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A Bible Study “Pearl”

I am feeling a little better about something today.  I would go so far as to say I am even feeling somewhat validated.  And it is about something that has been bothering me for about two and a half years ago.  Here’s the story.

It begins at youth camp in the summer of 2008.  The theme that year was “Kilimanjaro: The Secrets of the Kingdom.”  The Bible study that week was on the parables in Matthew 13 that discuss the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.  All was well and good until we got to verses 45-46, which is often called the parable of the pearl of great price.  I was familiar with it, had heard it taught on.  The lesson was pretty straightforward, the discussion centering on the idea that the kingdom of heaven was like a priceless pearl that one would sell all he owned to have.  And that is when I noticed something.

As you go through the parables in the chapter, they follow a sort of formula.  Each parable begins, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  This phrase is repeated in verses 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, and 47.  In each instance Jesus makes a comparison to something: “a man who sowed good seed”; “a mustard seed”; “yeast”; “a treasure hidden in a field”; “a merchant”; and “a net”.  That is when I noticed something not on that list – the pearl of great price.  Based on the pattern of the chapter, the kingdom of heaven was compared to a merchant looking for pearls, not the pearl itself.  I mentioned this to our group, but it didn’t gain much traction. 

I wish I could say I forgot about it, but I didn’t.  It nagged at me the rest of the week at camp.  When I got back home, I immediately pulled out a few commentaries on Matthew 13 to see what they said.  I used my Bible software to look at a few others.  I even looked up sermons on the internet on the passage.  And everywhere I looked, I came across the common interpretation that the parable tells us that the kingdom of heaven is of inestimable value, to be pursued no matter what the cost.  But it still did not satisfy me.  Because it seemed to me that there was something else there, that the kingdom was somehow more like the merchant.  But that left another question: if not the kingdom, then what does the pearl represent?  And that proved just as troubling. 

Over the next couple of years, I returned to these verses again and again.  No matter where I looked or how much I studied, I could not find someone make the point about the kingdom being like the merchant.  But in spite of all that, here is where I ended up: the kingdom is like the merchant.  And what about the pearl of great price?  That’s the church, you and me.  God saw such a priceless pearl that He was willing to sell everything He had to acquire it, namely by sending His one and only Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  I may be the only one who saw it this way, but it was the only answer that seemed to fit.

I wish I could say that settled it.  But since I still had not read or heard that particular interpretation anywhere, it bothered me.  Until today.  I was listening to my favorite preacher this afternoon, Dr. Adrian Rogers.  And guess what passage he was preaching on? And guess what he said?  (And I might add, said it very well, as he usually does.)  So yes, I am feeling much better now!

By the way, here’s the link if you would like to listen to Dr. Rogers explain it far better than I can.  http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/love-worth-finding/listen/the-strange-mystery-of-the-precious-pearl-148389.html

Posted on December 15th, 2010