Neither parable minimizes the cost. In fact, both draw attention to it: literally, “all things, as much he has.” There is a cost — a great cost — to this discipleship. But the Discipler, who is himself the Treasure, so far outstrips the cost that we gladly say, “Gain!” This one great pearl is so surpassingly precious that many even say with the great army of missionaries and martyrs, like David Livingstone, “I never made a sacrifice.” What will it look like for Christ’s kingdom to come to us like this?
Jesus told a one-sentence parable about a man who “sold all that he had.” He was a merchant who found something so precious that it far surpassed even the sum of all the other treasures he held dear.
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45–46)
One supremely precious pearl. One single pearl of exceedingly great value. So great, in fact, so precious, that he sold everything, including all his other fine pearls, to buy this one surpassingly great pearl.
Jesus Taught in Twos
Jesus pairs this parable with another one-sentence lesson about treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44). Jesus often does this in his teaching: pairing two illustrations, each with their individual emphases, to make the same general point (Carson, Matthew, 376).
Earlier in Matthew 13, it’s mustard seeds with leaven (Matthew 13:31–33), to show God’s surprising way of bringing to earth the fullness of heaven’s kingdom. In Matthew 13:44–46, Jesus accents the superlative worth of his kingdom. The pairing not only reinforces the point, but fills out the picture, and introduces new contours of meaning.
Treasure and Pearl
In the first parable (Matthew 13:44), the hidden treasure is found “by chance,” it seems, without the man looking intentionally for it. In the surprise of it all, the accent falls on his shocking and happy response: from his joy he goes and sells all he has to buy the field. Joy flooded his heart as he stumbled on such value.