personal by a transaction." (For detailed discussion of each point see Matthew 13:44-46: Entering the Kingdom - Study Guide - click dropdown)
I also found this commentary from Precept Austin compelling:
Phil Newton [Gospel Coalition] - Others are on a different course in their conversion. They are "seeking fine pearls," that is, they are in pursuit of something better and grander than what they know but they do not know how and where to find it. They may try one religion or philosophy or principle of life but realize that their search has not ended. They follow the Golden Rule but it cannot satisfy.
They obey the law but do not find it satisfying for their guilt. They engage in various rituals and religious practices; they read the latest popular books for self-help, but nothing fills the void that aches in their lives... until they see Jesus Christ in the gospel!
George Whitefield was such a one, seeking fine pearls in religious service, devotion to prayer and Bible reading, disciplining himself to follow God's law, fasting and denying himself to appease God for his guilt. But nothing satisfied him; he felt only desperation and misery. But as he read Matthew Henry's Expositions, Joseph Alleine's Alarm to the Unconverted, and Richard Baxter's Call to the Unconverted, he testifies, "About this time God was pleased to enlighten my soul, and bring me into the knowledge of His free grace, and the necessity of being justified in His sight by faith only" [Whitefield's Journal, 62, italics his].
No doubt remains about Whitefield's life. He discovered the "one pearl of great value" to who he was devoted until he died. We need not think that there is only one manner of coming to Christ. For certain, there is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ alone. But coming to Christ might take different paths and experiences and circumstances, yet all yield the same treasure - Jesus Christ alone as Redeemer and King! (Sermon)
To paraphrase this last commentary, there are many roads to find Jesus, but He is the only treasure, source of freedom, redeemer and king and path to God!
My next devotional examines the Parable of the Dragnet, found in Matthew 13:47-50.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord: Please help me discard the useless and fake pearls in my life and seek only the Pearl of Great Price, the treasure of Jesus as my redeemer and King! Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, founder of Precept Austin, can be found Here.