What is the Identity of the Merchant?6 min read


What is the Identity of the Merchant?6 min read

What is the identity of the merchantman who wants to purchase the pearl of great value? Many get this totally confused, yet the answer is so simple.

The Pearl of Great Price parable reveals the immense value of the Bride of Christ, Matthew 13:45,46. Christ is the merchant who is prepared to willingly forsake His heavenly home, to seek and pay the price for the Pearl of Great Price, Philippians 3:6-11.

What was God’s Purpose?

If you were a holy, all-powerful, all-knowing God, wouldn’t you have thrown Adam away when he failed and start all over again? However, God is not only all-merciful, He gave man a free will. Man is free to reject or accept God.

Why would God sacrifice His only Son to make atonement for fallen man? This is too great a concept for the human mind to fully comprehend. The best we can do is to fall on our face in awe and wonder.

The Pearl of Great Price reveals God’s abounding love and mercy for the created, which is beyond belief, John 3:16. Only God could restore the broken relationship with the created, for it was a very high price.

Why a Parable?

How can mortal man comprehend immortality and the realm of the spirit? A parable uses an earthly view to portray a heavenly concept. Yet the vastness of God is still far beyond our comprehension, for He not only created the universe, He inhabits it.

Jesus taught this parable to reflect the visible things He witnessed, so ordinary man could grasp something of heavenly ideas. Here, he used merchants who travelled long distances in caravans seeking the treasures of the earth. These merchants brought exotic goods from far distant lands that enriched people’s lives.

Olive oil from Israel was traded for spices, perfumes and silks from the Orient, is to mention just a few treasures. The precious ointment used to anoint Jesus’ body came from a plant that grew in the Himalayan mountains. Merchants were a vital part of this chain of events.

Wild Revolution

When Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’ Matthew 3:2, He was announcing an astonishing revolution. God had come down to man, not God trying in vain to reach God. This was a far greater revolution than any mankind had ever experienced. It would bring about the change that had been planned from eternity, for He was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8. He will be ever known as the Lamb, Revelation 22:3, among His numerous other titles.

Adam failed and sin entered the entire human race, Genesis 3. ‘The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus’, Romans 6:23. Christ paid the debt created by sin and made the way for fallen man to be redeemed. Through Him man could once more have a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father, for ‘No one can come to the Father, except through the Son’, John 14:6.

What is the Identity of the Merchantman?

This parable should be looked at in its context. There is a sower who sows, the man who finds treasure in a field and the merchantman, Matthew 13. All three point to the reason the Son of God left His home in heaven, Philippians 3:6-11. Those who believe what Christ did at Calvary would enter an entirely new relationship with the Creator. The Old Testament saints did not know to call God, Abba Father.

The merchant, a businessman, earnestly sought rare and extremely valuable items. This points to Christ who earnestly seeks those who will believe in Him, Romans 3:11. God seeks us, we do not seek Him. ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you,’ John 15:16.

Jesus was a true businessman as He was only ever ‘About His father’s business’, a statement made by a 12-year-old Jesus, Luke 2:49. It was the first statement Jesus declared 18 years before He began His public ministry.

Incomprehensible Cost

The merchant was prepared to travel far and pay whenever he found a rarity, no matter the cost. He is a man who holds a deep respect and yearning for what he is seeking. Christ willingly paid the price for an eternal treasure, His Church, His Bride.  

It all points to the enormous cost Christ displayed in purchasing His Church, for ‘You are not your own, you were bought with a price,’ 1 Corinthians 6:20. Christ loves the Church, His body, 1 Corinthians 12:27, and gave His life, Isaiah 53:5, for this pearl of great price.

Shed Blood the Price

In the Old Testament, man believed that sacrifice was the way to reach God, for blood was the only acceptable currency. ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’, Hebrews 9:22.

Sacrifice showed the penitents earnestness, but it did not cleanse the sinner. Only the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ at Calvary has the power to cleanse man of sin, 1 John 1:7. Christ alone had the currency for such a transaction. Only the shedding of His sinless blood could meet God’s requirements for His justice and our redemption.

The Immense Value

The value of anything is the amount you are prepared to pay for it. We can never comprehend the terrible price Christ paid for His pearl of great value. The Creator became flesh and dwelt among sinful man, John 1:14. He paid the redemption price, which no other could pay, 1 Peter 1:19.

Christ made the way for man to be born again of the Spirit of God, John 3:21. Only He could pay the price that would give victory over sin and death. He alone could fulfil the promise made in Genesis 3:15, and regain the authority Satan stole from Adam. Only Jesus could redeem all creation.

The Pearl

It is difficult to see the Pearl of Great Price as being the Kingdom of Heaven, which sinners pay for, as some theologians claim. The sinner has nothing to bring to Christ, except to yield up selfish desires. The sinner can only offer ‘filthy rags’, Isaiah 64:6.

The merchant desires the pearl, so he sells all he has to purchase the pearl. The sinner has nothing to sell for he is without merit of any kind. Salvation is without money and without price, Isaiah 53:1, for it is a free gift from God, Ephesians 2:8,9.

Hid in Christ we become a thing of great beauty, Colossians 3:3. Through Christ’s sacrifice we are cleansed and can mature into His image. For all eternity the pearl of great price will speak of the love and mercy of God. All we have to do is to accept His wonderful gift of salvation and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour and live lives that are worthy of so great a sacrifice.

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Wendy Stenberg-Tendys is a freelance writer who enjoys researching a topic and sharing words of encouragement, particularly from the Word of God.

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