Parable of the Pearl (1 of 2)

pearl 2

Q. My pastor interprets the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl as both referring to the Lord Jesus. I read some books interpreting both as the Church. Who is correct?

A. Yes, most commentators either interpret both the Treasure and the Pearl as Jesus, or both as the Church. My own view is that the two parables form a pair, but do not mean the same thing. The Treasure represents the Church and teaches God’s action for us, while the Pearl represents Jesus and teaches man’s response to God. For an analysis of the parable of the Hidden Treasure, please see the previous two posts. Let us analyze the parable of the Pearl here.

The parable of the Pearl is given only in Mt 13:45-46:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
To understand what does the pearl mean we look at its usage in the Bible. The word appears only 8 times in the NIV. Besides literal pearls and Mt 13:45, the figurative usage include:

Mt 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.
• Rev 21:21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl.

In Mt 7:6 pearls are compared to what is sacred. When Jesus sent out the twelve to preach the message of the kingdom of heaven, He gave them similar instructions. Mt 10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Pearls therefore represent the sacred message of the kingdom, the gospel wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ Himself.

This is reinforced in Rev 21:21, where pearls represent the gates of the New Jerusalem, by which people enter the Holy City. However, Jesus Himself said:
Jn 10:7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
• Jn 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

So all symbolic references to pearls point to Christ, not the Church. But there are more clues from the nature and characteristics of pearls.

(To be continued)

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