What did the Lord mean when He said, "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear?" He meant that we should try to understand His parables and do what they teach. (A. 4653; R. 87)
What idea did the disciples have of the Lord's kingdom? They thought it would be a great earthly kingdom, with everything grand and beautiful in an outward way. But the Lord once told them that the kingdom would not come with observation, but that it was within them. They must learn that things quite hidden from the world, true and holy thoughts, kind and useful feelings, are more precious treasures than any outward things. The Lord teaches this lesson by saying that the kingdom of heaven is like hidden treasure. Although the heavenly things are hidden, they are so precious to those who know them, that they are willing to give up everything else for their sake. This is meant by selling all and buying the field.
The Lord now tells of a particular kind of treasure which the kingdom of heaven is like. You have seen a pearl, the beautiful, precious thing that is found in the shells of some oysters. The oyster has a great strong shell to protect himself, and it is said that when some little grain gets in and hurts him he covers it over with this precious pearly coat to make it smooth. You see how the Lord can use the pearl to picture something that keeps us safe from evil things that would hurt our souls. What is it that protects us from every harm? It is to know that the Lord has overcome every kind of evil and will save us from it. This precious knowledge of the Lord is the pearl of great price. The gates of the Holy City, which shut out everything that offends, are made of this heavenly pearl. (E. 863, 1044)
As the Lord had been teaching from the boat that day, fishermen may have been near on the beach. They may have used their long nets, holding one end at the shore and carrying the other end around in a boat till they brought it also to the shore, enclosing as many fishes as they could. Then they may have drawn it up on the stones and picked the fishes over, putting the good ones into baskets to carry to the town, and throwing the bad ones away. The Lord made this a picture of what happens when people come into the other world. Then the good and bad are separated. You know that the angels are there to help us and that everything is done most kindly. But the inner feelings and thoughts of all hearts are known. Those who have not the spirit of heaven in them turn away to evil. This is called the furnace of fire.
In the end of the chapter we read of the Lord's going again into His own country. It means the town which had been His home for many years, until He came to live at Capernaum. You would think that the people who had known Him so long would have loved Him most of all. They had seen Him working as a carpenter, and had thought of Him as a neighbor, but they did not feel His Divine kindness and goodness. They did not see or know the hidden work which He was doing for them all. He came back to Nazareth, but they did not believe in Him. You can read in the fourth chapter of Luke (16-31) about the Lord's going again to Nazareth and teaching in the synagogue, and how they tried to cast Him down from the hill. Perhaps it was the same time of which we are now learning. (E. 815)
1. What scene especially comes to your mind when you think of the Lord teaching in parables? How many of the parables by the seaside can you remember?
2. Can there be a treasure so hidden that no one can see it with his eyes, nor touch it with his hands? What hidden treasure can there be so precious that it would be worth giving up everything else to get it?
3. Where else in the Bible are pearls mentioned?
4. When is the net for each one of us drawn to the shore? What will the angels do then to help us?
5. What is meant in verse 54 by the Lord's "own country"? How long had He lived there? What had the people seen Him doing? What work was He doing which they did not see?
These parables of the kingdom of heaven are related to one another and tell of successively deeper experiences. In verse 33 we have the parable of the leaven, which means temptation, and the coming by temptation into deeper things of heavenly life. After that it speaks of their going into the house, which also suggests coming into deeper things with the Lord. Then the Lord explained the parable of the wheat and tares, which means that experiences which at first are taken in a simple external way, may now be entered into more deeply. Then comes the parable of the hidden treasure, for the Lord is now telling of deep, interior things. The last parable, of the net, is much like that of the wheat and tares, but coming later in the series, it represents a deeper searching of the character.
Fixed, sure facts are represented by the stones, and holy facts of heavenly life by the precious gems. The knowledge of the Lord and His protecting power is one of the most precious kinds of knowledge, and the pearl is ranked among the gems. Yet the pearl is not like the other stones, but is a product of life and of hard experience. It seems to say that this precious knowledge of the Lord is not gained in books, not by reasoning, but from experience, by trusting in the Lord in times of trouble. (R. 727, 916)
The drawing of the net to the shore represents the coming to the other world. The sea represents the plane of natural, worldly interests. Death lifts us above this into a spiritual state. Then the inner character is known, as it cannot be known here, and good and evil people can be separated; also the good and evil in everyone is clearly seen, and if real good is there the bad is cast away. The end of the world or of the age means for each one when he leaves the natural world at death. There have also been ages in the world's history and a special judgment in the other world as each age came to its close. The net was full when drawn to the shore. Each one is called to the other world when his natural experience is full, when he has received all the help that this world can give. As in the parable of the tares, the furnace of fire is the burning of evil passions, and the gnashing of teeth, the conflict and unrest of untrue thoughts. (E. 513; J. 70)
Things new and old. We need to take the Commandments and the other teachings of the Lord in a simple, literal way, to guide our daily life. It is useful also to see in them deeper heavenly meaning. The literal lessons are meant by the "old" things, and the deeper lessons by the "new."
A carpenter builds homes for people to live in. Was the Lord doing this in a deeper sense than the people of Nazareth knew? Compare John 14:2. Why did He not do mighty works and compel the people to believe?