Matthew 13:45-58 Part 1

Jesus continues His Kingdom parables in this passage; and it is valuable to notice that in verses forty-five, forty-seven and fifty-two, the parables are begun with “Like is….”  “Like is… the Kingdom of the Heavens to a merchant man….”  “Like is… the Kingdom of the Heavens to a large net….”  “Like is… to a man to a housemaster….”

Remember that back in verse twenty-three Jesus began these parables with “the Kingdom of the Heavens is likened to….”  And the difference noted at that point between the way that parable begins and the way the rest of them begin must be carried through to these parables today.  And that difference is that the parable of the sower, begun in verse twenty-three, is a parable having to do with the separation of the “old” and bringing in of the “new.”

But, thereafter, Jesus deals with the “new” administration of His Father’s covenant in His Kingdom parables.  Therefore these parables – beginning here in verse forty-five – follow that same pattern; and they must be seen as having to do with those things which are “new” – the New Heavens and the New Earth, the new covenant, the new Jerusalem, etc.

So the next two parables, down to verse fifty-one, are a continuation of Jesus’ Kingdom parables.  And, at that point, verse fifty-one, Jesus asks His apostles, “Have you understood all these things?”  And they replied, “Yes.”

And then, in verse fifty-two, Jesus sets the “capstone” on His parables by giving His apostles perspective on their positions in the Kingdom, and by emphasizing the continuity between the Old and the New.

At that point, in the last verses of the chapter – beginning with verse fifty-three – Matthew recounts a very powerful and important, encounter with the inhabitants of His own home town of Nazareth.

And let me remind you once more before we go back to verse forty-five, that none of these events or proclamations of the Messiah are of little significance.  We are still viewing the Lord of the Covenant as He progressively unfolds the mysteries of His Divine Will.  Each happening and every statement have cosmic significance; and what I mean by that, once again, is that every action and every statement have to do with the fallen creation as a whole, and God’s purpose for its redemption soteriologically!  Each parable and each miracle and each encounter is indicative of – and analogous to – a much higher purpose and reality, as God judges His creation and redeems it according to His Own Will.

But, at the same time, let me also remind you, once again, that these events are not to be viewed in any way as mystical or somehow unreal.  The Gospel of God takes place in concrete space and time.  It is all historical and factual; the judgments are ontologically substantive, and they are temporal and eternal; and the salvation and cleansing of the creation is literally accomplished among men in the so-called physical realm!

I feel like I have to say those things over and over again because of the tendencies of some, on the one hand, to cull out of the Gospel message certain small passages and make pericopae, or stories, out of them which are supposed, somehow, to teach us lessons in humanity.  On the other hand, there are some who might view the Gospel from a purely mental or spiritual perspective, allegorizing the whole of it into some “noumenal” realm (the realm of thought).

Both of those methods of interpretation have to be categorically denied and publicly assailed, because they do great violence to the Word of God and, by extension, to the Kingdom itself.  The former (those with stories to humanize) de-contextualizes the Gospel and makes it applicable only to the quality of human (present) life (and actually centers humanity as that around which everything revolves); and the latter (in which the Kingdom is only spiritual) is actually the fountainhead of mysticism whereby originates a rejection of the physical realm in favor of the purely ethereal and spirit realm.

But, again, a Biblical and orthodox hermeneutic requires that this incomprehensibly holy God is working in His creation, and He is progressively unfolding His Own design for it in real time!  And when God the Son, the God-man, speaks and acts, then we must be epistemologically aware that He is carrying out His Father’s purpose.  And that purpose is the content of the mysteries of the Kingdom hidden from the foundation.  And that God-man is the Word of God, and He is the fullness of the Law and the Prophets.  And the Law and the Prophets foretold a time when the Light of God would shine upon all the world, and the world would be covered with the knowledge of Him, as the waters cover the sea.

As Paul has said, we still see as through a dark glass, for that incomprehensible holiness of God requires His separation from His creation.  But we in Christ have immediate access to Him in the heavenlies; for Jesus our High Priest and permanent Sacrifice is our entrance into the perfect audience with the Father.  And that’s why it’s so critical that we know what He said and what He did in pleasing His Father.  In doing so, we will know why our Father is so pleased with us – and why He made us beloved sons in His Kingdom.

