Treasures New and Old

(Matthew 13:51-52)

This section concludes the parable teachings that Jesus gave to his disciples at this time. He also provides a valuable lesson here on the methods by which they were to pass on this information. He describes here how they are trained and were to train others. To understand some of this it was necessary to refer to the original Greek so that the full meaning of the words could be extracted.

First Jesus asks the disciples if they have understood all that he has tole them, to which they said, “Yes.” He then wraps up the section with a comment about the training of scribes for the kingdom of heaven and how they were to teach.

First we should consider the word scribes. Although Jesus often upbraided the scribes of his time, he is now not talking about those men and what they taught. Here he is talking about a scribe in a general sense. In Jesus’ time the scribes were the learned men. They could read and write and had knowledge. There were no printing presses at the time and so the scribes were employed to hand copy documents and books for distribution. It was necessary that they were accurate so that the meaning of the texts were not distorted or lost, and for the most part they were good at this function.

We see then that Jesus is talking about a specific type of scribe, one who is trained for the kingdom of heaven. So these people he is referring to are the teachers and preachers of the gospel. They are the learned people of the good news of the kingdom of God and who are entrusted with the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the means by which people can enter the kingdom of God.

He likens these people to a householder who brings out treasure. However the original Greek word for “householder” is better translated as the “master of the house.” This master is the head of the house who in that house is the person in charge or a person of authority. In relation to the house of God, Jesus is the master of the house and the one in charge. And the scribes of the kingdom of heaven are like the master of the house, who is Jesus. The work of the New Covenant in our life is to transform us into the image of Christ so that we truly can be like the master of the house. So the teachers and the preachers of the New Covenant are to be like Jesus who is the master of the house.

Now the master of the house brings out treasures new and old. If we think about an event about to take place in a great house, say like a wedding, the house is decorated. And the decorations will often be valuable and some will be old, like family heirlooms, and some will be new that were bought for the occasion. These things are taken from the storage in the house, which may have been a locked treasury in days gone by. It is a place where items of great value are kept for just such occasions. The treasures new and old that we have are likewise of great value, for the teachings of the kingdom of God are teachings of life.

When a teacher then is bringing forth the message of the New Covenant, he may and should bring forth this treasure in both old and new things. A teacher needs to use all of the information, knowledge and wisdom they have gained through trial, error, experience and study to bring forth the message. It may be things they have learned many years ago or may be knowledge acquired just recently. It may be examples from the Old Testament or doctrine from the New Testament. Whatever it is, the teacher needs to bring forth what is appropriate for the lesson and time at hand. They cannot just continue to drone about the one thing constantly but as the people learn and grow, the message needs to grow too.

This is a valuable insight into the way that Jesus showed the disciples to teach the new covenant. It is interesting that he used the analogy of a scribe, for the scribes of his time were anything but flexible in their teaching. And in essence he is saying that to bring forth treasures old and new is to be flexible in how they should teach. Not to compromise the message, but to apply it the best way to the situation. The scribes of that time though were rigid and inflexible. They taught the law in a legalistic and rigid manner. But as Jesus showed, they ignored the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faith. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

Paul knew this too, for he said, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law–though not being myself under the law–that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law–not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ–that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22) Paul took this message to the people using old and new methods to teach it in a way they could understand the message.

There is wisdom in this teaching for any who teach the gospel not to be dogmatic or rigid. Learn the truth and apply it to your life and the way it is taught. Speak to people using the old and the new treasures of the covenant as Jesus did so that we too can be like the master of the house in our preaching and teaching.

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