New treasures (Matthew 13:52)
Updated: Feb 6, 2022
And He said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
What a verse to start a new series with! This is one of those verses that PhD theses could be based on, such are the debates about its exact meaning. Leaving aside the finer nuances of meaning, however, the basic thrust of the verse is quite clear. Encountering, discovering and entering God’s kingdom changes everything and opens up a new world of understanding that must be shared with others.
The scribes were a distinct group within the Jewish community of Jesus time who were experts in the Old Testament Law and specialised in teaching it to others. Jesus taught many things to His disciples and in Matthew 13:51 He asks them whether they have understood His parables. They respond simply “Yes” and this verse is Jesus’ response to their confident assertion. If they have understood the nature of God’s kingdom as expressed in His parables then they must become teachers of others. They have received a great treasure and they must bring it out to benefit others – like a rich man who brings goods from His treasure store to distribute to the needy.
The treasure is both new and old. The reference is almost certainly to the fact that Christian teachers teach both New Testament truth, revealed through Jesus and His apostles, and Old Testament truth. Jesus is aware that He is the fulfilment of the Old Testament and He insisted that it found its true meaning in Him. There is, however, new truth revealed by Jesus, truth that could only be revealed when God took on human flesh. There would be further new truth revealed to the apostles after Jesus’ death and resurrection, truth that could only make sense after those world-transforming events and the coming of the Spirit.
The Christian message is new, but old. It is fresh, but also the continuation of an ancient story. It begins with Jesus, but its origins are in the great story of Israel that began with God’s promise to bless all nations through the seed of Abraham. Those who discover God’s reign through Christ must not keep this treasure for themselves – it must be shared. Those who are teachers must help Christians to understand that their faith is the true story of the world, that the gospel is the wonderful message of God’s salvation, beginning with Creation and heading towards the new creation. We must never forget that the centre and turning point of the story is Christ, but we must learn to locate ourselves within the great treasure of God’s true account of what the world and life in it are really all about.