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Lowell Brueckner

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Seeking the Truth of the Kingdom, chapter six


The pearl of great price… what does it represent? Could it signify salvation, or the Kingdom of God, or perhaps Christ Himself? I don’t think so. If you have never read or heard the interpretation offered in this chapter, I invite you to do so with an open heart, carefully considering the aspects, which are presented. Thank you.


“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

The chapter is part of this book.
Just as the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven are similar and related, so are the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl. Both have to do with the purchase of something of great value.

We have considered the treasure in the field and, because it is an object, which is found and hidden again, we arrive at the conclusion that, most probably, it represents the old Hebrew nation. They remain a great company in the Kingdom of God. Seeing that a tremendous price is offered to obtain the field, where the treasure is hidden, the possibility that it could be something, which we have to buy in order to have a part in the Kingdom, is extremely thin. If we should think that we have the potential in hand to pay for the Kingdom, something in the Kingdom, such as the gospel or salvation, or Christ Himself, we run the risk of supposing that it is within human capabilities to lay hold of precious, eternal riches. In so doing, we nullify the grace of God. We cheapen the value of the object and raise our concept of human power. I find that interpretation presumptuous and even dangerous.

If it is true that we cannot buy the field, in which is the hidden treasure, we also conclude that we could never purchase this pearl. The protagonist of the parables is Christ, in whom we always must fix our eyes, so that the Holy Spirit can transform us into the same image (2 Co. 3:18). This is the way to change and progress in the Christian life. It is better than to give counsel or to concentrate on what we must do. Our message is Christ! In this case, He is a merchant, who was always involved in His Father’s business, even from adolescence (Lk. 2:49-KJV). The only parable in this chapter, in which Jesus is not the main character, is obviously that of the woman, who hides leaven in the lump of dough. The purpose of that parable is to demonstrate how corruption can enter into that, which God forms.

In John 10:16, the Good Shepherd says, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also…” He will go outside the fold of Israel to find them. The parable of the purchased pearl has to do with us, if we are members of the church, the bride of Christ. “You have been bought with a price” (1 Co. 6:20), and this is of great value to Him, because through the church, He will be glorified in the world (Jn. 17:10 and Eph. 3:10). By considering the price invested in buying it, we can get an idea of its worth. “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold… but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pt. 1:18,19). We have to admit that we cannot measure the value in economical terms. The price that the merchant pays is an incalculable sum, impossible to fathom by human computation. It is something that our limited mental capabilities can never capture.

Jesus is the merchant that is seeking fine pearls: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). These were the words of Christ, referring to Zaccheus, the publican. Many felt that he was a traitor to his native land, because he raised taxes for the Roman government, which was oppressing Israel. Besides, in those days there was no tax collector, who was honest. The same shamelessness that motivated him to take from his fellow countrymen, in order to enrich Rome, also moved him to fill his pockets by collecting more than Rome demanded.

Nevertheless, what is important to the Lord is that a person responds favorably to the gospel, more than the stains from his past. If that person is willing to repent and make restitution for what he has stolen (which in Zaccheus’ case meant to restore fourfold), he was joyfully accepted by Christ. Jesus considered Zaccheus to be a fine pearl that had been lost.

In another parable about a lost sheep, Jesus affirmed, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lk. 15:7). He also concluded a story of lost money with these words, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents” (vs. 10). Then, of course, we have the famous parable of the prodigal son, which ends by stating, “We had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found” (vs. 32).

In what way, as the merchant, did Jesus sell all that He had? I find no place in Scripture that describes it as clearly as Paul does in Philippians 2:6-8. At the same time, he reveals the beauty of the character of Christ in a wonderful way. It is one of the most striking passages in the entire Bible: “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

If we walk through an art museum and find a masterful work, we stop to contemplate it, even though our unskilled eyes cannot appreciate to the fullest degree the genius of the artist or the quality of his work. We do not want to turn from the picture that Paul paints for us without a serious examination. It is impossible to put a sum on the price that Christ paid and even if we could, we would not be able to capture its immensity. Still, the price is worthy of hours and days dedicated to the attempt of perceiving it. We will rejoice in our spirits just to come close and observe what our mind cannot contain.