Now.  Having said all of that, let’s go to the text, verse forty-five.  Jesus, as you may remember from last time, has just finished with the parable of the hidden treasure in the field.  And the man who found that treasure went and sold every little thing he had, and he bought that field.  That treasure, the Kingdom, was so incredibly valuable that nothing he owned had any relative value.

In other words, being an heir of God in Christ was of such profound importance that all else was unmitigated dung and was immediately and completely expendable!  So the parable has to do with the comparison of the value of the Kingdom with whatever else the man owned!

On the one hand there was abandonment on the refuse pile of separated out humanity; but on the other hand there was reigning with the King of Kings, in His body, as an adopted heir!  And, having seen that, there was nothing at all which would temper the speed with which the transaction would be made.  And there was nothing at all that would extenuate the condition of his relative wealth.  It all, as I said, became “as nothing” in comparison.  And, having bought it, he hid that treasure – indicating that his whole mind had turned from all else unto a devotion and cherishing of this exquisite find!

And Jesus continues that same line of thought as we pick up at verse forty-five:  “Again,” He says, “Again, like is the Kingdom of the Heavens to a merchant man searching for excellent pearls; and upon finding one precious pearl, having gone away he has sold every little thing he possessed and bought it.”

Jesus is here stressing the great value of His Kingdom once more.  And He now provides us with the perfect connection to the New Jerusalem.  Let me tell you about the pearl – the “margarita” as the Greek has it.

I won’t go into all the specific passages through Scripture having to do with the pearl, but just let it be said that through the history of civilization the pearl became an object of covetous allurement, and its value among men was immense!  Even more so than gold.

But of course men didn’t manufacture the pearl!  And men didn’t set the beauty and value of it either!  And neither did he invest it with rarity!  God made the pearl; and its excellence and beauty were only recognized by man.  And men have used it metaphorically in order to cast superlatives on other things which were also very beautiful, and have done so since the beginning of literature.

A good, modern example of that is that famous and beautiful city on the coast of southern China called Hong Kong.  It is, in fact, called “the pearl of the Orient” due to its great beauty.

But, you see, as I said, man only recognized the pearl’s beauty – he didn’t make it beautiful or set its value or its rarity.  God made this glorious creation from nothing, from His Own mind.  He set its glory and its perfections.  Even the wisdom of the Gospel is once called “pearls of wisdom on a string.”

But it’s not until we get to the Revelation of St. John that we see the great value which God places on this one of His great creations.  The first glimpse we have of it is of its misuse.  God had given Israel great worth in His Own estimation, and He had loved her.  And as outward signs of that worth, He had laden Israel, Jerusalem especially, with gold and silver and gems and pearls and other forms of wealth.

But Jerusalem had disobeyed, rebelled and became demonic.  And by the time we reach Revelation chapter seventeen, this is the way she, the city, is described: 


“And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, ‘come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’  So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness; and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.  And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication; and upon her forehead was a name written, ‘Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.’”


And then in the next chapter is the picture of the merchants weeping over the destroyed city because they can no longer trade for the things she is adorned with – pearls being one.  All of it is destroyed in a short period of time.

So the harlot, Jerusalem, is adorned with the things that God had given her, and she had misused them to adorn herself so that she could play the harlot with the surrounding pagan world-order.

But, then, God’s estimation of the value of His pearls is made manifest in chapter twenty-one verse twenty-one where, in describing the New Holy City we find these words:  “…and the twelve gates were twelve pearls; respectively one each of the gates was of one pearl….”  So, as John the apostle is allowed to see the New City of God descending from heaven, he describes its entrances – it gates – as pearls!  You see the connection?  It’s the New Jerusalem!  And we must say here that the implication of the Word of God is that entering the Kingdom of the Heavens is of inestimable value!

And now, not saying anything about the number of them – just taking back this information to the parable in the text – what are we to say about it?  Without any fanciful and elaborate allegories about all the points in the parable, we say this:  “Like is the Kingdom of the Heavens to a man who finds the one exquisite thing, compared to which nothing else counts – entrance into the Kingdom.”  Entrance into the New Jerusalem is a “find,” in comparison to which nothing else has any value.

Verse forty-seven: 


“Again, like is the Kingdom of the Heavens to a large net which was cast into the sea and which gathered from every kind; which when it was made full, having hauled up on the shore and sat down, they collected the excellent in vessels and the worthless they threw out.  Thus it will be in the consummation of the age; the angels will go out and will separate the evil from among the righteous, and will throw them into a furnace of fire; there, there will be weeping and gnashing of the teeth.”


