The Pearl of Great Price

Jan Antonsson

The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

April 7, 2017

Neosho, MO

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16-17. ESV).

We’re all no doubt familiar with the parable of the Pearl of great price:  “God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it” (Matthew 13:45-46, The Message).  Jesus tells us that this priceless pearl is the Kingdom of God, but what does that really mean for us today?  If you’re up for a little “spiritual joy-riding,” we can explore this together.

After my great aunt died and left my mother some money, she invited her children and grand-children to go to Hawaii with her one December.  We stayed in a hotel on Waikiki Beach and enjoyed not only the beach, but the venders round about.  Lenny and I noticed one stall which had oysters in a tub of water, and for a few dollars, you could pick one out and if it had a pearl inside, it was yours.  On the first try, I found a small, perfect pearl, beautiful, opalescent, and so lovely.  Lenny had it set in a ring consisting of a tiny gold band with the pearl on top.  I wear it on the pinky finger of my right hand.  The other day, I was noticing it again and the thought came to me out of the blue that we, you and I, are the pearl of great price.

Yes, I know that Jesus said the parable describes the kingdom of God, but are we not an integral part of that Kingdom?  If we are the Temple, which Paul says we are, and here’s the verse:  “You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16, the Message), then surely we are the Kingdom as well.  Someone is sure to object, “But we’re too flawed, too inadequate, and yes, too sinful, again according to Paul, to be the pearl of great price.  Surely, that’s Jesus Himself.”  I would have said that myself before God opened my eyes to the seminal fact that it is Christ in me who is not only my hope of glory, but all things good and godlike that are necessary for me to fellowship with Him.

Our brother, Fr. Richard Rohr has been talking about the incarnation in his recent meditation series describing our journey from birth to entering into God’s light. In his March 25th meditation, he characterized that journey this way:  “Life gives us opportunities to discover our image and develop our likeness, often in the form of necessary stumbling and falling. Throughout it all we are always held inside of Love. Challenges and disruptions invite us to move from what I call the first half of life to the second half, from forming and serving the ego to the ego, in fact, serving the soul. With the guidance of the Spirit and the help of wise mentors and elders, all of life, including our “false” or small and separate self, can lead us to our True Self or “who we are hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). End quote.

The Message rendition of that Colossians 3:3,  is exactly what I’m getting at here: “Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life, even though invisible to spectators,  is with Christ in God. He is your life.”  Because our real life is invisible to spectators, and we often are spectators outside ourselves looking in, judging ourselves by what others think of us, we often do not realize how God sees us.  After all, did He not sacrifice the most precious thing He had for us?  Has He not forgiven, healed, delivered, unconditionally loved, and continuously embraced us?  Indeed He has, and if you have not experienced that, throw yourself into the “everlasting arms” and ask Him to let you feel His never ending, life giving passion for you!  He loves you beyond anything you could ever think or imagine.  

Getting a glimpse of His great love for me during my Baptism in the Holy Spirit, forever changed my world view of myself, not all at once, of course, because my self denigration and lack of assurance that I was OK, was too engrained for that, but He slowly began to make Himself known to me. To my surprise, God is not a sometimes cranky old thing who had no power left to heal, or guide, or anything else except to keep a careful list of my sins. Horrors that I ever felt that, but I did, and some of you if you are honest with yourself, did as well, especially if, as in my case, you had hell fire and damnation thundered at you from the pulpit before every “invitation hymn,” by every “gospel preacher” who visited your church, and proclaimed by your own minister as well.  

The continual fear mongering, like the drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture  was for our own good, I’m sure they told themselves.  Church leaders wanted us to be pure and holy, unspotted by the world, but of course, they believed and taught us that it was up to us to accomplish that.  As Dr. Phil would ask, “How’s that working for you?

In his discussion about marriage and how husbands should treat their wives, Paul gives us a glimpse into why we shouldn’t worry about perfecting ourselves, other than the fact that of course, it is impossible.  Here’s the passage:  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27, ESV).  Here’s a quiz that you can easily pass.  Who is responsible for cleansing the church (which is all of us, you know)?  Is it the pastor, or priest or minister or the congregation themselves?  No.  Is it the Sunday School teachers?  No.  That’s right, it is Christ Himself who will present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, why?  So she (we) will be holy and without blemish.

As the Spirit gently, but firmly dragged me out of my Fundamentalist mindset, i.e., that the success of my daily walk toward eternal salvation rested squarely on my shoulders, scripture became an invaluable guide.  I took some verses which transferred the burden from my shoulders to Christ’s, wrote them on a 4”x 6” card, and put one card on my bathroom mirror, one on my fridge, one on my car dashboard, and one in my purse.  When browbeating and handwringing would seem to be imminent over my failures, I would stop, take a breath, and read them again.  I’ve written about these before, but a short review might be helpful to me, and who knows, perhaps to you as well.

1) He chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in Him (Ephesians 1:4).  What did you do then to achieve this?

2) He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5). Same question.

3) Even when we were wallowing in sin, He made us alive in Christ, and raised us up to be seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:5-6). Same question.

4) “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, KJV).  It is His faith, not ours which keeps us afloat.  

6) He heals our mortal bodies by the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11).

7) “He has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14, Phillips). We no longer live by law, but by grace!

8) “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians, 3:18, ESV).

9) His perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18).

FYI:  Natural Pearls form when an irritant,  usually a parasite and not the proverbial grain of sand, works its way into an oyster, mussel, or clam. As a defense mechanism, a fluid is used to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating, called ‘nacre,’ is deposited until a lustrous pearl is formed.  God makes His points through nature.  He covers all the irritants in our lives, the cactus patches and swamps, the turmoils and traumas, and creates out of Himself a beautiful treasure hidden in each one of us.

What did the Pearl have to do with becoming a prized jewel?  Nothing except being in the right place and enduring the irritants.  We’re all in the right place, my friends, and that would be IN CHRIST!  Amen. Therefore,  I conclude that when He opens our eyes to see and our ears to hear, we will rejoice that we ARE in fact, the Pearl of Great Price!

Father, we thank You for removing the veil from our eyes which kept us from seeing You in all Your glory and beauty, and from knowing that the work of perfecting us is Yours.  Ours is merely to receive, as Mary did: ‘‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Make us light bearers and joy bringers according to Your will for our lives.  We honor and praise You now and forever, and join our voices to “the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.  Amen. Jan Antonsson

Jan Austin Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)

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