In Jesus’ parable of the “Costly Pearl” (Matthew 13:45-46), the “formula” is simple… If you understand the value and beauty of the pearl, you’ll give up everything to get it: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
You don’t have to plead or prod or pander to get someone to pursue something that is universally understood to be both priceless and attainable—once the superseding value of the treasure is determined, expect a Pamplona-like stampede. But, simply, most people have not gone “all-in” with Jesus because they’ve merely been told by others that this “Pearl” is a treasure, but they haven’t arrived at that assessment themselves. Put another way, we spend a lot of time doing something Jesus did only rarely—trying to convince others of His value instead of helping them ”taste and see” it.
We talk and talk and talk about Jesus, but we typically spend a tiny fraction of our time helping others experience Him.
In Edwin’s Friedman’s life-changing book A Failure of Nerve, he describes a catalytic leadership style that invests only in those who are already drawn to the leader’s vision and momentum, while spending little time investing in those who need “convincing.” The other day, my friend and pastor Tom Melton made a connection between that “Friedman-ism” and Jesus—Jesus calls people, but He spends little time “selling” them on the value of following Him.
Instead, He invites them to “taste and see.” This is why, in John 6, Jesus repeatedly describes Himself as “bread” we must “eat” to “have any part of Him”—but the fickle masses who’ve gathered for a show, and have stayed in the safe posture of a discriminating consumer, want nothing to do with cannibalism. They reject Him on the basis of His words, while His inner circle re-commits to follow Him solely on the basis of their taste. Just before this volatile interchange on shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus reveals a startling truth: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (John 6:44). Those who “come” are “drawn” because, somehow, they know a priceless pearl when they stumble into one.
Our calling is to reveal the “Pearl,” who is Jesus, in such a way that others “taste and see that He is very good.”
Once they see Him for who He is, the rest is just human nature. So we find surprising, unexpected, and overlooked ways to introduce and re-introduce the “Pearl,” ruining people for Jesus in the process. And there are an unending number of “surprising, unexpected, and overlooked” facets of the “Pearl”—all we do is reveal what has been hiding in plain site.
Thanks for all you do,
The Wise Sage of Simply Youth Ministry Conference
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Rick (email@example.com and @RickSkip on Twitter) has been editor of GROUP Magazine for 25 years. He’s author of 99 Thoughts on Jesus-Centered Living, the LIVE small-group curriculum Jesus-Centered Living, and wrote the books Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand (www.siftedbook.com) and Shrewd: Daring to Live the Startling Command of Jesus (www.shrewdbook.com) as an excuse to immerse himself in the presence of Jesus.