“Emptied” is a good verb to describe the act performed by the eternal Word in covering His glory when he took on human form. Another word which could be used in translation is “to relinquish” and, if we combine the two, we have a small idea of the significance of the incarnation. Christ did not grasp His worthy glory, which is infinite and eternal and which from immeasurable ages attracted the adoration of heavenly beings, such as cherubim and seraphim. He released that glory, emptied himself, deprived Himself of it, stripped it from Himself, and yielded the appearance of that great glory, which is the glory of God. We must add however that He did not leave His deity or that the glory was absent, when He became man, only that it was not obvious to the uninspired eye.

The Master of the universe, the Owner of the galaxies, made Himself a servant, faithful in doing the will of the Father and washing the feet of fishermen. He came to the little country of Israel that had been dominated by the Romans and humbled Himself even more. The wise men from the east looked for Him in the capital city in the palace of Herod, but found him in the village of Bethlehem. He was raised as the son of a carpenter in the despised province of Galilee, in a village, without renown, called Nazareth. There He was known as “the carpenter”.

“Being found in appearance as a man” on earth, He did not grasp that which was rightfully His. His cradle was a manger borrowed from the animals, since there was no room for Him in the inn. He slept under the stars on the Mount of Olives, because there was no place for Him in the homes of Jerusalem. When he was presented in the temple, according to the law, His parents offered two doves, the sacrifice designated for poor people. He borrowed a coin that He used to illustrate a teaching; he paid his and Peter’s taxes from a coin taken from a fish’s mouth. When He was received by the multitudes in the streets of Jerusalem, He entered riding a borrowed donkey’s colt and the upper room, in which he later celebrated the Passover with His disciples, was also borrowed. His corpse was laid in a tomb, borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea.

When He was made man, the body that He possessed had “no stately form or majesty… nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Is. 53:2). Far from being accepted as a champion or conqueror, He was “despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised and we did not esteem Him” (vs. 3). He was rejected by the leadership, the populace, His village, family and condemned by the judgment of Jews and Romans.

However, neither the relinquishing of His glory or this humiliation was sufficient to settle the payment that had to be made for mankind. The will of the Father was to send Him to the world to die: “We ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted… the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him… the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief…and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand” (vs. 4,6,10). He submitted to this and in His defense, “He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth” (vs. 7). In Gethsemane He prayed in anguish, sweating great drops of blood, prostrated with His face to the ground and crying, “Not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39). He was betrayed by one of His disciples, abandoned by the rest, and judged falsely. Soldiers spit upon Him, punched Him and slapped His face. Pilate gave orders to whip Him. Again they spit on Him, stripped Him and threw a scarlet robe upon Him. They pressed a crown of thorns on his head and mocked Him; they hit him over the head with a rod, “so His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men” (Is. 52:14).

He was condemned to death and a criminal was freed in His place. His death was not just any death, but the death of the cross. The cross was not an ornament in those days, but was the Roman means of executing criminals. He was put on public display, so that all could testify of the act and so, surrounded by mockers, between two thieves, Jesus died shamefully a criminal death. Over the cross, Pilate wrote in Hebrew, Greek and Latin the accusation that condemned Him: “JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS.”

The physical suffering of the cross is inconceivable for us, to the degree that it would be impossible to exaggerate in an attempt to describe it. Even so, that which Jesus suffered was something much stronger and more painful than what the two thieves on each side suffered. The inner agony and what was happening in spiritual spheres was much greater. He fought against spiritual forces; demons surrounded Him and we can be sure that Satan himself was present: “Many bulls … strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They open wide their mouth at me, as a ravening and a roaring lion… dogs have surrounded Me; a band of evildoers have encompassed me” (Ps. 22:12,13,16).

There mysteries occurred that we cannot imagine. The fountain of holiness experienced for the first time the weight of sins, not only carrying them, but “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf…” (2 Co. 5:21). The blessed, innocent God of heaven, who fulfilled perfectly all righteousness, had “become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). Perhaps, it is more mysterious still, when we think upon a communion, perfect and eternal, united by an unbreakable love, now ripped apart on the cross. The agony of the Son of God had reached its peak and He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt. 27:46). The life of the Author of Life slowly escaped from His veins and fell to the ground in the form of blood drops. Life died! Is this possible? Charles Wesley asked the question, “How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

That is how the merchant that we are studying, totally involved in the business of His Father, “went and sold all that He had” and bought a pearl. The pearl represents the church, a great company in the Kingdom of God, consisting of men and women, united into one body. “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free…” (1 Co. 12:13).

