Pearls were the most highly valued gems in the ancient world, often purchased as investments, much like diamonds or precious metals are today. With pearls, a person could keep and conceal a great amount of wealth in a small space. The Jewish Talmud said the pearl was beyond the value of any set price, and that some ancients actually worshiped it.
Elsewhere the New Testament uses the pearl as a representation of something of immense value and worthy of protection. When the Lord warns believers not to throw pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6), He underscores the priceless value of the gospel and its corresponding truths, which unbelievers despise as worthless. The apostle John envisions the New Jerusalem as a glorious city with twelve gates of pearl, and more precisely “each one of the gates was a single pearl” (Rev. 21:21).
In this parable the merchant obviously considered the valuable pearl so precious and worth more than all his other pearls combined, because he no doubt included them in the sale of all his possessions, which he did to buy the one pearl. Jesus again illustrates the immense value of the kingdom of heaven and clearly implies that the merchant’s transaction was one involving his salvation. Purchasing the great pearl—the kingdom—represents obtaining God’s saving knowledge through trust in His Son, the Lord Jesus, and experiencing all the blessings which that relationship brings. It is another example of the greatest transaction any of us can make.
It’s really all about one thing, isn’t it—giving our hearts to Christ without limitation or restriction. Consider today how the rest of your life is lining up under the one priority of walking boldly with Jesus.
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610