The Parables of Jesus
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira
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.
In this study we are going to turn to the second of the twin parables that we began in our last study. Both parables The Hidden Treasure and The Pearl of Great Price reveal Christs evaluation of the kingdom of God. While the two parables are identical in many respects, there is a major difference. The man who found the hidden treasure did it by chance. He was plowing his land; he was a peasant farmer and accidentally he came across this great chest of wealth. He recognized its value and was willing to sell all for it.
But in this second parable, we discover that this merchant actually sought for this pearl of great price and, after much searching, found it. These two parables revealed two classes of people. One of them is those who come across the gospel by chance. My wife, Jean, was coming home one day from work in London, England, and it was pouring cats and dogs which is typical English weather. She had forgotten her umbrella so she decided to find shelter. She ducked into a building which was called The New Gallery Center, an evangelistic center for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Waiting for the rain to stop, she heard a man by the name of George Vandeman preach, just by chance. She was taking shelter from the rain. That was the first time she ever heard of this church and that was the beginning of her conversion.
But there are many people who are seeking and searching for the pearl of great price. This was true in the days of Jesus. Many in the days of Christ were tired of the formal, legalistic religion that was being taught by the scribes and Pharisees. It gave them no peace, it gave them no assurance, and, to make matters worse, these people at the temple were charging tremendous prices for the sacrifices. They couldnt afford it. They were seeking for that which their hearts were longing and Jesus said (Matthew 11:28):
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Now, of course, pearls were highly valued during the whole of the ancient times. They were fished by divers. These divers did not have oxygen tanks. They were fished especially in the Red Sea, in the Persian Gulf, and in the Indian Ocean. These pearls were used for adornment so we are discussing jewelry here. They were used for adornment especially as a necklace. Some of these necklaces and some of these pearls were worth millions.
I want to give you two examples. Before his assassination by Brutus, Caesar presented the mother of Brutus with a pearl worth $200,000. Thats a lot of money. The story is told that Cleopatra owned a pearl worth $3,000,000. Pearls were something very valuable and, obviously, this merchant was a gem collector and a jeweler. Like many of the Middle Eastern gem collectors, he was looking; he was searching for this flawless pearl and, when he found it, he was willing to give up all, sell everything that he possessed for this one pearl.
Now a business man would call him a fool because you dont put all your eggs in one basket. Its unwise but this merchant knew the value of this pearl. He was willing to give up all for this one pearl. Now what is this one pearl? Well, let me read you from Christs Object Lessons, p. 115. It puts it in a nutshell very beautifully what this pearl is. I want you to listen to it:
Christ Himself is the pearl of great price.... The righteousness of Christ, as a pure, white pearl, has no defect, no stain. No work of men can improve the great and precious gift of God.
No work of men can improve the great and precious gift of God. I am repeating this because this was the Galatian problem. The Galatians were trying to improve that pearl by their good works, by circumcision, and other things. To continue:
It is without a flaw. In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3.) He is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30.) All that can satisfy the needs and longings of the human soul, for this world and for the world to come, is found in Christ. Our Redeemer is the pearl so precious that in comparison all things else may be accounted loss. Ibid.
When Luther was getting rid of all the idols and all the relics from his church after he discovered this great pearl, his superior said to him, When you get rid of all these things, what are you going to put in their place? Luther replied, Jesus Christ. Man only needs Jesus Christ. And I say the same today, Men only need Jesus Christ.
But heres the problem. In order for that merchant to have that pearl as his own, he had to sell everything he had. He had to give up everything he possessed. Whats the problem with that? Doesnt scripture present Jesus Christ as a gift? God so loved the world that He gave.... Then why is Jesus presenting in this parable the idea that we have to give up all for Christ?
Let me put it this way. In order for us to receive that pearl of great price, it is like changing your citizenship. When I became an American citizen in 1975, I had to raise my right arm and I had to swear before the court that I would give up all allegiance to every foreign potentate. There are thousands who would like to become American citizens and are more than willing to give that up because they see the value of this country in a material sense.
You cannot be a citizen of heaven which is under Christ and a citizen of this world which is under Satan at the same time. You have to give up one for the other. What Christ is trying to show here is that there can be no mixture between the world which is under the evil one and the kingdom of God which is under Christ. There is a cross and that cross will allow nothing of the world to cross over.
