Treasures and pearls

This was what was preached on at Holy Trinity this Sunday.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value

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. Matthew 13:44-46

PearlThe sermon we had took on the idea that we should be like the man who found the treasure, or the pearl merchant. We should give up all we have for God. Which is all well and good, and is taught elsewhere in the Bible, but felt a little uneasy about that interpretation on this passage. I do not think that this is what Jesus was getting at here.

Firstly because in the case of the treasure it looks as if it is OK to hide it. Something which a man found and covered up. Should we be covering up Gods message? No.

Secondly because Jesus was talking to Jews, and a good Jew would never be a pearl merchant, or wear pearls as jewellery. Pearls are unclean to the Jews, they come from oysters and fresh water mussels. Look at this bit of Old Testament Law:

These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat.But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses.Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is detestable to you. Leviticus 11:9-12

I do not think Jesus would have commended that the Jews should search for the Good News of the Kingdom of God by using something their law, God’s law, said was detestable. There has to be something different going on here. But what?

Could it be a warning against us putting all our effort and money into the wrong things? That would make sense, but I do not think so. Both parables start with the words the kingdom of heaven is like. The kingdom of heaven is not like something ritually unclean or detestable.

But I think there is a better solution. This comes from reading the passage as a whole. Chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel has a number of parables of Jesus, first of all which were made to the people, two of which were explained to the disciples, then these parables made to the disciples alone. The key to the meaning of the parables comes from the way Jesus’ own interpretation of the others. Read it again. the focus of the parables is not the treasure or the pearl; the focus is the man.

Here read it again:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

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. Matthew 13:44-46

In the two explained parables, the parable of the sower and the parable of the weeds the one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The parables are about Jesus. Jesus is the man in the parables. The most obvious explanation of these two parables is to say that like in the explained parables, the man in these is also Jesus.

Is it beginning to make more sense now?

So what is the treasure or the pearl?

We are. We are the treasure that Jesus gave everything for. We are the pearl of great price. Like that pearl we are very valuable to God. And like the pearl we are unclean, ritually impure. Jesus does not reject us because we are impure, he gives all he is to make us pure.

It does not matter how bad you have been, there is nothing you can do that makes you less than very precious to God. Jesus gave everything for you, Isn’t it time you responded to him. How about now?


Bible quotes are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

One thought on “Treasures and pearls

  1. Nice one 🙂

    To take it one step further: If the treasure represents the Jews and the pearl represents the Gentiles, that pretty much covers all of us!

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