A Treasury of Things Old and New

Sermon by Wiley Lowry on October 13, 2019

Matthew 13:51-53

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If you would turn with me to Matthew chapter 13. That can be found on page 819 in the pew Bibles in front of you. And we’re looking at another one of Jesus’ parables tonight. This is not a dramatic parable. There’s no joyful embrace at the reunion of a father and his wayward son. There’s no beaten and bloody traveler left for dead on the side of the road waiting to be rescued by a stranger, an enemy even. No, it’s just a man, a master of a house, and he brings out of his treasure what is new and old. It’s very simple. There’s not a lot of detail there, and yet the teaching of this parable is foundational for how we live the Christian life. All of us, I’m sure, have been asked that question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some may not have heard that question in a long time, but what this parable teaches us is both what we are to be when we grow up, but also what we are to be right now, no matter what age we are, if we a disciple of Jesus. And so with that in mind, let’s pray for the Spirit’s help as we study this passage and then read God’s Word. Let’s pray.

Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You that You have revealed Yourself to us and that You have sent Your Son to us and that Jesus has taught us. He’s taught us in short, simple stories and comparisons and metaphors to make the deep, profound truths of the kingdom, of eternal life ready to be grasped and to be lived out. Would You give us Your Spirit tonight to open up Your Word to us that it would come home with power and that it would send us out to be kingdom disciples for Your glory. And we pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Matthew chapter 13 starting in verse 51:

“‘Have you understood all these things?’ They said to him, ‘Yes.’ 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.’

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there.”

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever.

Our outline tonight for studying this parable is the training of a Christian, the treasure of a Christian, and the task of a Christian.

The Training of a Christian

Now first, let’s think about verse 53. You might not think much of verse 53. It’s actually, though, a key verse in all of the gospel of Matthew. “When Jesus had finished these parables he went away from there.” Now that’s probably not a verse that you have underlined in your Bibles. And if your Bible, your version is like the one I’m reading from, then that verse is actually the beginning of the next paragraph. But actually it belongs very much with the section that comes before that. It’s the conclusion of this section of the gospel going back to the beginning of chapter 13. And five times, Matthew uses this or a similar phrase to mark the end of a section of Jesus’ teaching. In fact, it’s generally recognized that Matthew’s gospel is structured around five major discourses from Jesus’ ministry. Of course the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 to 7 is the most famous, the most recognizable of those discourses in Matthew’s gospel. But Matthew chapter 13 is one of the teaching discourses as well. The teaching ministry of Jesus obviously is important throughout all of the gospels, and yet it holds an especially important place in Matthew’s gospel. 

And this phrase, like verse 53, is Matthew’s way of calling our attention to what Jesus has been saying. When Jesus had finished these parables” – Matthew chapter 13 is a chapter of parables. There have been four parables that Jesus teaches to the crowds and then there are four that He teaches to His disciples after they have withdrawn from the crowds and withdrawn into a home. And so when we read in verse 51 this question, it’s a question from Jesus to His disciples. And He says to them, “Have you understood all these things?” What are “these things”? What has Jesus been teaching them?

Jesus has been teaching them about the kingdom of heaven. He has been training them to understand why He had come, what He had come to do, and how the kingdom of heaven comes about. And while some of the things that Jesus is teaching them – it won’t become fully clear to them until after His resurrection; it won’t even become clear to them until after His ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit – but here at this point they say yes, they understand what Jesus has been teaching them. And it almost strikes me as funny the way it’s just this one-word answer to Jesus’ big question, to such a profound subject.

Cory mentioned last week, he mentioned Herman Ridderbos. Here’s what Ridderbos says about the coming of the kingdom. “The coming of the kingdom must not only be conceived in a spatial, vertical sense, but also in a temporal, horizontal sense. That is why the sublimation of the concept of eschatology is in conflict with the undeniable testimony of synoptic tradition, but it is also in conflict with the factual, prophetic eschatalogical character of Jesus’ preaching.” Did you get all that? Maybe not! It’s a big topic; it’s a complex subject. And I’m not really being fair to Ridderbos; he is actually very helpful! But it does illustrate something of the complexity of this subject that Jesus is taking in hand to reveal and to teach and to illustrate to His disciples. The disciples might not take in all of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but what Jesus has been teaching them here in chapter 13 they understand.

And so what does Jesus do? Jesus gives them a parable. He gives them a parable to show them what they are to do, what they are to be. They are to be like a master of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and old. In fact, what Jesus says is that every scribe, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of his house who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. Now we don’t typically think of scribes as having anything to do with Jesus, or if we do, we think of them as being in opposition to Jesus. And they were. All throughout the gospels they were opposed to Jesus. These scribes, they were the experts in the Law. They were the ones who knew all the interpretations from the former teachers in the past and the interpretations of the Law that had been passed down from generation to generation and given to the people. And they applied those things. They applied those interpretations to current events of their day. 

