Grab a cup of coffee for this one. It’s a little long, but it’s really Good News, and I want you to know this truth.
Mathew 13 is full of different ways Jesus describes what being part of His Kingdom is like. In the middle of His descriptions we find this –
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!”
~ Matthew 13:44-46
Nearly every time I hear someone talk about these verses, they say heaven is so great we need to sell everything to gain it. Heaven is the treasure; Heaven is the pearl; We are the merchant.
Is that what it says?
Whenever I am discussing Bible verses, I always start by looking at context. Without proper context you can make the Bible say just about anything. It’s like taking sound bites out of context – one can edit an interview to make people say whatever the editor wants said, if you just use sound bites without proper context.
Let’s start by looking at the immediate context of Matthew 13 and the seven other descriptions we see in this chapter.
Soils – Who does the different soils represent? Is it heaven or people? It’s clearly people.
Weeds & Good Seed – Who are the weeds and good seeds? Again, it’s people.
Mustard Seed – This is about heaven expanding – for what purpose? For the birds to come and rest. Who do the birds represent? People.
Leaven – Again about heaven expanding and filling everything.
Next are the two parables regarding “treasure” and “a pearl of great value,” which is our focus.
Net – The net is like the “field” in the treasure and pearl descriptions. What is found in the net? Different types of fish. What do the fish represent? People.
Would it make sense then that when it comes to two of the descriptions in the middle of these that it suddenly changes? I don’t think so. I believe the “treasure” and the “pearl” both represent people.
Let’s expand the context a little further.
We see similar stories in the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin (Luke 15). In both of these parables, the one who is lost is the one being sought out and Jesus is the one doing the seeking. In the story with the prodigal son (also Luke 15), what does the son have to offer the Father? Nothing. He’s squandered all he had – he has nothing to bring to the table.
In each of these parables, it is us who are at some point “lost”, and it is God/Jesus who is seeking and welcoming us back.
Now, let’s expand the context one more time to the whole of Scripture.
What do we have to offer to “buy” heaven?
The traditional view of this parable is that heaven is the treasurer/pearl and we are the merchant. Meaning we have to sell everything in order to “buy” heaven. Yet, Scripture clearly says that all we have to offer is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). So, this does not seem to align. Also, who would we “pay” to buy our way into heaven? How would we pay it?
Do we search for heaven?
The Scripture say that no one seeks after God unless The Father draws them (John 6:44; Romans 3:10-12). We are dependent on God seeking us first. This sounds a lot like the merchant in the parables – God/Jesus “seeking” us.
Does God require a payment from us?
God gives us Jesus to us as a free gift (Romans 5:15-18). He doesn’t ask or want payment from us (Romans 3:24; 8:32; 11:6).
Additionally, what do we see in the life of Christ? Is it not Him redeeming us – buying us back (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-20)? This is why He is called our Redeemer (Luke 1:68). Jesus is the one who gives (“sells”) it all for us. Jesus is the one who seeks and saves the lost (Luke 19:10).
First Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23 state we have been bought with a price, and that price was significant – Jesus’ life.
Why is it a single pearl?
Note it is a (singular) pearl of great value. This represents the one body of Christ (the ekklēsia) – the bride of Christ. We, together, are the pearl of great value.
Should we treasure heaven? Yes, absolutely. But we’re not the ones “buying” our way in. Jesus is the only way. We are His treasure, and He has given everything to “buy” us back.
Today’s Good News is you are the Treasure (even Bruno Mars sees this) and we, together, as the Bride of Christ, His ekklesia, are the Pearl of Great Value!
As the old hymn says, “He sought me, and bought me, with His redeeming blood.” The price was great – as we say when we lose a war hero – He gave all. And, He willingly and purposefully paid the ultimate price because you mean that much to Him. I have a bumper sticker that says, “Jesus died for you, so He wouldn’t have to live without you.” That’s really Good News!
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