Comprehend the Kingdom

Hannah Anderson
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For most of human history, pearls were hunted from the bottom of the seas and waterways, but the pearls we buy today—the pearls that are currently in my ears—are pearls that have been cultivated and harvested on farms. By the late 1800s, overharvesting had depleted sources of natural pearls, making them increasingly rare and expensive. Seeing an opportunity, the enterprising Kokichi Mikimoto began experimenting with the possibility of “growing” pearls; by implanting an irritant into an oyster, he could trigger it to respond and secrete a liquid (nacre) that solidifies in layer upon layer.

Mikimoto hired local ama to collect abalone from the seabed so he could culture them; the ama then returned them to sheltered areas or beds. In 1893, after multiple failed attempts and brushes with bankruptcy, Mikimoto succeeded in producing the world’s first cultured pearl, opening the way for people everywhere to enjoy their beauty. “My dream,” he once said, “is to adorn the necks of all women around the world with pearls.” Today, the house of Mikimoto, with its shops in London, Paris, and New York, is synonymous with luxury.

If we do not learn how to let lovely things draw us to sacrifice to possess them, we will never understand why Christ was willing to sacrifice everything He had for us.

In Matthew 13:45–46, Jesus tells the story of another pearl merchant who comes across a pearl of rare quality and brilliance. Unlike Mikimoto pearls, this pearl is a natural, or wild, pearl that only one in ten thousand oysters produces. The merchant is fixated. Not only is it rare, it’s exquisite—its luster unlike any he’s ever seen. When the light strikes it, the reflection is so sharp he imagines he can see his face in it. It’s so large and round that there’s no telling how long it sat on the ocean floor being slowly formed, layer by layer. And now, here it is in his hands. He must have it. So the merchant returns home, gathers all his worldly goods, and sells them so he can buy it.

With this parable, Jesus is illustrating the level of commitment and sacrifice necessary to possess the kingdom of heaven—a level of commitment and sacrifice few of us have ever seen. The closest we might come to understanding it is the draw we feel toward something lovely and valuable like a pearl. Because besides hinting to a world beyond the present one, lovely things also teach us that good things are worth sacrificing for. That despite their cost, good things are necessary.

Here is the risk if we do not seek whatever is lovely: If we do not learn how to let lovely things draw us to sacrifice to possess them, we will never understand why Christ was willing to sacrifice everything He had for us. If the pearl represents the kingdom of heaven, then the merchant represents the One who sacrificed all He had to buy it.

In John 3:16, Jesus tells us of how God’s love for the world has drawn Him to it: “For God so loved the world,” He declares, “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV). While Jesus is testifying to the vast love of the Father, He’s also pointing to the fact that God loved the world. Just as He did at creation, God looked at the world and declared it worth loving.[1] He looked on the world and declared it worth redeeming. Even if it meant sending His Son from the glories of heaven to sacrifice for it.

It’s hard to see what God found lovely in us. It is a mystery to us the same way lovers cannot fathom why the other loves them, why they whisper in hushed tones about the marvelous kindness of such a gift. But they do, and He does, and so we do too.

We find Him lovely because He first found us lovely.

We find Him beautiful because He first declared us beautiful.

We are drawn to Him because He first allowed Himself to be drawn to us.

We find Him worth sacrificing for because He first sacrificed Himself for us.

We will sell all that we have to find Him because He left all that He had to find us.

[1] Genesis 1:31. The Hebrew word “good” can also be translated “beautiful,” so God saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good and beautiful and lovely.

For Further Reading:

All That’s Good

by Hannah Anderson

Winner of the 2018 TGC Book Award for Christian Living “And God saw that it was good…” Look out over the world today, it seems a far cry...

book cover for All That’s Good