But remember what people said about Jesus. They said that Jesus taught – how? He taught with authority and not like the scribes. The scribes relied on someone else’s authority. Jesus taught with His own authority. And that, at least in part, is why the scribes were opposed to Jesus. They wanted to trap Him in His words. They wanted to turn the crowds against Him. Scribes doesn’t really have a positive connotation in the New Testament, but here, look at what Jesus does. He redefines what a scribe is. He redefines a scribe in terms of being trained for the kingdom of heaven. That word that’s translated as “trained” is actually the verb form of the word that means “disciple.” And so Jesus is talking about someone who has been discipled in the kingdom of heaven, which is exactly what He has been doing for these men. That’s who they are. They are disciples. 

Or we could say this. They are scribes who have been trained in the kingdom of heaven. J.I. Packer, in his book, Knowing God, he asks the question, “What is a Christian?” And he says that the best answer that he knows of is, “a Christian is someone who calls God his Father” – his or her father; a Christian is a child of God. And yes, that captures the beauty of the relationship of salvation that’s unveiled to us in the Gospel. But what else could we say about that question? How else could we answer the question, “What is a Christian?” Well a Christian is a saint, set apart. A Christian is a member of the body of Christ. A Christian is a new creation. We could say a Christian is a sojourner or a stranger and a citizen of heaven. We could also say according to this parable that a Christian is a scribe. A Christian is a student, or even an expert in the Word of God and the ways of God’s kingdom. And a Christian is a scribe in the sense that he or she takes and applies God’s Word for today’s need and for today’s demands. A Christian is a scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, a Christian is like a master of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

The Treasure of a Christian 

Now what is this treasure? What is Jesus saying by this parable? Here’s how The Message paraphrase of the Bible captures this verse. It says this. That, “Every student well trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.” Have you been to stores like that? You’ve been to stores that you feel lost by all of the merchandise and the lack of arrangement it seems like when you walk in there, and yet the owner or the store operator can take you to exactly what you need and exactly where you need to go.

Growing up, we had a drawer like that in our kitchen. I’m not sure why it was in our kitchen, but I don’t even know what all was in this drawer, but if you needed a screwdriver or rubber bands or super glue or shoe polish, well you knew exactly where to go – it was to that drawer in our kitchen! Well the master of the house, he needed something like that. He needed a bit of a storehouse because he was a jack of all trades. He had a very multi-dimensional, multi-faceted job. And when we read about the master of the house, even in Jesus’ other parables, he uses that job as one that managed all of the details of the household. The master of the house was responsible for hiring and paying the workers in the field. The master of the house stayed up in the night and watched for intruders or welcomed guests into the home. He did a little bit of everything, and so he would have needed to have access to things new and things old. He would have needed to know where they were and how they worked and when to use those things. 

And actually, the Greek word for “treasure” in this parable is the Greek word, “thesauros.” Now you don’t need an etymology dictionary to know that the English word, “thesaurus,” comes from the Greek word, “thesauros.” And what is a thesaurus? Well, a thesaurus is a list of words with similar meanings. It’s a storehouse of words and we can go to a thesaurus to find and to pick out, to bring out just the right word for just the right situation. Well that’s what a master of a house does. That’s what a Christian does. The Christian knows God’s Word and is able to apply God’s Word to whatever the current situation is. And that means bringing out treasure, out of his treasure, something new or something old so that he or she can be faithful in God’s calling. It means that we are able to make decisions and navigate changes in our lives with grace and with wisdom. It means facing a crisis and going through a trial with courage and hope. Here’s what C.H. Spurgeon says. He says that, “A Christian is not weary of the old. He is not afraid of the new. Old truth is made new by living experience. New views of truth, if indeed it be truth, are only the old in a fresh light.”

You see what he’s saying. Don’t we know that to be true? So many of today’s problems – whether it’s in our culture or in our families or in the church – are really not new problems; they’re old problems. And they may come to us in a different packaging, in a different form. What do we need for that? We don’t need innovation; we don’t need new revelation. What we need is the old truth from God’s Word. We need what Jeremiah pointed us to in our call to worship – the ancient paths where the good way is, and walk in them and find rest for your souls. And we may take those old truths, the old ways of God’s Word, and we may illustrate it and apply it in new ways, but it’s the same truth. It’s the same truth.

