The pearl of great price in Matthew 13 is worth passionate pursuit

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Seek eternal treasure in the passionate pursuit of the pearl of great price

March 17, 2023 -

A woman prays with her hand turned upwards against a sunset. A circular sunburst appears around her hands, reminiscent of the pearl of great price Jesus speaks about in Matthew 13. © By ipopba/stock.adobe.com

A woman prays with her hand turned upwards against a sunset. A circular sunburst appears around her hands, reminiscent of the pearl of great price Jesus speaks about in Matthew 13. © By ipopba/stock.adobe.com

A woman prays with her hand turned upwards against a sunset. A circular sunburst appears around her hands, reminiscent of the pearl of great price Jesus speaks about in Matthew 13. © By ipopba/stock.adobe.com

We just celebrated the Academy Awards. In a very rare turn of events, my wife and I watched nearly all of the three-hour-and-forty-minute show.

We had been traveling to preach on Sunday. We were tired from a busy weekend and the Oscars were a welcomed distraction even though we’d only seen one of the movies nominated for Best Picture.

Yes, of course we saw Top Gun: Maverick last summer.

We haven’t seen this year’s best picture, the Asian sci-fi creation Everything Everywhere All at Once. However, many of us resonate with the title as an apt description of what ministry is like! The opportunities, needs, requirements, and expectations are everywhere all the time.

The pearl of great price

I love a good story on the big screen with popcorn. We missed the movies during the pandemic. Do you have a favorite?

I have several, including 2004’s National Treasure with Nicolas Cage and Jon Voight. Can it really be twenty years since this treasure hunt hit the screen?

Jesus had two treasure hunt parables recorded by Matthew: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44–46 CSB).

John Mellencamp gave us “a little ditty ’bout Jack and Diane.” This is Jesus giving us a “little ditty” into the mystery of the kingdom and what it takes to both pursue and experience it.

Pearls don’t get the greatest presentation in the Bible. In the book of Revelation, pearls adorn the expression of disguised evil and also serve as material for the heavenly gates. Still, Jesus spoke of pearls positively, including “the priceless pearl,” as a symbol of the ultimate and eternal value of his kingdom.

The job of humble, treasure-hunting faith is to discern the surpassing value of God’s kingdom and to “go all in” to pay whatever the cost to own it.

Hold onto that thought and let’s jump into Proverbs 2.

The One worth our passion

Many proverbs stand as poignant truth in just a few sentences. Few truths in Proverbs are expressed in long form with paragraphs of a full chapter. Proverbs 2 is the exception.

When interpreting the wisdom metaphors of Proverbs it is right to see wisdom as the logos embodiment of Jesus, i.e., Jesus is God’s wisdom in living, speaking, and action form (1 Corinthians 1:24). In many ways throughout Proverbs, “Jesus” could be substituted for the word wisdom.

With this in mind, we are to hear the multiple calls and invitations in Proverbs to hear and heed God’s wisdom as commands to pursue Jesus as the “priceless pearl” in Jesus’ parable. He is the thing, the only One worthy of all our attention, praise, and obedience.

Proverbs 2 tells us how to go about it.

It tells us to pursue “Jesus the priceless pearl” passionately. Many of things we know we know intuitively in and through our spirit and the Spirit of God. Other things we know rationally as we engage our minds. In Jesus’ parable of the pearl, which points back to him, the treasure hunter sees the priceless value through both.

He is a well-trained, highly experienced jeweler. It’s right to understand this treasure hunter as someone who has spent a lifetime searching for the best of the best. When he finally comes across the hidden treasure in the field or the pearl of all pearls in a shop, his spirit, his training, and his experience scream from within, “This is the one you’ve been dreaming of,” this is the jewel of all jewels.

This determination comes emotionally in his heart and logically through his mind. Both sources cause him to “sell everything” to attain the priceless discovery. That is the act of faith. Faith is based on both well-founded and reasoned evidence but also the intuitive cry of our spirits to know our creator, to connect to our origin and our purpose.

While many fools miss it, the wise person, sees, discerns, and pursues.

The One worth our pursuit

Secondly, passion must be matched with intentional focus and intense pursuit.

Notice the verbs in Proverbs 2:1–4:

  • accept
  • store up
  • listening closely
  • directing your heart
  • call out
  • lift your voice
  • seek it like silver
  • search for it

All these terms point in the same direction and to the same truth: gaining wisdom and knowing Jesus intimately is not a casual endeavor.

As others have said, real faith can never be a hobby.

If Jesus is who the Bible says he is, “King of kings and Lord of lords,” integrity demands that we go “all in” and pay whatever price and give whatever focus is needed to become one with him.

Too many of us miss this.

Too many have misunderstood the call of Christ as an invitation to shallow conversionism rather than costly discipleship. Salvation is the gift of grace with no works on our part. But once we discern and accept who Jesus is as forgiver, we must also follow him as King, as Lord (Matthew 10:37–38).

Gratitude for his grace becomes the motivating engine of our discipleship. We must never make the mistake of attempting to add to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins as the Galatians did (Galatians 3).

The One who gives wisdom

Finally, as treasure hunters who have found the priceless pearl of God, we must remember what’s at stake.

Apathy and distraction are two of the biggest temptations confronting our faith journey with Christ Jesus. The writer of Proverbs reminds us in vivid detail through the remainder of this chapter about the rewards of faith wisdom and the penalties of foolish disbelief or neglect.

If we become eternal treasure hunters and pursue Christ and his wisdom, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). The blessings and benefits are as unlimited as the person of God himself.

Passion and the pursuit of God lead to knowing God and beyond knowing about God. This was Jesus’ prayer in John 17 when he asked his Father to make us one with the trinity. Here we can move past religion and into actual relationship. Verses 9–10 continue the idea: “Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will delight you.”

Warnings of what we may forfeit

Nothing can delight and satisfy our souls like true intimacy with Christ and his wisdom. Jesus alone can enable and empower us to understand God, the world, and ourselves. Conversely, Proverbs 2 warns that if we choose foolishness, we forfeit the shield of God’s protection, making ourselves vulnerable to the world and the devil (v. .7).

Additionally, verses 12–15 warn that, without the pearl of God’s wisdom in Christ, we are no longer guarded against “the way of evil—from anyone who says perverse things, from those who abandon the right paths to walk in ways of darkness, from those who enjoy doing evil and celebrate perversion, whose paths are crooked, and whose ways are devious.”

The great news of Jesus is that this does not have to be true of us.

Are you passionately pursuing Christ today?

We can, by faith, be forgiven, adopted, protected, and guided if we discern his value and pursue him daily as the pearl that he is.

So what is most important to you right now?

What’s most important to your church leaders, to your church family?

What would Jesus say is your “first love”? (Revelation 2:4).

Is Jesus the priceless pearl that you are treasuring and pursuing with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?

In 2007, Karen Green got a new job. Her friends wanted to celebrate her so they pooled their resources and bought her a new first-generation iPhone. Karen never opened it. It stayed stored away until a few months ago.

She decided to sell it, thinking it might bring $5,000 from an interested collector. In late February of this year, Karen’s iPhone sold at auction for $63,356.40. It appears some tech geek feels they found the “priceless pearl of iPhones.”

What is the priceless thing in your heart?

King Jesus is the thing that makes the kingdom worth seeking first (Matthew 6:33).

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