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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE

Matthew 13:45-46 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Pearls have always been a desirable gem and are generally listed among precious metals and jewels as having great value. Job included them in his list of items having great value along with gold, silver, onyx, sapphire, crystal, coral, rubies, and topaz, all of which could not compare to the value of wisdom (Job 28:15-18). The inspired apostle John described heaven as, not only having streets of pure gold, but also having gates of pearl (Rev. 21:21). Pearls were also used by Jesus to describe that which is holy, which, He tells us, has great value, should always be dear to us, appreciated, and never treated with indifference, comparing this act to casting them ... before swine (Matt. 7:6).

In the ancient world, pearls were produced in, and gathered from, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. They are created when a foreign substance, such as a parasite or a small grain of sand finds its way into an oyster shell or another similar mollusk. To protect itself from this irritating substance, a nacreous secretion is exuded which coats it. This coating process continues with layer upon layer, resulting in the birth and growth of a pearl. It is a smooth, hard, ball shaped gem that is generally pure white or having various hues of blue or gray. They are used, primarily in jewelry making. The more perfectly shaped and more flawless they are, the more valuable they become. Their largeness as well as their translucent, lustrous exterior finish also enhances value. Indeed, pearls are gems having great value.

In this parable, Jesus teaches His apostles, His disciples, and us today, the true value of eternal salvation in heaven. Here we have a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls. This merchant was a professional gemologist specifically searching for pearls having great value. He knew the exact characteristics he was looking for that gave value to a pearl - its perfect, flawless shape, its size, and its luster. Immediately, upon finding the "perfect pearl", the pearl of great price, he recognized its true value and sold all his worldly goods in order to purchase it.

In this parable, what does the pearl of great price represent? It is almost unanimous with bible scholars, preachers, and teachers of God's word, that the pearl represents eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Then, the merchant represents you and I. We spend our lifetime here on earth going to and fro, here and there, looking high and low, as we seek those things having the greatest value. No doubt the merchant of this parable had found many valuable pearls during his career. He probably visited many markets where gems were available to jewel dealers and distributors. By purchasing and reselling pearls, he probably found great financial success. Even though he had found many large, lustrous pearls, it is evident, however, that he was never satisfied, because his search continued. He was convinced that out there somewhere was the ideal pearl, the perfect pearl, the pearl of great price.

Regardless of how much success the pearl merchant had, he was not satisfied. This was true for most of the people of the world then, and it is true today. Earthly possessions can never bring happiness and peace of mind, so people continue to search. They look to educational, financial, and business institutions. They search the help wanted ads, employment agencies, and business opportunity magazines. Financially, they may become successful - even wealthy. Yet happiness and contentment continues to evade them. Christians, just like you and I, meet people like this every day, at work, at school, at sporting events, and at other social activities. We even meet them at church, as they visit our congregation from time to time.

What great opportunities Christians have at times like these! We greet them, and get to know them. We open the bible and study with them. We teach them about God, and His plan of eternal salvation that is available through His Son, Jesus Christ. They understand, they believe, they are baptized into the body of Christ, and they become Christians. Worldly success now means little to them. The search is over. In the hope of salvation is happiness and contentment. They have found the pearl of great price! Once found, don't hoard it. Share it with others. They too are searching and willing to give all for the hope of salvation.