And isn’t it also true that the trials that we endure and the lessons that we learn through our life, those things equip us to apply God’s Word in fresh ways today or tomorrow. I was reminded of that a couple of weeks ago. I was in a committee meeting on church rules of procedure – and that’s not at the beginning of a joke! I was very encouraged in a surprising way. And here’s why. Because I looked around the room and every man and every woman had been through some hard trials, hard trials of some kind. The loss of a spouse. The loss of a child. A family that, in their past, had addiction and mental health and broken families. Hard trials. The hardest of trials, all in that room. And you know what was remarkable? They’re still here. They were still there. And they’re still trusting God and they’re still looking to serve others in the church and in the community in their friendships and in their relationships around them. In fact, they’re better able to minister in tough situations because of what they’ve been through because they’ve been comforted by the Word of God. They can understand what Paul says to us in 2 Corinthians that “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we might then comfort others in the afflictions that they endure.” It’s a remarkable ministry that comes out of suffering, out of affliction, that gives fresh light, new insights into the old truths and the way to apply those in hard places. 

That’s what a Christian does, because a Christian understands what Jesus’ parables teach. A Christian understands the full picture of what the Bible reveals. That Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of the Bible – of the Old Testament even into the New. A Christian knows that Jesus has conquered sin and death by His death and resurrection, He has given the forgiveness of sins, He rules over all and He will one day come to conquer all of us and all of our enemies. And so a Christian knows what Cory talked about last week – that the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price and it is the most important thing, more important than anything else in our lives. And because of that, we live every day in light of that truth. We live every day informed by that reality. 

The Task of a Christian

What then can we say is the task of the Christian according to this parable? Well I think there are four things that we can learn from this chapter and the first is this. That a Christian hears. Very simply, a Christian hears. Chapter 13 is all about hearing rightly. Jesus says – Richard prayed it in his prayer – “He who has ears to hear let him hear.” And that’s what distinguished the disciples from the crowds, is that they had the ears of faith and they were there committed to hear what Jesus had to say. Hearing is the starting point for their training. One writer took a survey several years ago. It was part of research for a book he was writing and he found that the number one correlation with spiritual maturity among Christians was daily Bible reading. And he said that Christians who daily read their Bible were more likely to spend more time in prayer, to be active in a Sunday school or small group, to give generously to the church, and to be involved in ministry. The number one correlation was daily Bible reading. Now that’s not giving you a legalistic formula to be a successful Christian, but what it’s saying is that God speaks to us in His Word and His people, His disciples listen.

And yet we could also say that we are not just to read our Bibles but we are also to understand. It takes not only hearing but understanding. Jesus asked in verse 51, “Have you understood all these things?” and the disciples say, “Yes.” But that wasn’t always the case. Even earlier in this chapter the disciples had come to Jesus and they said, “What do these things mean? Will You explain to us the parable of the sower?” And Jesus, through their questions and through their confusions He worked with them, patiently, and He explained further and brought them to an understanding. Well we don’t always understand everything the Bible says. Do we? How do we come to an understanding? We look to those places, in the hard places of the Bible, the places where we may be confused, we look to the places that are more clear and the clear places open up to us, they explain to us the less clear places. And then we take what we are reading, what we are studying, what we are hearing, and we turn it into prayer and we pray God’s word back to Him. And He, by His grace, by the work of the Holy Spirit, makes those things plain to us over time that we can come to an understanding. 

And we’re to be like, you remember, the Bereans in Acts chapter 17. What were the Bereans doing? They were intently searching and examining the Scripture to find out whether the things that Paul was preaching, the things that Paul was saying, were true and right. And they were diligent and they were a model of examining and coming to an understanding of God’s Word. But remember also the Athenians. Remember the people from Athens. What were they like? What were they known for? They were known for enjoying nothing more than to hear and to discuss some new thing; to hear a good speech, to hear a speaker, someone gifted at rhetoric. 

Well, I wonder if sometimes we can fall into the same pattern as the Athenians, the same practice. That we can fill our calendars and even our social lives with Bible studies and church events or we go from one podcast to another of our favorite Bible teachers. But what Jesus is saying to His disciples is that they are to be listeners, yes, they are to hear and they are to learn and to understand, but also they are to teach. To be a master of a house who brings out new and old is to teach the ways of God’s kingdom. And that’s first to teach and to apply those things into our own lives so that it factors into our decisions and how we order our lifestyle and how we fight against temptation and even interact with others around us. But also how we teach other people. That may be in one-on-one conversations. It may be in the car or in the kitchen. It can be in a small group or counseling to a friend or maybe in front of an audience. But a disciple, a disciple is to teach. That’s ultimately what Jesus is teaching His disciples in this parable. He has been bringing out new and old. Hasn’t He? He’s been bringing out new and old for them. He’s been training them for the kingdom of heaven. Have they understood? Yes. Now what are they to do? They are to bring out new and old for others and to train others for the kingdom of heaven.