Turn to Matthew 19. I am going to use several references from Matthew and I would like to encourage you when you study your Bibles, please dig deep. Dont read the surface. In Matthew 19, Jesus is talking to this young man who was a victim to Judaism, who thought he could go to heaven by doing good. Jesus said to him in Matthew 19:21:
If you want to be perfect [which no man can be of his own], go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.
In other words, Jesus was telling this young man,Give up your wealth in exchange for my wealth. Now if this young man really realized that the One who was speaking to him was the King of the universe, he would be a fool to reject it, but he did not recognize in Christ the pearl of great price. So the next verse tells me that he went away sorrowfully. He was not willing to give up. Verse 22:
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
But going down to verse 27 we come across what Peter says to Jesus.
Peter answered him, We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?
Jesus, that young man did not do it, but we did. We gave up our fishing rights; we gave up our boats; we gave up our profession and followed You. What then will there be for us? as if he was making a great sacrifice. In other words, What is there in it for me?
Jesus realized that Peter still had not fully understood the gospel and He did not rebuke him. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 19:28:
Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel....
Can you imagine? Jesus is appealing to their egocentric nature and then He goes on in verse 29:
...And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
Was that merchant really sacrificing when he sold all for the pearl of great price? The answer is No. There are people today everywhere who are searching for the pearl of great price.
Several years ago I found a statement in Gospel Workers (by Ellen G. White), p. 301, and I put it in the back of my Bible to remind myself every time I stand behind this pulpit:
But this I do know that our churches [not the Baptist, not the Methodist, our churches] are dying for the want of teaching on the subject of righteousness by faith in Christ, and on kindred truths.
Our churches are dying.
The question is, when you have found the pearl of great price, what are you going to do with it? Are you willing to give up all? First of all, may I make it clear that it is not a sacrifice. Turn to Philippians 3, because here we read about a Pharisee who did find the pearl of great price on the Damascus road. Before that he had a very high opinion of himself. He was a Pharisee and, regarding the law, he was blameless. Notice how he responded when he found the pearl of great price. Listen to what the apostle Paul says about his great exchange.
In verses 4-6 he describes what he was, what he had, what he had accomplished as a Pharisee, but in verse 7-9 he says:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
You see, Paul could not cling to his righteousness and at the same time receive the righteousness of Christ. The two cannot be mixed. That is why I plead with you to study Galatians because the Galatians were trying to mix the two. You cannot have both. It is all of Christ and none of you. Not I, but Christ. Yes, it is painful to our ego; it is painful to our pride when our glory is cast to the dust. But Ill tell you, Id rather have that than to be found naked in the day of judgment.
Now you say, Does it apply to us? Let the Bible speak. Turn to Revelation 3. Here is Jesus, the True Witness, speaking to the last generation of Christians. He is speaking to Laodicea in verse 17. I want you to look at verse 17 carefully because here we have two opinions.
You say [Thats the first opinion. Who does the you stand for? Us.], I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do no need a thing. But [the True Witness says] you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
Now which of these two are correct? Peter discovered the hard way that Christ was correct and he was wrong. Remember Jesus said, All of you will betray Me, deny Me. And they all said, Is it I? Peter later on stood up and said, Jesus, You may be right about these other fellows. You are wrong about me. I will die for You. Did he? He couldnt stand up for Christ before a young maid who came up to him. But he discovered that he is right only in Christ.
There is a problem in verse 17. There are two opinions that disagree, but I want you to look at the solution. Verse 18:
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
I know one thing, we will not take this counsel as long as we are not convinced that Christ is right, but the moment we are convinced that He is right, then we will take the counsel. What is the counsel? Buy from me gold..., white clothes..., and salve.... So it is not our egocentric faith that makes us rich; it is the faith of Jesus Christ that makes us rich. So it isnt our righteousness that clothes, but it is the righteousness of Christ that will be able to stand the scrutiny of the judgment. And, of course, it is not our viewpoint that we see, but what God sees.
I want you to look at the word buy. The fundamental principle of the word buy means you give up something you have and something you may even cherish for something you want. This merchant found the pearl of great price but he could not have it until he sold everything he had. You and I may find the pearl of great price. Are you willing to give up your righteousness? Are you willing to give up your pride and, I say, even our own denominational pride? Are we willing to give up everything?
