Summary: The gospel is God’s perfect pearl. The perfect, one-of-a-kind message is what we need and will want to value!
Who likes treasure hunts? What do you say we have one right now! I have a cooler here in which I’ve hidden a treasure. Can one of you children come up and find it? (Child looks for treasure.) What’s that you have? A pebble? I wonder how that got in there? That’s not worth anything. Just toss it aside and keep looking for the real treasure. There, you found it! What is it? Hold it up so everyone can see. It’s a gold coin – a chocolate gold coin that is. Is this a treasure you would like to have? Yes? Well, what are you willing to give me for it? Even though you found the treasure, it was in my cooler so it still belongs to me. Are you willing to give me all your toys, video games, and piggy bank savings for this piece of chocolate? No? Why not? Because it’s not that valuable is it? Is there anything you would give away all your toys and money to have? It would have to be something pretty special wouldn’t it?
In our sermon text Jesus tells us that there is something worth giving up all we have, to retain. That prized possession is the gospel – the good news that Jesus came to save us from our sins. In a parable, Jesus compares the gospel message to a pearl of great worth. We may all nod our head in agreement with that description of the gospel but here’s what I want you to ask yourself this morning: do I treat the gospel like a precious pearl, or a pathetic pebble? Since the gospel is our greatest possession, Jesus will teach us today to recognize its value and to treasure its worth.
The parable Jesus tells to make his point is only two verses long. In the parable, Jesus describes a pearl merchant who stumbles upon a one-of-a-kind pearl. It’s so beautiful and nothing like any other pearl he has seen that he immediately sells all his other pearls, his home, his land, everything he owns to buy the perfect pearl.
This perfect pearl represents the message of salvation found in the Bible. This message is perfect because it tells us everything we need to know for this life and the next. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and deserve God’s eternal punishment in hell. But the Bible also says that Jesus came to take that punishment – like your next-door neighbor paying for the fire damage that your backyard fire pit did to her house.
Doesn’t it seem unlikely though that we would find the secret to eternal life in a book written thousands of years ago, or preached from a pulpit in a small, unpretentious church like this? I’m sure it also seemed unlikely to the first person who pried open a dull, slimy clamshell that a glowing pearl would be nestled within. A pearl in a clamshell. That’s often how God works. He comes to us in unlikely places to give us his love. Could that be illustrated any more beautifully than it is at Christmas? At Christmas, the Son of God, our Savior, was born…in a barn! And then this Jesus willingly gave up his life on the cross to pay for our sins and win us a place in heaven. This message is God’s priceless, perfect gift for us!
The gospel pearl is not only perfect; it’s one of a kind. That’s something the pearl merchant in the parable understood. He had spent his life looking for such a pearl and when he found it, he knew it was foolish to keep clutching the inferior pearls he had collected along the way – especially if it meant that he didn’t have a free hand for the perfect pearl. And so he got rid of all the other pearls he had collected to purchase the perfect one.
This pearl merchant describes you to a “T” if you came to faith after a long search for the truth. When you discovered the gospel by God’s grace, you realized that no other religion or philosophy could compare. No other value system could give you freedom from a guilty conscience and courage to stare death in the face and not be scared. Since that is what the gospel gives, it’s foolish to keep holding on to those other so-called “pearls of wisdom” you may have obtained in your search for the truth. I suppose one such “pearl of wisdom” is the belief that there are many roads to heaven. If that’s what we still think even after becoming a Christian, then we probably don’t really understand what Christianity is all about and what makes the gospel message so precious. All other religions teach us that if we do our best, God will accept us. That’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that our best is not good enough. It teaches that we need a Saviour and we have one in the person of Christ Jesus. When we say that Jesus is our Saviour we don’t mean that he saves us by setting an example of self-sacrifice that we need to follow. He saved us by living the perfect life we have not lived and dying a hellish death so that we would not have to. To put it another way, Jesus is not the firefighter who tries to save us from a burning building by teaching us not to play with matches. It’s a little late for that once the building is on fire. No, Jesus saved us by coming into this burning world of sin and surrounding us with the forgiveness he won on the cross. That forgiveness puts out the fire of God’s wrath against our sins. Since Jesus is the only one who can do this, why would we bother holding on to “pearls of wisdom” offered by other religions when they teach that salvation can be had apart from Christ? Friends, don’t think of faith in Christ as another way to hedge your bets. He is the way the truth and the life. Give up every other teaching and philosophy to firmly grasp this truth.