In this parable the Kingdom is set in apposition to what’s going on in the world order.  In the Old Testament prophets and in the Revelation of St. John, the sea is representative of the peoples of the world – especially the pagan and wicked of the Gentile nations.  For example, Isaiah says this in chapter seventeen:


“Woe to the multitude of many people, who make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, who make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters.  The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters….”


And chapter fifty-seven:

“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mud and dirt.”


And Psalm sixty-five, verses seven through eight:

“… The God of our salvation… Who stills the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves – the tumult of the people.”


The raging sea, in Scripture, is the image of the word in chaos.  It is foaming with hatred against the Christ and His Kingdom.  And many times it is pictured as “the deep,” or the abyss; and the abode of demons.

If you remember when Jesus cast off from the shore of the Sea of Galilee to go to the other side (which was a Gentile country), the place where he landed was Gadara where he encountered the Gadarene demoniac.  The demons actually prayed to Him that He wouldn’t send them “under.”  But He did.  And the “sea” was representative of the abyss, or the abode of demons; and also representative of the darkness of pagan humanity and the world-order.

It was also interesting to note that as man is progressively restored, the demons are sent back to that place where they cannot stand to be.  The abyss of abandonment.

Now.  Keeping all of that in mind, the apostle John saw, as written in the Revelation, two beasts.  One coming up from the sea and the other on the land.  In chapter thirteen John was stationed on the seashore so he could see the beast of the sea coming up from the deep!  And remember that his number was 666, which is the number of man.  The beast was actually coming up out of the abyss of pagan, chaotic, fallen humanity!  And the beast of the sea and the beast of the land (representative of Israel) collaborated together to crush the King of Kings and snatch away his Kingdom so that the Kingdom of Christ (the Church) could not be established!

But in chapter fifteen we see described for John the One Who defeats the beast, standing upon the sea.  And the sea isn’t churning and foaming and roaring any longer, for the sea is like glass – smooth and clear.  It is not the lair of demons any longer with churning and foaming angry waves; but it is a sea of glass.  Jesus’ reign – the coming of the Kingdom – means the end of demonic and satanic powers among the nations (sea of people), for they are no longer the abyss.  The nations of the world have been brought into the Light of God.  The former abyss – the deep – is now in the Light of the Covenant (salvation in Christ).  Judgment has come to the nations, and the King is slaying the nations with the Sword of His Power.

And that’s what our parable is about!  As the Kingdom is constituted by the Lord Jesus, the Covenant of God is cast into the sea of fallen humanity.  At the end of the Old Covenant age, the angels are sent out to consummate the judgment.  Israel is among the old and worthless which are culled out from the righteous and thrown into a furnace of fire where there is dejection and furious anger at the triumph of the King!

The fiery furnace is reminiscent of two things.  First, it recalls the furnace that Meschech, Shadrach and Abednigo were thrown into, but were protected by the fourth person that was in there.  And then the fire leapt out to consume those who had thrown them in there!  And, secondly, it also recalls the fiery trials in second Peter where those who persevere in those trials are the ones who are saved, but the ones who don’t are separated out for condemnation.

But the victorious Christ, the One Who defeated the beast from the sea, is the One standing on the vast waters of fallen humanity.  The beast and the dragon have been crushed, so the beast has no more foaming and raging dwelling place among the nations.

From the time John the Baptist was imprisoned – soon to be beheaded – Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand.”  And the culmination of the old age did occur.  And now the light is among all the nations of the world.  The angels of God are still in process of culling out the worthless and separating them from the righteous.

And, therefore,

1) it is time for you to buy the precious pearl and hide it for yourself.

2) The nets are full,

3) and men and women and children and kings and families are streaming up the highways made straight in the desert places of the world.

4) Every valley has been raised up,

5) and every mountain and hill made low;

6) and the crooked has been made straight;

7) and the rough places made smooth.

8) And the glory of the Lord has been revealed,

9) and all flesh has now seen it!


“Have you understood all these things?  And they said, “Yes.”

The mysteries of the Kingdom of our Lord were being revealed to them in parabolic “dark sayings.”  And Jesus was opening their eyes so they might see; and unstopping their ears so they might hear; and giving them hearts of flesh that they might understand the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus.

And by the preaching of the Gospel of God, and the work of the Spirit of Christ, I pray that your eyes might see, and your ears might hear, and your hearts might understand the incredible value of His Kingdom – in comparison to all else.