Several years ago when I was wrestling with the message of Christ our righteousness, I came across a statement in the book Testimonies to Ministers (by Ellen G. White), p. 65. When I read it I thought, Well, maybe this is an overstatement. But the longer I live, the more I become convinced that this is a truth that needs to be hammered out:
And because the Spirit is to come, not to praise men or to build up their erroneous theories, but to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, many turn away from it. [Now this is the statement.] They are not willing to be deprived of the garments of their own self-righteousness. They are not willing to exchange [some theologians call this the great exchange] their own righteousness, which is unrighteousness [or, in other words, filthy rags], for the righteousness of Christ, which is pure unadulterated truth.
The hardest part of the formula of Not I, but Christ is the first part. It is hard for us to come to God like beggars with nothing in our hands. It is hard, but the pearl of great price is the only thing that will take us through. Now what do we give up? What really is involved in selling all? I would like to suggest three things.
Number One. We must give up our life in exchange for His life. The life that you and I were born with originated in Adam. The life God created in Adam was a perfect life. It was a life created in the image of God. It was controlled by love. But the life that Adam passed on to us was not the same life. It was a ruined life. It was a life that sinned. It is a life that is bent towards self. It is a life that is condemned. It is a life that must die.
Now Jesus did not come to change the death sentence. He came to fulfill it. On the cross, the corporate life of the human race came to an end. In 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 Paul uses two statements about Christ that are very interesting. We need to study those two statements:
So it is written: The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth, and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaen. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
He calls Christ the last Adam and he calls Christ the second man. Have you ever asked yourself to what those two statements refer?
As the last Adam, Christ was the sum total of the first Adam. Remember, in Hebrews, the word Adam means mankind, the concept of corporate oneness. So Christ, as the last Adam, was the sum total of the first Adam. In other words, in the incarnation He gathered to Himself all who belonged to the first Adam, which includes every one of us. Then, on the cross, He did away with the Adamic race. He did away with us. He did away with the life that stood condemned. And then, in the resurrection, He raised us up with a new life: His life, of which He is the Head. So as the second Man, He is the Head of a new, redeemed humanity.
For you and me to pass from the old life to the new life, you and I have to surrender to the cross of Christ. Let me give you a couple of texts, because the word of God is what speaks. Romans 6:8. The context is baptism and you will notice as you read from verse 3 onwards, that baptism is our participation, our identification with Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected. Thats why it is always in immersion. There is no value in the immersion; its what it points to that has value.
Romans 6:8 tells us two things that baptism points to. Maybe we should read Romans 6:7 also but lets read Romans 6:8 first:
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
You have to give up your life in exchange for His life. Is that a sacrifice? Well, Ill tell you, its like giving up one dollar for a million dollars. What sacrifice is that? In fact, many in this country are trying it by giving that one dollar or whatever it is to the lottery, hoping that they will be the one to win.
We dont have to do it. Its available to all of us: the life of Christ in exchange for your life. I wish I had time. I would tell you what that life implicates, not only eternal life because eternal life in a world of sin is terrible. It is an eternal life in a world of happiness, in a world where there is no suffering, there is no pain, and there is nothing but joy and peace and love.
The same thing is said in 2 Timothy 2:11. Young Timothy needed to know this and all you young people need to know this.
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him....
Let me repeat an illustration, because it is one that has left a deep impression in my mind. When I first went to Ethiopia, I took the week of prayer at our college there. There was an Egyptian called Darwit. This is a true story. This was in 1973 and apparently there was an argument in their classroom at the college.
The disagreement was with the professor who told them that it is not right for Christians to carry arms and shoot people. This Egyptian who was taking mechanized agriculture said, No. When I go back to my country, I shall fight against those Zionists (which was, of course, the Jews). During the week of prayer when I gave them time for questions, this young man stood up and asked, Is it a sin to carry arms and fight for my country? I said to Him, Darwit, any Egyptian who does not fight for his country should be ashamed of himself. He liked that answer.
Then I asked him, Could I ask you a question? He said, Sure. I said, Have you ever seen a dead Egyptian fight for his country? He said, No. Once you die, you cant fight for your country. I said, Thank you. Are you a Christian? He said, Yes. Then may I remind you, I responded, that you are dead and your life is hid in Christ. And, by the way, Christ was a Jew. Telling an Arab that hes a Jew is an unpardonable sin. He said, I am not dead. I said, Please turn to Colossians 3:3. I gave him some other texts, but Colossians 3:3 says:
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
You have given up your life in exchange for Christs life, I told him. That is what baptism is all about.
