Summary: This is a study of the Pearl of Great Price -- Jesus Christ. It's also a study of the Merchant who's seeking fine pearls. We also look at the ancient practice of pearl diving & how those pearls were traded until they reached the civilized world.
THE PEARL OF GREATEST PRICE
A. HUMOR: Too Many Kids -- Katlyn Yoder
1. Desperate for a child, a couple asked their priest to pray for them. "I'm going on sabbatical to Rome," he replied. "I'll light a candle in St. Peter's for you."
2. When the priest returned three years later, he found the wife pregnant, tending two sets of twins. Elated, the priest asked to speak to her husband and congratulate him.
3. "He's gone to Rome," came the wife’s response, "to blow out that candle."
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
C. THE VALUE OF A PEARL
1. Pearls in the first century were viewed much like diamonds are today. They were the most valuable gem in the world at that time. If you owned a pearl, you owned a fortune.
2. And there was a good reason for it. The fine quality pearls are obtained from the pearl oyster, which thrives at an average depth of 40 feet. Many people died while pearl hunting.
3. A first century pearl diver would tie a large rock to his body and jump over the side of a little boat, allowing the weight of the rock to carry him down to the oyster beds. He risked danger from sharks, moray eels and other predators to scour the mud below for oysters.
4. An average of only one oyster in a thousand contain a pearl. All the while, he had to hold his breath and hope he wouldn’t drown. You can see why pearls were so precious. The Jewish Talmud said, "pearls are beyond price."
D. THE WISDOM OF THIS MERCHANT
1. The job of pearl merchants was to make a profit. They didn’t plan to gain their wealth by the sweat of their brow, but by the sweat of their brains. They depended on knowledge, skill, and beating their competition to the untapped markets.
2. The pearl merchant in this parable presents many parallels to a person who is seeking after Christ. Christ and salvation are not earned as a result of labor; instead, Christ is gained by knowledge, discovery.
3. To know Christ and surrender to him is to know eternal life. Just as this merchant found something that was of immense value, so the finding of Christ is the discovery of that which is of ultimate value.
This pearl merchant did four things; first, he sought; next, he found; third, he sold his accumulated wealth; and lastly, he obtained his goal by buying.
I. HIS SEEKING
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls."
A. SEEKING ON PURPOSE
1. This merchant is very different from the man in the previous verses who, by accident, discovered a treasure while he was in a field. This merchant is of a nobler sort. He is searching for quality pearls when he happens to find the pearl of infinite price.
2. Notice, his mind is engaged in thinking about pearls. All his energies are thrown into the pursuit of pearls. He is not wasting time, playing video games, sleeping his life away, or turning his brain into mush watching television.
3. Instead, he has a definite mission in his life. If you were to ask him, "What are you doing with your life?" he would answer, "I am searching for quality pearls." At least half of the human race has no purpose in life and if you asked them the same question, they would probably say their purpose was to make themselves happy. We either have a definite aim or we don't.
B. SEEKING FOR THAT OF REAL VALUE
1. This merchant was not seeking something common things like bricks, stone, grain, or timber. Nor was he seeking common sea pearls or cultivated pearls, but natural pearls of the highest quality. His aim was for something very valuable and he wanted to expend his life for a worthy purpose.
2. Also, he was diligent in his searching. He didn't just open up a shop on the Galveston seawall and hang up a sign saying, "Will purchase Pearls here." No, he went out in search of them.
3. The parable doesn't say how far he traveled, but it's normal for Pearl traders to travel all over the world to the areas where the prime Pearl beds are located in order to find prize pearls. Their search might take them to places far off the tourist treks to places that are dangerous, but they are determined to brave whatever conditions to get the best.