Tag Archives: The Parable Driven Life

The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable of the Shining Pearl (Matthew 13:46-47)

MERCHANDIZING THE GREAT PRICE OF CHRIST’S TWO NATURES

It’s been well over four years since we have continued our Parable-Driven Life series, but like all good things, I want to bring this series back from time to time. I have been inspired by reading excerpts of Clement’s take on the parables. I say in some cases they are brief glimpses, because we don’t have some of the full texts. They are citations from lost works. Unlike many commentaries today, Clement of Alexandria postulated allegorical interpretations of Gospel texts that were Christ-centered. I will quote what we have of his comments on The Parable of the Pearl [of Great Price] found in Matthew 13: 46-47, and then add some commentary on my own.

From Niceta’s Catena on Matthew:

“A pearl, and that pellucid and of purest ray, is Jesus, whom of the lightning flash of Divinity the Virgin bore. For as the pearl, produced in the flesh and the oyster-shell and moisture, appears to be a body moist and transparent, full of light and spirit; so also God the Word, incarnate, is intellectual light, sending his rays, through a body luminous and moist.”

For Clement, Jesus the Messiah is the Picture Perfect Image of YHWH. In The Educator (Pedagogue, Book II, Chapter XIII), Clement spends an excessive amount of time discussing beauty, fashion and the like, but here again he repeats his rendering of The Parable Of The Pearl Of Great Price:

“And the wretched creatures are not ashamed at having bestowed the greatest pains about this little oyster, when they might adorn themselves with the sacred jewel, the Word of God, whom the Scriptures has somewhere called a pearl, the pure and pellucid Jesus, the eye that watches in the flesh,–the transparent Word, by whom the flesh, regenerated by water, becomes precious. For that oyster that is in the water covers the flesh all around, and out of it is produced the pearl.

Now, if I may move on to further excursis, if Christ is the Reign of God, (the pearl), then the merchant who is searching for him must be the Elect, the chosen body of Christ that continues to live lives of repentance, seeking out to involves itself in the life of the Triune God. The illuminous Revelation that is Christ reveals God’s true nature perfectly in the person of Divine Wisdom Enfleshed. The Elect are those persons who are baptized first by water, as a sign of repentance and their accountability to the Body. The merchant is the community of believers who know and realize the Cost of Discipleship [Matthew  13:47 & 19:21 on the Jesus and the Rich Young Man].

What may be a little more interesting is that Clement’s interpretation of this Parable read a lot like early Church Baptismal formulas, and the Nicene Creed (in bold)

A pearl, and that pellucid and of purest ray, is Jesus  |

 JesusChrist, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light,

AND

whom of the lightning flash of Divinity the Virgin bore. For as the pearl, produced in the flesh and the oyster-shell and moisture, appears to be a body moist and transparent, full of light and spirit; so also God the Word, incarnate, is intellectual light, sending his rays, through a body luminous and moist. |

 

he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human. 

And

the transparent Word, by whom the flesh, regenerated by water, becomes precious. For that oyster that is in the water covers the flesh all around, and out of it is produced the pearl. |

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The theology of the Church, then, can never really be separated from its worship praxis.  The neat wall separation that we have created between orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxis  (right practice) should come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

By Rod:

The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-28)

The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable(s) the Fig Tree(s) (Judges 9:10-11 and Luke 13:1-9)

 By Chad:

The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-18) 

The Parable-Driven-Life: Lazarus and The wealthy C.E.O. (Luke 16:19-31)

The Parable-Driven-Life: Lazarus and The wealthy C.E.O.

A Targum (a retelling of a known story, adding in contemporary detail)

“There was once a wealthy C.E.O. who always dressed in tailored suits, wore a rolex, often took his private jet to work, and dined at the finest restaurants every night.

Not one block away from his high-rise office was the place where a poor man named Lazarus used to live. His home had been in foreclosure for months, due to predatory loans, his interest rate rising although national rates were falling, and hasty and illegal foreclosure practices. His crisis began in earnest when the wealthy C.E.O. outsourced his job, even though it wasn’t union, to a factory in China, whose workers were paid less than a living wage, worked for brutal hours, and where the C.E.O. did not have to worry about health, safety, or age restrictions for workers.

Lazarus would come by the office of the wealthy C.E.O. most every day in order to perhaps just get a chance to talk to the C.E.O. face to face and make him see what what was happening to people. But the C.E.O. always saw him first, and told his driver to park around back, so he didn’t have to engage “those people.”

It happened soon enough that Lazarus passed away. A special messenger from God came and took him, body and soul to a nice, comfy home that he could enjoy.

About this time, the Wealthy C.E.O. also passed away quite unexpectedly. Buried in the ground near one of his factories, the chemicals from factory runoff eroded his coffin and ate away at his body. Puzzled as to why he was not in heaven, he was given sight beyond sight and saw the poor Lazarus in his comfortable skyward home.

He yelled out to the messenger, ‘Hey! Come here for a second. I can’t help notice that that poor guy up there isn’t doing anything. I remember him, he was always lazy, looking for a handout. Well, tell him to get off of his butt and give me some water so I can wash this toxic crap off of me. Its starting to sting.’

But the messenger said, ‘Sir, don’t you remember all the good things you had in your life? Well, when that poor man (Lazarus is his name, by the way) was alive, contrary to your opinion, he did work hard, and the system you built kept him down. But now it is time for things to be put right. He is comforted, and since you got your comfort already, we’ll leave you to your own devices now.

Besides, while you were alive, you made sure to make a large gap between him and you, and only addressed him when you needed him. So that you can’t use him at your beck and call and then throw him away again, there is now a large gap between you and him in reverse. Sorry about that.’

Then the C.E.O. said, ‘Well, could you at least make poor-boy get up and talk to my fellow C.E.O.s, so that they can fix this problem before it is too late?”

The messenger replied, ‘Most of them go to church. They already know better. Its not like the founder of your religion was ambiguous about this stuff.’

The C.E.O. said, ‘No, you’re right; but if someone were to come back from the dead and tell them, they would listen!’

The messenger, motioning with his hands just enough so that the C.E.O. could see scars on both sides of his wrists, said, ‘Trust me. Even if someone came back from the dead, they wouldn’t do a damn thing differently.’”

Roland Boer on The Parable of the Talents (Minas)

Roland Boer is one of my favorite critical theorists, and I can’t wait for his next book to come out.

For those interested in theology and economics, I thought this quote was a classic:

“Further, in an economy where one could not invest money, where the notion of buying shares in the stock market did not exist, for there were no stock markets (let alone banks), where even credit was a very primitive notion, what did one do with any amount of money? As Morris Finley points out, the natural thing to do was bury money until you needed it. This the rich did again and again. So the slave who buried the talent did the right thing according to practices of the rich at the time. But the parable condemns him and not the ones who ‘worked’ the talents out in a desperately poor community.”

See more: Parable of the Talents

Onward Christian soldiers!

For an alternative and complementary reading of this parable, see my post: The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-28)