He refused to accept it. I said, All right, Darwit. Its not my problem; its your problem. Two weeks later I went back to Addis Ababa to one of the colleges 200 kilometers away. Later Darwit was testing this tractor with his instructor and they were coming down this hill. Most of our colleges in Africa are on the top of hills, which is good in America because you have cars but there you have to walk (which is good, too). He was coming down this hill, sitting on the fender. His instructor was testing a John Deere tractor and he discovered the brakes had failed; there were no brakes on the tractor. The speed was increasing and, in his panic, he tried to get into lower gear to slow it down but that tractor didnt have synchronized gears so it went into neutral and it stayed there.
The instructor was wise; he jumped off and called to Darwit, Save yourself. Darwit froze on the fender and the tractor hit a tree, capsized, and pinned him under. He was crushed; it took the college 20 minutes to bring another tractor, lift up the crashed one, and pull him out. His chest was crushed. We had a missionarys wife there who was a nurse; she examined him and discovered that he was dead. Hoping there might be some life there, they rushed him to the nearby Sudan Interior Mission hospital three miles away. Two doctors one was a Swedish doctor, the other was an Ethiopian, trained in America both examined him; they both pronounced him dead.
Meantime, the students were in the chapel praying furiously and, as the nurse was covering his body, his eyes blinked and the nurse shouted, Hes alive! One of the doctors re-examined him and discovered a faint sign of life. We took him in our mission plane to our hospital for intensive care. He was unconscious for two weeks and, when he regained consciousness, I went to visit him. He was all bandaged up; the only space that was open were his eyes and his mouth. He was in bad shape.
I bent right down to his ears and I said, Darwit, how are you? I shall never forget what he said. He said, Pastor, Darwit is dead. You are talking to a Christian. Well, I hope, young people, God wont have to use such a drastic method to convince you of truth. We have to give up our life in exchange for Christs life. I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I, but Christ must live in me and the life I now live I live by faith. The fruits of that is holiness of living.
Number Two. We must give up our wealth for His wealth. Thats a bargain. I dont know how much money you have, but all the money in the world is nothing compared to the wealth of Jesus Christ. Jesus said (Matthew 16:26):
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
I want to give you some texts. We wont have time to read them except to look at one of them. Matthew 6:20, 21, 33:
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ...But seek first his kingcom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
You are familiar with Matthew 19:21; we covered that [above]. But I would like to look for a moment I wont go into detail, because we will cover it in another parable at Luke 12:16-21, the parable of the Rich Fool. Lets turn to it. Here was this fool; who was making money left, right, and center and he did not have enough room in his barn so he built bigger barns and so on. After he got all that money we see in Luke 12 what happened. Verses 20-21:
But God said to him, You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.
Notice the two words. Then he goes on, verses 22-23:
Then Jesus said to his disciples: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
Then he talks about considering the lilies of the valley. God is able to supply all your needs but, even if He doesnt, if He allows you to dwell in poverty in this world, we are rich in Christ. That is the pearl of great price.
Number Three. This is a hard one. We must give up our righteousness for His righteousness. It is not I plus Christ righteousness. We must give up our righteousness for His righteousness. Why is this hard? Because we are proud people. For me to give up my righteousness is to admit that in me there is nothing good. If you think that is hard, I want you to try an experiment. Please dont blame me for the results. Next time you go to the shopping mall, find somebody smaller and weaker than you (maybe someone in a wheelchair). Go up to that person and say, I have discovered something about you.
That person will say, What have you discovered? And you say, From head to foot you are rotten; there is nothing good in you. That person may sue you, so you had better not give him or her your name because you have insulted that person. Yet the Bible says there is in earth nothing good. There is none righteous, not even one. Even this bush preacher is a sinner 100 percent saved by grace. Are you willing to give up your righteousness?
Let me turn to one text only. Ive given you Philippians 3 and Revelation 3 but turn to Galatians 5:4. I want you to be very alert to this statement. Its all of Christ or nothing of Him:
You who are trying to be justified by law [another term for self-righteousness] have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
You cant have it both ways. It is either all of Christ and none of you or its all of you and none of Christ. There can be no mixture.
Remember that here Paul is not discussing the law as a standard of Christian living. Here he is discussing the law as a method of salvation. There is no merit in our law-keeping no matter how wonderful it is. The only righteousness that qualifies you and me for heaven here and in the judgment is the righteousness of Christ. The fruit of that is Galatians 5:13-14:
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself.
