“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

I have been preaching lately on the parables of the kingdom of heaven Jesus told in the book of Matthew and using them to study different aspects of the kingdom. The Bible gives us many hints that when Jesus’ ministry began, his kingdom was coming yet already offered to all who repented and believed. We can see this in that Jesus’ proclamation that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (near) in Mark 4:17 and that it is already present as Jesus told the Pharisees, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Luke 11:20) Jesus was proclaiming that the kingdom of God was presently available to everyone who repented and believed in him and he said this to everyone he met. One problem, no one could enter the kingdom of God on one’s own merit; the price was too high; perfect righteousness and holiness was demanded. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless you are born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Many have wondered why Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again when it was impossible for him to do it on his own. The reason Jesus told this to Nicodemus (and everyone who hears the good news) is so he (and we) can understand the priceless value of his work on the cross and the resurrection. You see, in the resurrection of Christ we receive the resurrection of our souls, as Paul puts it “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (Philippians 3:10). There were two reasons Jesus challenged Nicodemus (and us): to see how great a sinner we are, and how great a savior he is.

In the parable of the pearl of great value (Matthew 13:45) Jesus begins his parable saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls”. In this parable we have a merchant here and a merchant is a tradesman searching to exchange something of value for another. If a person does not have anything of value, he is not a tradesman. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter the kingdom but Nicodemus (or anyone else for that matter) did not have anything of value to purchase such a privilege to enter the kingdom of heaven on their own which, as I said, is perfect righteousness and godliness. Jesus told Peter, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” (John 13:36b) So the Merchant here in the first sense is Jesus because he came for one reason which is to purchase his people with his blood. He was the only one who could do this because his own life was undefiled in every way. Death could not keep him in his grave because it had nothing on him to hold him down and this perfection was used to purchase for his people the right to enter the kingdom of heaven and to be children of God. John reminded us that this right did not come to us because of our birthright or our own desire or the desire of others, but the desire of God (John 1:13).

The parable continues in verse 46, “On finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” We must never look upon the sacrificial work of our Lord on the cross as of limited value because it took everything Christ had to purchase our salvation, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8). Jesus told us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” This Merchant sold ALL that he had for the purchase of his people. For this reason Christ came and died, that his people shall be reconciled with the Father in heaven. And this price included intense rejection and suffering which he received at the hands of the his own people, it included humiliation and death on the cross and it included separation from the eternal Father in heaven and all this was done in innocence. What more could one ask of a friend? As the prophet Isaiah wrote:

Out of the anguish of his soul he

Shall see and be satisfied;

By his knowledge shall the

Righteous one, my servant,

Make many to be accounted righteous,

And he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53:11

In the second sense, the merchant is those who are born again by the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has fulfilled the works necessary to purchase their salvation. It costs us nothing because we have nothing to give; we only need to redeem the work of Christ for our salvation. Remember what Jesus told Peter, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Now is the “afterward” and now we can follow Jesus to the cross which we can bear with him and in his resurrection which we can share with him. You see, once we are born again we have in our hands the blood of Christ which has the power of salvation and “to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Thess 5:9) Paul tells us in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” When we are born again, we are freed from the bondage of sin and death and we can freely look on the cross and confess Jesus is our Lord as Paul continues in verse 10, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” But to confess Jesus as Lord” means we are to belong to him both in body and soul and life and death. As the merchant sold everything he had to purchase the pearl of great value, we also give everything we have when we receive the Lord Jesus Christ. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Here is the problem; many people do not see it this way. They see Jesus as the savior, but not Lord. Such is too much of a burden for them, they say. They believe that the salvation was accomplished by both sides, the sinner and Jesus; he paid his part and I paid mine so he is my savior, but not my Lord. Jeremiah wrote of the Lord saying in Jeremiah 31:33, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Here God is not vague and that the people he brings to him through Jesus (the blood of the new covenant) will see Jesus as he is; Savior AND Lord. The new birth enables us, “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Act 26:18). As Jesus gave all he had to purchase so great a salvation, so is the same asked of us. Ask yourself then; is Jesus Lord of your life? I am not asking if he is on Sunday, but is he Lord in your life on Mondays through Saturdays, in your marriage, at home, at work, in your social life. He did not purchase you only for Sundays, but every moment of your life and it cost everything he had.

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