Sunday, July 24, 2011

God's Bargain (Matthew 13:45-46)

Again, 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

A Conversation Between a Pearl-Vendor and a Merchant

"Good day sir," the Pearl-Vendor greeted the Merchant entering his shop.  "Oh, it's you," he continued, his face darkening for just a moment.  "Since when are you working as a merchant, being so busy as You are, ruling the universe, and all?  It's the last thing I'd expect You to be doing, I mean, considering where You live and Who your Father is.  Why should You be out buying pearls?" 

"I don't really need to, you're right," responded the Merchant.  "But I want to, and Father thinks it's a good idea.  We're looking for something we can add to our Home, something beautiful to have with us, a treasured possession, to be ours forever, you know."    

"Really?" hissed the Pearl Vendor.  "Well, then, what are you interested in?  I have some very special pearls I could offer you."  The Pearl Vendor reached into his front display case and pulled out some very large, dazzling pearls.  "Here's one, I call it Power.  The owner of this could rule the world!  Or here is one called Self-service; with this pearl all your needs would be met forever.  And there's my favorite, Popularity.  Everyone loves to be popular; this pearl could be just the thing for You." 

"Mmmm..."  the Merchant rubbed His chin thoughtfully.  "No, I think I'll just look around a bit till I see what I want.  Somehow I'm sure I'll know it when I see it," said the Merchant.  The Merchant proceeded to go through the stocks of the Pearl Vendor.  He seemed to know just what He was looking for, passing by many fine and shiny pearls, intently looking for one in particular.  Finally, wandering into the back work room, the Merchant made a selection, a pearl, wet and slimy, lying in a moldy dark corner, covered in mud, just what the Merchant was looking for.  "I think I'll take this one," He cheerfully informed the Pearl Vendor, holding up the dirty, cracked, deformed Pearl, slime oozing and dripping off His hand. 

The Pearl Vendor's face fell.  Then with great concern in his voice he said, "Oh Merchant, I don't think you want that one.  I mean, look at it.  It's filthy, and it doesn't clean up well.  It's misshapen and full of flaws.  It may have been nice once, but shortly before I acquired it, actually just as I was acquiring it, it suffered a Fall, damaged, beyond repair, I think.  This Pearl hasn't been any good since I got it.  No, I really insist, you can do better than that Pearl.  Here, look at Popularity or Power again."     Pearl Vendor lifted up these bright, shiny pearls before Merchant's face, hoping to convince Him to choose one of his "good" pearls. 

"Thank you for your honesty, Pearl Vendor, but still, I think I'd like this Pearl.  I know you're right, it is covered in filth and no doubt has flaws, but I think that My Father and I could still really do something with it.  How much do you want for it?" Merchant asked, opening His wallet. 

"Mmmm…"  The Pearl Vendor took his turn rubbing his chin, contemplating his next move in the bargaining.  He hated that slimy, cracked Pearl, but he couldn't stand to see it owned by anyone else, least of all by this Merchant and His Father.  Pearl Vendor took grim satisfaction in keeping that Pearl in the back room, down in the muck, slimy and hidden away from the light.  He decided to try and scare the Merchant off with a ridiculous price.  "Put your wallet away, Merchant, you can't buy that Pearl from me with silver or gold.  If you want that Pearl, first you'll have to come and live here, in the back room, and earn it."

"Done!" the Merchant shouted with glee.  "I thought I might need to do something extraordinary, so I told Father that I would be gone a while.  Where do I sleep?" 

The Pearl Vendor was flabbergasted.  He hated that Pearl all the more, because the Merchant wanted it so badly.  He couldn't bear to see it leave, but the Merchant had called his bluff.  As if He had planned it all along, the Merchant was settling into His new home, even starting to straighten up a little in the back room.  Pearl Vendor couldn't easily back out of the bargain, but the final price wasn't set yet. Maybe he could still scare off the Merchant.   "Living here is just the first installment on the price," warned the Pearl Vendor, "it's going to cost you quite a bit more." 

