Summary: Pry Open the Parable of the Pearl and find... 1) Jesus' priceless treasure; and 2) Jesus, priceless Treasure
Have you seen the TV show Storage War$? This program features the sale of storage lockers seized for non-payment of rental fees. The auctions are fast-paced and competitive though the buyers rarely know exactly what they’ll end up carting away should they land the winning bid. The only information available to them before bidding is what they can observe from the locker door, as they are not allowed to enter the unit or open containers. Because of this, buyers often end up paying hundreds of dollars for nothing more than dirty sheets. But sometimes these bidders find real treasure like a comic collection that was resold for $130,000! This is why Storage War$ is a popular show: everyone dreams of finding buried treasure.
Today the Holy Spirit is going to help us discover buried treasure. That will happen when we pry open the Parable of the Pearl and find Jesus’ priceless treasure. We’ll also find Jesus, priceless Treasure.
We’re actually going to be looking at two parables but they make the same point. In the first parable Jesus spoke about a man who was walking through a field and stumbled upon hidden treasure. He buried it again and excitedly sold all he had so he could buy that plot of ground. Some question the morality of this. Shouldn’t this man have reported the treasure to the owner of that field? What we have to remember is that parables are stories meant to teach one main spiritual point and Jesus is obviously not advocating: “Finders keepers. Losers weepers.” That would go against everything else he taught about loving our neighbor. So what is Jesus’ point? Consider the second parable. There a merchant was looking for fine pearls. When he found one of exquisite beauty, he sold all he had - his other pearls, his house, his Harley, his Pink Floyd record collection, even his X-Box - he sold it all to purchase this one pearl.
Wasn’t this merchant a bit short sighted and perhaps even a little crazy? I mean what would you think of ____ here if he sold everything - his house and his clothes, to purchase a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a car worth half a million dollars? He’d end up with a sweet ride but how is he going to sleep and make meals in that thing? And no, he can’t stay at a hotel to do this because all his money has gone to purchase that one car. Crazy! Yet that’s Jesus’ point with the Parable of the Pearl: there is something worth giving up EVERYTHING to obtain. What could be so valuable? Let’s pry open the Parable of the Pearl to find out.
First of all consider the parables that precede the ones in our text. They all begin, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” and then each parable goes on to describe something God does. For example in the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a man planting good seed. Jesus explains that he himself is the sower of that good seed, which represent believers. In the next parable, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a tiny mustard seed that a man planted and which grew into a large tree. In the parable after that the kingdom of heaven is compared to a woman who takes a pinch of yeast to leaven dough. With the Mustard Seed and the Yeast parables Jesus was making the point that while the church would have humble beginnings, he himself was establishing it and would ensure that the church would grow and grow. After explaining the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat Jesus launched into the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl. They too start with the words, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” If Jesus is sticking to the pattern he established in the other parables where the kingdom of heaven describes God’s activity on earth, then the man who discovers hidden treasure in a field and the merchant who sells everything to buy one pearl is…Jesus himself!
If Jesus is the merchant, then what is the pearl? For what, for whom did Jesus, the Son of God, give up EVERTHING? You are the pearl! “Oh, but how can that be, Pastor? Look at how grimy and dirty I am with sin. Jesus could never consider me a treasured possession worth giving up everything to obtain!” You’re right. You are dirty and grimy with sin, just as I am. But look at the parables again. Where did the man find the treasure in the first parable? He found it buried in dirt, not on display in some boutique on 5th Avenue. And the pearl? Where did that come from? Like all other pearls it came from a dull-looking oyster that was slimy and gross on the inside. No, this parable is not saying that Jesus sought us because we were beautiful. If that was the case, there would have been no need for Doug and Christina to bring little Elijah to be baptized as God instructed them to do through his Word. Sure, baby Elijah may look cute and cuddly but, like you and me, he was born with the stain of sin. And so just as a pearl merchant will wash off the slime from a freshly plucked pearl, Elijah needed to be washed by the waters of baptism. Like a canal that connect two bodies of water, the waters of baptism connect us sinners to the sinless Son of God causing love and forgiveness to flow from him to us.