Which brings us back to the emphasis in Matthew’s gospel that I mentioned earlier on the teaching of Jesus. Would you turn with me from Matthew 13 – let’s look at Matthew chapter 28, to the very last chapter and the last verses of this gospel. There have been five major discourses from Jesus in this book and then Jesus gives this charge, this commission. These are His last words to His disciples. And what does He say in verse 19? “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” You see what Jesus is saying there. Making disciples involves teaching what Jesus commanded. And what has Jesus taught? Well He has taught these five major discourses in the gospel of Matthew, among other things. But the ESV Study Bible actually makes the point that Matthew’s gospel becomes, because of those five major sections of his teaching, Matthew’s gospel is in some ways a discipleship manual for us. 

How do we know what to teach as we go and make disciples? It’s these five major discourses – the teaching of Jesus. Have you understood these things? Then go, teach, and make disciples. Be like the master of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. That’s our charge. That’s our commission from Jesus – that we are to hear and to understand and to teach and to make disciples. And that doesn’t matter what your calling is. It doesn’t matter if you are a mom or a dad or a husband or a wife, a brother or a sister or a friend. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or a lawyer or a farmer or a builder or a teacher. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how young you are. If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, if you are a Christian, then you are, we are to make disciples because whatever you do and wherever you go, you take with you that treasure. You take with you that treasure of the kingdom of heaven so that you can bring out what is needed when it’s needed and you can do that in relationships and situations that are unique to you. That you may be some place and involved with someone, with people you have access to that nobody else has access to. So Jesus is saying be like a master of a house and bring out things new and old to reveal the ways of the kingdom and to make disciples. 

Who do you know who may not be a Christian? What opportunities do you have in casual, every day conversations and interactions to tell someone about Jesus and to tell someone about the kingdom of heaven? Where are you being called to make disciples, to be like this master of the house, and to bring out new and old, to bring them into the kingdom?

I was reading an introduction to a book the other day and the introduction was saying something about how the book came to be. And so this book was a manuscript. It was a manuscript of a theologian’s class lectures and they had been lost in the archives for decades until one researcher found them and he brought them out. They were handwritten in a language other than English. And this process came about, the making of the book, the handwritten notes, the handwritten manuscripts were transcribed into a digital format and then sent out to a team of translators that then translated it into English. And then that translation was edited and the book was published nearly a hundred years after the writer’s death.

What is that? It’s a picture of new and old, coming together to bring out this teaching. And the editor of that book, the word that he used to capture the sense that they had as they brought this book to publication was, “wonder.” They had a sense of awe that all these things came together at just the right time to bring this publication about. “Wonder.” Do you have that wonder about the mysteries of the kingdom? Do you have that wonder about the glory of God that’s revealed in Scripture, the wonder of the beauty of Christ in His work and His person? Do you have the wonder of the delight of how great a salvation we have in Jesus Christ? Then tell it. Tell it. Don’t keep it to yourself. Or have you lost the wonder? Have your hearts grown cold in some ways? Then tell it. Hear it again and understand it again and teach it and make disciples. Tell it to regain that wonder. 

Our friend many of you know, Bill Whitwer, a retired pastor in his late 90s. I remember Bill Whitwer saying to me one time that over the years as a pastor that when his heart had grown cold, that the thing that warmed his heart when it had grown cold, the thing that recaptured and restored that wonder when his zeal had diminished was to tell other people about Jesus. It was to be a witness of the new life that is ours by faith in Jesus Christ. Life in the kingdom of heaven. That’s what Matthew chapter 13 is about. You see, Matthew chapter 13 it begins, and Jesus is saying, He’s telling these parables. He tells a parable that tells us, teaches us what parables do. What do parables do? Parables reveal the truth about the kingdom of heaven. They also expose unbelief as well. He starts saying, “Here’s what parables do.” He ends with this parable and He says, “Here is what disciples do with parables. Here is what disciples do with God’s Word.” And what do they do? Very simply, they imitate Jesus and they live lives that are intentional to make disciples. 

Let’s pray.

Our Father, we hear Your calling tonight. If anyone here is like me, feel a conviction of our inadequacy and our failure, in many ways. So would You restore to us the wonder of our salvation, the joy of our salvation. Give us courage and motivation, the heart, the love to tell it to others, to make disciples. And even when we are afraid, would You remind us of Your Word, the last words in the gospel of Matthew – that You are with us, even to the end. We thank You and we praise You. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

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