In other words, the fruit of accepting the pearl is very simple. If somebody gave you a new Porsche car with all the gas you need, what good is it if you left it in your garage? What will you do with it? When I was a teenager, I had the fastest motorcycle in Kenya. In those days, the Japanese didnt know how to make motorcycles. It was a British Vincent, had above speed of 140 miles an hour. I could wheelspeed that thing at 90 miles an hour. Powerful thing. This was before I was converted. I used to go to the cinema, park my Vincent there, and go in. When I came back, there were crowds of young people admiring and I would watch and say, Thats mine. I wanted everybody to see that I had the fastest bike in the country.
When you receive the pearl of great price you dont want to hide it. You want to show it to everybody. See what I have found. Jesus said (Matthew 5:14a):
You are the light of the world.
Do you know that, in the original, the word you is in the plural form and the word light is in the singular? We are many but we are only one. All that the world needs to see in this church is Jesus Christ. Christ in you the hope of glory and you cannot do that unless you are willing to give up your righteousness for His.
Heres something that I think you all need to know. Mary, the only person among all the followers of Christ who understood the cross before the event, comes to Jesus with an alabaster box. I dont know how many of you have seen a Middle Eastern alabaster box. They are beautiful; they are carved; they are ornate, beautiful caskets. In those days it was not a screw-type of cover; in those days the cover was sealed. In that alabaster box was a very precious ointment.
According to Mark, that ointment was worth 300 pence plus which today is equivalent if you worked it out to $9,000. In those days the wage scale was a penny a day (Matthew 2) and 300 pence, if you took the minimum wage, is $4 an hour, eight hours a day, an average of $30 a day, and we multiplied by 300 days you got $9,000 of ointment in that box. But nobody knew until she broke that box and then the fragrance of that ointment filled the whole room. Are you willing to be broken that Christ in you may come out of you and be seen? That is the question.
The world desperately needs to see the Pearl of Great Price. Where is He? He is in you that is, if you are a converted Christian but the world cannot see it as long as you glory in the treasure box, in the earthen vessel. Remember 2 Corinthians 4:7:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
It is my prayer that you will be willing to give up your life, your wealth. When I say give up your wealth, I dont mean that you have to literally give it up now. God has no problem with you being rich and having lots of material things, but God does have a problem if you cling to those things. Are you willing to give up, when the time comes, your homes, your bank accounts, your plastic cards, your racing cars, your motor boats, or are they clinging to you and you clinging to them? That is the question.
One of the evidences is that you are still clinging to your tithes. It is an outward sign that you have not given up everything because if you have in your heart said good-bye to all your wealth, there would be no problem giving one-tenth plus offerings. Am I correct? It is as simple as that. It is my prayer that you will give up all to God.
I want to close by saying something here that I hope will help you. I have discovered since coming to America that we have a problem here that I did not face in Africa. Africa is poor. Most of the African countries that I worked in were poor. Ethiopia was the third poorest country in Africa. Uganda under Idi Amin economically became bankrupt. They would be shocked if I went back to Africa and told them that a large percentage of Americans are unhappy in spite of their wealth. One of the biggest problems I found here is that people have very low self-esteem. I have discovered that, in a competitive world and in a capitalistic system where everyone is trying to grab, this is quite common.
When Adam sinned and we became nothing, God looked down from heaven. He saw this clay to which we all belong and He said, I am going to redeem that clay and Im going to make it more precious than anything. Do you know that God has raised the human race in Christ to be above every other created being? Do you know that in Christ we are above the angels? Then stop drooping your hands and your heads. Remember that, in Christ, you are the child of God. In Christ, we have become the pearl of great price and, when the universe is cleansed, the whole universe will come and look at the human race that was redeemed and say, What a privileged group this is.
I want you to know that we are not dirt any more. In Christ, God has raised us up and made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The wonderful thing is not only is Christ the Pearl of great price but He wants us to be part of that Pearl. He wants us to remind ourselves who we are in Christ.
It is my prayer that when you realize who you are you will then no longer have any poor self-esteem. Anyone who has poor self-esteem or poor self-worth has not discovered the Pearl of great price. Jesus who was rich, 2 Corinthians 8:9, became poor that we who are poor may become rich. We were redeemed, says Peter in 1 Peter 1:18-19, not by silver and gold but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. In 1 John 3:1a we are told:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
It doesnt matter what you look like. It doesnt matter whether you are uneducated. It doesnt matter if you dont have too many clothes in the wardrobe. The poorer you are, the more you will appreciate the Pearl of great price. It is my prayer that not only will you be willing to give up all for Christ, but that you may recognize that, in accepting Christ, you yourself have become the pearl. May God bless you.