Parable of the Pearl of Great Value: Matthew 13:45-46
The parable of the pearl of great value (valuable pearl) is the second parable of a series of three short stories told by Jesus to describe the kingdom of heaven.
The other two parables are:
This parable is somewhat similar to the
Parable of the Hidden Treasure, and many people have interpreted it the same. However, the focus of what the kingdom of God represents appears to shift from the object of value to the person searching, giving this parable a different meaning than the hidden treasure parable.
Jesus says, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:45-46)
In this parable of the valuable pearl, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a merchant. This merchant is looking for fine pearls. When he finds one of great value, he gives up everything he has to obtain this pearl.
In the mindset of Jesus' audience, as well as in the Old Testament, the king represents the kingdom and the kingdom represents its king. When speaking about a kingdom, the king may be the actual subject; and conversely the kingdom may be the subject when speaking of the king.
For example, in the Old Testament when it talks about what a king of Israel has done it often says 'Israel' instead of the king's name.
This is also the reason why the phrases of kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven are used interchangeably to mean the same thing. As Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to
enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:23-24)
Even now, someone might say 'heaven' in a sentence when they are referring to God. ("For heaven's sake!")
When Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search for fine pearls, he is speaking of God. Specifically, since Jesus Christ is God, he is speaking of himself.
Furthermore, Jesus has just called the kingdom of God his kingdom in Matthew 13:41.
The fine pearl then is the Church, which is those who will repent and return to obeying God.
Jesus says that upon finding this valuable pearl, he gives up everything to obtain it...which is seen to be true by the sacrifice Jesus made. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." (John 3:16) "...and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him..." (Hebrews 5:9)
Jesus Christ is still seeking out his Church, searching for those who will be saved, and he gave up everything (his life) to allow them to be reconciled to God. This is essentially the message of the gospel found within this short parable.
By telling this parable of the pearl of great value, Jesus is both foretelling his death, as well as explaining his reason for coming to earth in the form of a man so he can be the sacrifice necessary for our salvation.
As Jesus tells his disciples who have asked, "'Then who can be saved?' But Jesus looked at them and said, 'For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.'" (Matthew 19:25-26)