The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. The words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 13:45-46
Renowned investigative reporter Ernest Digger has just returned from a trip to the Middle East where he was able to track down a descendant of the merchant in Jesus’ account. Here is his report:
—Joseph ben Ezra did not want me to tell where he lives, so I will just say his home is in a small mountain village. His house is small and sparsely furnished. He does not appear to be poor or rich, but able to provide for the needs of his family by weaving carpets of traditional style.
—Mr ben Ezra, I understand that you are a descendant of the pearl merchant of whom Jesus spoke?
—Yes, through the grace of God I am one of the descendants of that illustrious man.
—What can you tell us about your ancestor?
—He was a rich man, but he sold everything he had to obtain that precious pearl. Of course he could not sell that pearl, so he turned to making his living as I am doing today. He left instructions for his descendants that they should always live humbly and simply to hour God for the great gift that he had found.
—What happened to the pearl after your ancestor died?
—No one knows. It disappeared.
—He did not bequeath it to his children?
—There were mysterious words in his testament. He said that the pearl could not be given from one person to another, but each one would have to do as he did, sell everything they had to obtain the pearl.
—Have you done that?
—I am not a rich man. All that I own would be too paltry a sum to buy such a pearl.
—Has anyone in your family obtained such a pearl?
—There are stories. I once met a distant cousin who said he had such a pearl. He told me the same ridiculous story about how I could have one too. I would have to sell everything I have, even the clam shell that once contained the pearl.
— You have the original shell?
—Yes I do.
He showed me a large oyster shell, carefully wrapped in a cloth.
—So, you have the shell, but not the pearl?
—Yes, but don’t you see how beautiful it is? See how the mother-of-pearl inside almost glows. It is a beautiful and precious thing. I cannot afford the pearl, but this treasure reminds us continually of that pearl our ancestor found.
—Still, you have only the shell, not the pearl.
—But surely that is enough. Would God require me to sell the shell and everything else I have and deprive my family of their living? That would be unreasonable.
—Thank you for your time Mr. Ben Ezra.
—You are most welcome. May the peace of God be with you.
Strangely enough, I later met several relatives of Mr. Ben Ezra. Each told much the same story and each had an oyster shell that they claimed to be the original.