Yes, the church is called “the body of Christ” and it is His beloved one: “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… because we are members of His body” (Eph. 5:25,30). In the following portion of the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul makes a comparison between matrimony and the union of Christ and the church: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church(vs. 31,32). The great mystery is revealed. As the bridegroom is willing to leave his home and all that he most loved for his bride, in the same way, Christ emptied Himself of His glory and relinquished His rightful hold to it, to come to this world and purchase us.

He did not do it by force or because of an obligation, but rather it was for Him a joy: “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2). Isaiah also affirmed, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Is. 53:11-KJV). Concerning this love, it is of great benefit to read the Song of Solomon. The Holy Spirit gave it to us to illustrate, in the form of a parable, the love between Christ and the church. At the end of the book, we have a powerful and precious declaration, that takes love to a superlative, surpassing any love known on earth: “Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; if a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, it would be utterly despised” (S.S. 8:7). Therefore, Christ did not buy us with goods or money, but with His own life’s blood.

It is still more astounding, when we consider that He paid the supreme price, when we had no love, with which to respond to His. He saw what we could be, not what we were, and had to begin the relationship with us by loving us first. We were weak, totally incapable of loving Him, but, on the other hand, not at all unable to hate. We possessed a potent, insane rancor and were rebellious sinners and enemies of God: “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Ro. 5:5-10).

God utilized means in beginning and continuing His work in us, which caused us to recognize and accept His love. The revelation of Christ’s work on the cross was the manner, by which the Holy Spirit made His love come alive in our hearts. It was an outpouring of a living flood that drowned the fiery hatred of our corrupt nature and conceived within us a potential for loving Him with the same love that bought us through His death on the cross. John expressed it very well: “We love, because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). God began to work in us, when we were less than nothing. There was not a quality in our lives that could recommend us to Him, instead, we were full of characteristics that offended Him and provoked His wrath. Nevertheless, He counts the loss of each soul that dies in its sins as an eternal loss. Because this is so, a man should value his soul more than all the possessions on earth: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mt. 16:26).

God is able to call that, which is not, as though it were, and to take that which is ugliest and beautify it. Do you know how a pearl is formed? It all begins when a grain of sand enters into the smelly, displeasing ambient of an oyster. If we would like to see a picture of whom we are and from where we came, this will give us an idea. Only God could see the potential that the future held for us and He is the only one who, by a creative work, could make it develop towards the end that He desired. But we must understand that He uses means in order to do it, as we will now see.

The grain of sand irritates the oyster and to relieve the irritation, it emits a secretion. For a long period of time, the secretion does its work of rejection against the grain and the time comes that the grain of sand is transformed into a precious pearl. Finally, it is delivered from the unpleasant place, in which it was formed. Its destiny is totally different from its original atmosphere, because it was created to be an adornment with astounding beauty.

Paul spoke to the Christians of his collaboration with Christ to form the church. He was a specialist in building foundations, and he tells us that the foundation is Christ. However, Paul is not its owner, nor is he indispensable in its development. There is no man living who can supply all that this work needs. If Christ builds the church, then Paul recognized the need for others, besides himself, to enter into the work, each one doing his part according to his calling, in building upon that foundation: “I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it” (1 Co. 3:10). It is possible to do a quick job, using common, cheap materials, but when fire is lit to it, it will burn. It will not be a construction that will last for eternity.

The work that endures is that which is done hand-in-hand with the Architect who has said, “I will build My church…” The work will be done with the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit and with the Bible laid open before human eyes. It requires much prayer, patience and faith, because the human constructor must be sure to be in continual contact with the trinity. The materials are costly and are obtained from deep mines and in the depths of the sea, where God is doing His perfect work: “If any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones… he will receive a reward” (1 Co. 3:12,14). The Christian, who builds his own way without prayer, with human power, with material and worldly equipment, although he will be saved, he will suffer a loss that will be revealed, perhaps now, but certainly in the end.

Christ looks for many fine pearls and values each one individually. He seeks and finds them, but above all, He has his thoughts on one pearl of great price that He has bought. After many battles and tests, the pearl develops in a contrary world that rejects it. Nevertheless, this opposing atmosphere is the very means to provide the spiritual qualities that beautify her. One day, Christ will come to receive her and take her to be with Him to adorn eternal palaces.


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