Pearl of Great Value / Matthew 13:44–52 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 30th 2023 / The Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 30th 2023: Season of Pentecost / Matthew 13:44–52 “Pearl of Great Value”
“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.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends “what is the kingdom of heaven like." Have you ever had a sharp little pebble or rock in your shoe or boot, the kind that painfully digs into your foot as you walk the road? If such a thing were to happen what would you do? You would take off your shoe and shake the jagged little stone out and with restored comfort you’d carry on with your walk. But what if you had no arms or hands and there was no one there to help you unlace your shoe or pull off your boot, no one there to shake the sharp little pebble out for you, what then? You would suffer the rock in your shoe.
Now I want you to think of an oyster, they have neither shoes nor boots, neither feet or hands nor arms and yet they must deal with grit digging into their flesh, with irritants like the occasional stubborn grain of sand stuck-in like a splinter between their mantle and shell or more commonly a wayward piece of rotting food or a deadly parasites. When this happens because they cannot dislodge it a substance is secreted to cover the irritant to protect the oyster. It’s the same substance used to make their shell, generally referred to as mother of pearl, this takes the aggravation and covers over it with a smooth shell protecting the oyster that can’t just take off their shell and shake out the offending trouble.
You are more like the sharp little pebble or rock than you are like the shoe or the boot and the foot. As Saint Paul reminds us, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” When the sharp little pebble or rock is shook out it is generally counted as worthless and is left to the side of the sidewalk or in the gutter or with the gravel on the road. But if the sharp little pebble or rock turned out to be a diamond and the one who shook it out recognized its value it would be kept as a treasure. How many diamonds have you shook out of your shoe or boot? I’m gonna guess zero. If diamonds are a treasure the carbon they are made from by comparison is worthless and only good for throwing on the fire. It’s only from intense heat and pressures that carbon atoms crystallize into diamonds. They don’t choose to be crystallized it happens to them. Just as the irritant at the genesis of a pearl doesn’t choose to be a pearl, they are formed, it happens to them. You therefore are more like the pearl in Jesus’ parable than you are like the oyster it would have come from, and you are certainly more like the pearl than you are like the merchant who searches for the pearls.
Listen once more to the parable: “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.”
About six years ago Forbes magazine online reported that a tremendous pearl has been verified at 26 inches in length and 12 inches in width weighing nearly 75 pounds. This pearl found in the Philippines is now valued at $100 Million American Dollars. The story goes that a Filipino fisherman found it in a giant oyster and “took it home and hid it under his bed – keeping it as a good luck charm,” one day “his tiny home burned down, but the 75-pound pearl survived,” good luck indeed or divine providence. Pearls don’t start out weighing 75 pounds they increase over time, as the oyster grows so grows the pearls inside. This remarkable pearl would certainly qualify as “one pearl of great value” but you can put any price tag on an item that you want to sell, that it doesn’t mean someone will buy it from you, they need to be willing to pay the cost or it will be left unredeemed, they need to see value in it or they will not pay the price. A pearl could be 75 pounds or 0.76 grams if the merchant sees no value in it he will not bear the cost.
Dear ones, “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.”
Looking at the Man in the parable as Jesus, the “All he had” that He “sold” in order to buy the pearl was His very life, given for us, “Not with gold or silver,” as we are told by Saint Peter, “but with His holy, precious blood.” This is how Jesus buys the pearl or great value, with His lifeblood as the price.
The first of the parables today can be read in a similar way: “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.”
I have a picture in my office, a reproduction of a painting by the Lutheran artist named Edward Riojas, in which Jesus at the break of day is pulling a casket, a coffin, up from the ground in a cemetery. You may not have thought of this connection before but the English language helps us understand what the artist is doing in this picture: the words “coffin” and “casket” are derived from the same words that are used for containers of wealth. 'His coffers are full of Gold,' 'His casks are full of the finest of wines,' coffers and casks are used to inter wealth, used to keep treasures. In your casket, in your coffin, in your urn you lay, a baptized child of God, a sheep in the Good Shepherd's sheepfold, The Merchant's pearl of great value, the Sower's wheat which will shine like the sun when it is harvested: There you lay a buried treasure in the Man's field bought by selling all that He has; yes there you lay a sinner of Jesus' own redeeming, forgiven, saved and redeemed by grace - God's treasures and man's treasures are not the same and while you can't take earthly treasures like cash and cars and houses and bricks of gold, or 75 pound pearls with you, Jesus takes you, His treasure, with Him "for if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His." Jesus says "I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also."
“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 book of Hebrews says that Jesus "for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." And so we see why He bears the cost, pays the price, goes to the Good Friday cross of His crucifixion; Jesus does it out of love for the joy which is to follow His Easter morning resurrection, and ultimately for the Joy which is to come on The Last Day when all those treasures are risen up and made new.
Our Gospel today comes from the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Matthew if you remember was a Jewish man who worked as a tax collector for the Romans. By his fellow Jewish people he would have been considered to be like a sharp little pebble or rock in their shoe or boot, he would have been looked at as an aggravation, like a stubborn grain of sand stuck-in like a splinter between their mantle and shell, like a wayward piece of rotting food, like a deadly parasite. And yet Matthew records earlier in his Gospel how it was that as Jesus passed by He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and [Jesus] said to him, “Follow Me.” And [sure enough Matthew did just that] he rose and followed [after Jesus]. And [surprise, surprise] as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to [Jesus’] disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when [Jesus] heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” The World will happily revile you, and condemn you and cancel you for your sin, Jesus is the one who comes to free you from your sins, to forgive you and redeem you. To create in you a clean heart, to renew a right spirit within you so that you will not be cast away as worthless.
The artist of the painting I mentioned said, “Christ’s love for us is not only His payment for our sins through His personal sacrifice, but also the reality of what He considers valuable. He treasures not gold or silver, but the sinful, the lost, the dregs of humanity, the forgotten, the discarded for convenience, the destroyed by design, the consumed by disease ... the consumed by [sorrow and by] woe. This mess of ugliness He treasures.” You are precious to Him – not because of your sin but rather because He has redeemed you from your sin and made you His own. As Jesus says "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” And so Saint Matthew sits at Jesus feet and hears this parable as you do. And he like you is one who has had their sins covered over by the Blood of Jesus, as Isaiah says, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Perhaps now you can think of them also as covered with mother of pearl, smooth without all the jagged and sharp edges of sin. You are one made precious in your redemption, in your baptism into Christ Jesus you are now the pearl of great value. Dear ones, not only did Christ Jesus give His all for you, but He also keeps you as His treasured possession and will not let you go for anything, who then can steal you out of His hand? This is what the kingdom of heaven is like." Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Romans 3:10–12 (Psalm 14:1–3; Psalm 53:1–3)
 Matthew 7:19
 75 Pound Pearl - Forbes Magazine Online
 1 Peter 1:19
 Matthew 6:19–21
 Romans 6:5
 John 14:3
 Hebrews 12:2
 Edward Riojas (to order a print of Edward Riojas painting click here)
 Isaiah 1:18
 John 10:28-30
Photo Credits: main photo pearl in oyster detail from pixabay; detail of gravel from pxhere; detail of diamond from pexels; detail of shell with stones from pxhere; pearls in open shell from pixabay; detail of man opening shell from pexels; Edward Riojas painting of Christ as the Man in Matthew 13 parable of the treasure in the field from edriojasartist.com; detail of pearls in treasure chest from pxhere; detail of late 17th century painting of tax collectors from wikimedia; detail of stained glass window of Jesus and disciples at the Last Supper from pxfuel.