All for a pearl.
by Alexandra Rutkowski
Treasure. There’s a universal longing to find it. A hunger to find something of value. I’m pretty sure a half of my childhood was spent digging for treasure in the backyard or running through the woods looking for dinosaur bones. I’d freak out when I’d find quartz in a rock. I remember running home, jumping up and down, convinced I’d found a diamond and just cause I was a nerd, I made flowcharts of how it was going to affect my future. Think about how many stories from our childhood have to do with treasure. Everything from a pirate’s chest to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow to Indiana Jones. It exists beyond books and stories. The search for treasure has appealed to the innocent imaginations of children for all of time. And not just to kids, but grown-ups too. Think about the gold rush- where people gave up everything- sometimes even their lives- to strike it big. The Ark of the Covenant. The Fountain of Youth. Atlantis. We’ve searched for them for decades. I went on Wikipedia to look at this topic and I found a list of lost treasures we’re still looking for. And it fascinated me. It drew me in. Why? Not just cause it’s Wikipedia and it’s strangely addicting, but because there exists within us an innate desire to find treasure. It’s the nature of man. Be it greed, curiosity, the need for adventure- for whatever reason, the desire exists. And Christ understood that.
He spoke in stories (which I’m eternally grateful for). And because he knew that the search for treasure was something his audience understood, he used it to tell one of the greatest stories of all time.
It’s found in Matthew 13:45 – “When he found a pearl of great value, he went away, sold everything he had, and bought it.”
At first glance it looks as if the kingdom of heaven is the pearl, and once we realize its worth, we sell everything for it. We chase after it. We give up everything for it. Because after finding something that valuable, how can we go without it, right? It’s value is beyond compare. But see, there’s a twist. Look at it again and we see that we are the pearl of great price. That desperation, that eagerness, that excitement- that belongs to Christ once he finds us.
This verse is found in the middle of a lot of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. The verse right before it talks about its worth. It describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a hidden treasure that a man stumbles upon one day, and that he sells everything for. It’s about being willing to give up everything for Him. I mean, that I can understand. That makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is the verse that comes next… that He is the merchant and we are the pearl.
But why? Surely it’s the other way around. I mean the Lord is above all things, beyond all things, and his value is beyond compare. We should be selling everything to have Him. Us, the fallen sinful creatures that are nothing compared to him. Why are we the pearl?
That, my friends, is the divine mystery.
And I’ve been thinking about this a lot (especially since it’s Easter time)- the story of the heavenly merchant who changed the course of history with his search for the perfect pearl. Three things that really came alive to me from this verse: how he sought us, bought us, and called us.
First, He sought us.
I love this.
The word merchant means traveler, and merchant would travel a great distance to find something of value across lands and countries, until he found what he was looking for. He was a lone traveler and would embark on a long, often arduous journey to find his treasure. But the journey was worth it if he found his prize.
All of Scripture, Genesis to Revelation is the story that one man’s journey. He left his home, his father, where he was his delight. He took a journey from absolute glory, to a manger, and eventually… to a cross. His road was one of humility, hostility, and humiliation. He left the harmony of heaven and came to a hostile world where he was mocked, hated, and eventually, killed, nailed to a cross. All this for the pearl.
Like Luke 19:10 says, The Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost.
We often look at the story of eternity as a constant search for God by man. But try to shift your perspective on it for just a second. And see the search for man by God. This story here isn’t about sinners seeking God, it’s about God seeking selfish sinners.
And that’s the beauty of it. He saw us when we were dead, rotting, steeped in sin. When we were nothing. When we are nothing. But he doesn’t see us as that. To him, we are a treasure. Of priceless value. Even when we look at ourselves and see a failure with nothing to offer, the Lord sees a treasure he longs to have. No matter our sin or our past, he doesn’t see a lump of coal, he sees a pearl. In our sin… he still sees a pearl worth everything. That is how much we’re worth to him. He doesn’t see as man sees. He sees beauty, potential, and immeasurable value.
This is the way he pursues us now. Even now when we create a barrier of sin between us and Him. Even now, he desires us. Even though we turn our hearts away and bury ourselves in a sinful mess, then Lord points us and says, “She’s worth it. I want her. He’s worth it. I want him.”
It’s the value of one. The parable he told said it well- he is the shepherd that would leave the 99 just to find one.
He holds the pearl in his hand “I’ve finally found it!” the merchant says. “After searching so long, I’ve finally found my treasure.”
It’s encouraging to know that when Jesus finds us, we’re not someone he’s just stumbled across in his travels. Rather, He’s been diligently searching for us and sees something valuable enough to pay for with His life.
Charles Spurgeon put it like this: “Sinner, remember that Christ is willing to receive thee, for he came all the way from heaven to seek thee and find thee out in thy wanderings, and to save thee and rescue thee from thy miseries; he hath given proof of his hearty interest in thy welfare, in that he hath shed his very heart’s blood to redeem thy soul from death and hell. If he had wanted the companionship of saints, he might have stopped in heaven, for there were many there. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob were with him there in glory; but he wanted sinners. He had a thirst after perishing sinners. He wanted to make them trophies of his grace. He wanted black souls, to wash them white. He wanted dead souls, to make them alive.”
He sought us.
Second, He bought us.
Name your price. Whatever it costs, I’ll pay it!!” he says.
Now what it is about this pearl… I can’t quite say. But it’s clear to the merchant that it’s an absolute steal. Even though the price is steep. Even though the price tag says he’ll have to sell everything he has just to have it. But he doesn’t hesitate. No bargaining or haggling. “Deal,” he says. He runs as fast as he can, sells everything, and in sheer joy and anticipation, claims his prize. To him the pearl is of more value than anything else.
The cost? His blood.
No longer a prince at the throne of glory, no longer surrounded by multitudes of angels proclaiming his praises, no longer in the splendor of his heavenly kingdom. No… the price stripped him of that on earth. And gave him a crown, one that bore deep in his skull until blood poured out. A body broken and torn and beaten beyond recognition. This was the price tag.
Even in light of our sinful state, Christ was willing, no, eager to give all for us. What love… Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
No one else could have afforded the pearl’s price, but He could. Oh the great lengths our Savior went to have us. Though it was steep, now we are His. We belong to Him. We have that security and identity and we belong to Him.
The more I think about it, the more in awe I am. It just makes his grace and love and mercy that much more brilliant and real.
Lastly, He called us.
It doesn’t end here. It only begins. He sought us, he bought us, but he also called us. This glorious story… it calls for a response. It requires us to live in light of that price tag.
He’s the one that calls to us from the pages of Scripture and seeks us out, but once we’ve been found it’s up to us to follow Him and to seek out the kingdom of heaven for ourselves. Like it says somewhere in 2 Timothy, we’re to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. We’re called to live a life that glorifies Him. And we get to know Him more. And not only that, we get to make Him known. That just makes me excited.
And this whole thing, it’s not just that one time event. That process, that journey doesn’t end with salvation. This isn’t just a word for those who haven’t heard. This is for all of us. The pearl is a picture of that beautiful cycle of grace we experience on a daily basis.
I’m not saying any of this to build us up or make us to be anything great. Because the truth is, there’s no reason why Christ should desire us. We give Him no reason to pursue us. But yet, he does. This just gives testimony to the greatness of our God. His love is truly beyond comprehension. God does not need us. But still, He claims us.
I always used to see this parable with Christ as the pearl, but upon looking it again, I can’t think of a more beautiful picture of what Christ did for us. And it doesn’t make sense. But so it is. That’s the beautiful part.