"I know," smiled the Merchant.  He held the dirty Pearl in His hands and looked at it like it was a beautiful child.  The Pearl Vendor grew angrier. 

"That Pearl is going to cost you too much," Pearl Vendor continued. 

"Let Me decide how much is too much," Merchant replied. 

"People will mock You for buying such a terrible pearl.  People will say You are a fool, people will hate You." 

"So be it."

"You don't understand.  Every flaw that Pearl has must be paid for, and the price is blood, and suffering, and even death.  That Pearl is not worth such a great price. 

"It is a Pearl of Great Price," observed the Merchant.  Pearl Vendor's hope rose for a moment as it seemed the Merchant was considering the full cost.  "It's a deal, Pearl Vendor.  I'll take it."  The Merchant was already cleaning the Pearl in His own robes, wiping away its filth and beginning to bring out its shine. 

"No, I won't have it," screamed the Pearl Vendor.  "I will not let that Pearl go; it will stay and rot in my back room forever."

"You will let it go, Pearl Vendor," the Merchant stated calmly.  "The Bargain is made, it is finished, the Pearl will be mine.  You stole it from My Father and Me, our Spirit longs for its return.  Our perfect plan will not be spoiled by you." 

"Oh but it will be spoiled," sneered the Pearl Vendor.  "Your Father hates that Pearl, with all its flaws and faults.  He will not accept your Bargain.  He will never accept such a damaged Pearl. He will destroy it." 

"You're partially right again, Pearl Vendor.  This Pearl cannot enter my Father's house with all its flaws.  But I will remove them.  All that My Father hates about this Pearl, I will correct.  I will suffer, I will bleed, I will give up my Spirit and die.  And then I will rise.  I will rise from death to claim this Pearl for My very own, a treasured possession, to present to My Father, flawless and perfect, forever.  That's My Bargain, and I'm glad to make it." 

The Merchant has made His Bargain.  Jesus Christ gave up everything, leaving His seat in glory at God's right hand, coming down into our squalid, filthy world, in order to buy back His Church.  Those chosen by God before the foundation of the world were stolen by the Pearl Vendor, Satan.  Fallen into sin, no one could overcome the Devil's claim on humanity except God.  And so God came.  Jesus, the Father’s only Son, gave up all He had, even becoming one of us, a human being, born of the Virgin Mary, come to live as a man, in order to suffer and die in our place. 

Satan took the bait, the Father accepted the sacrifice, and now Jesus is preparing His Pearl.  He is cleansing and polishing His Church through the washing of water and the Word.  Jesus is making His Church beautiful by covering our sins with His spotless robe of righteousness.  Jesus is paving your path to heaven with the forgiveness of sins, delivered by His powerful Word.   Jesus is strengthening His people through His Supper, where He gives us His Body and Blood, for the forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation.    

Satan works hard to drown out this Good News.  When struggles and unkind words make you feel like you have no worth, Satan smiles.  When the Abortion industry tells parents that unborn babies aren’t people yet, the demons grin.  When you stumble or fail or don’t look as pretty or as handsome or as slim and fit as you think your are supposed to, the residents of hell rejoice, and tempt you to think their jeers are true.  But God speaks better of you.  God thinks this much of every human being ever conceived:  He sent Jesus to wash away every sin, every blemish, every imperfection, for the whole world, all people, including me, and including you.  That is how precious you are to God:  Jesus came and died and rose again, for you. 

Do not be fooled by Satan's lies.  It is true that your sins are a serious problem.  Your sins are ugly, unfitting for a child of God and worthy of condemnation.  Do not sit in your sins, flee from them.  But when Satan says that God cannot love you because you are a sinner, you tell that liar that God has loved you, by sending Jesus to take away all your sins.  Jesus has purchased your forgiveness, with His blood.  God has sent His Son to make you His treasured possession, a chosen and holy people.  Repent of your sins, and believe the Good News.  The Merchant has made His Bargain, the purchase is complete.  By your Baptism into Christ, God has made you His treasured possession, His Pearl of Great Price.  Amen. 

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