GOLD NUGGETS OF KINGDOM TRUTH INCLUDE BOTH NEW AND OLD REVELATION
Donald Hagner: The key here—indeed the key to the parables themselves—is the combination of new and old. The parables, like Jesus’ other teaching about the kingdom, involve old and familiar things but newly juxtaposed with new elements. In view are not merely new hermeneutical applications of the Torah in new situations, with which scribes have always concerned themselves, nor new applications of old sayings of Jesus (pace Schlatter; cf. Schnackenburg, “Jeder Schriftgelehrte”), but the relation of the Torah to the genuinely new reality of the kingdom of God (cf. Mark 1:27), the “mysteries” concerning the purposes of God, hidden from the beginning but now being made known (cf. v 35). The Christian scribe, trained in the kingdom and prepared to teach others, must be able to use old and new together to bring clarity and understanding to the message of the kingdom in its application to the present. The old things and the new things of the Christian scribe are both indispensable to the gospel. . .
If the Church carries on the work of the disciples, there is a sense in which not only Scripture scholars but every Christian must bring out of his or her storeroom both old things and new things, i.e., must represent a Christianity encompassing both Testaments.
Richard Gardner: Jesus concludes his parable discourse by raising again the issue of understanding (v. 51) and by telling a parable about the task of those who understand (v. 52). Like the parable of the sower, this parable talks about communication—and in fact forms an inclusion with 13:3-9. The specific topic here is the role of the scribe, one who interprets God’s word for others (cf. the portrait of a scribe in Sirach 39:1-11, a portrait with which Matthew appears to be familiar). According to Matthew, there are scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven (the word for trained is related to the word for disciple), just as there were scribes in the Jewish community.
But who exactly does Matthew have in mind? In the broadest sense, every believer who studies and interprets the word is a scribe. In a narrower sense, scribe may refer to teachers who function like rabbis in Jesus’ community (cf. 23:34). In this latter sense, Matthew may be alluding to himself as well, giving us a glimpse of the way he viewed his role as the writer of a Gospel.
William Hendriksen: By means of his question Jesus gives the disciples the opportunity to ask for more information about the kingdom, in case there should still be matters that are not clear to them. Their answer implies that, as they themselves see it, their insight has been immeasurably deepened.
Now to acknowledge gratefully that one’s mind has been enriched is wonderful. It is, however, not enough. What has been received must also be imparted to others. That is the duty and responsibility of the true scribe, as the Master now indicates.
John Schultz: It rather seems that the Lord’s intention was to emphasize the continuity between the Old Testament and the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven is deeply rooted in the Old Testament. But those who only hold on to the Old Covenant and go no farther, those who are teachers of the law but not disciples, will not be able to understand the essence of the Kingdom.
John Walvoord: It is rather obvious that they did not understand the parable, except in their general teachings. It would have required much more perspective, the clear revelation of the present age, and, to some extent, perspective of history, for them to have really understood these parables. At this time, they did not understand that there would be an age between the two advents. Christ did not challenge their assurance, however, but rather told them that if they were truly instructed in these truths, they would be able to bring out of their treasure house of truth things both new and old.
I. (:51) COMPREHENSION OF THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
“’Have you understood all these things?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes.’”
D. A. Carson: This is the only place in this chapter where the disciples themselves are explicitly said to understand, and they say it by themselves. It is as wrong to say that Matthew has portrayed them as understanding everything as it is to say that they understood nothing. The truth lies between the extremes. The disciples certainly understood more than the crowds; on the other hand, they are shortly to be rebuked for their dullness (15:16). Like another positive response in this gospel, this one cannot be simply dismissed as presumptuous enthusiasm (as if they think they know everything when in fact they know nothing), nor taken at face value (as if their understanding were in fact mature).
J C Ryle: Personal application has been called the “soul” of preaching. A sermon without application is like a letter posted without a direction. It may be well-written, rightly dated, and duly signed. But it is useless, because it never reaches its destination. Our Lord’s inquiry is an admirable example of real heart-searching application, “Have ye understood?” The mere form of hearing a sermon can profit no man, unless he comprehends what it means. He might just as well listen to the blowing of a trumpet, or the beating of a drum. His intellect must be set in motion, and his heart impressed. Ideas must be received into his mind. He must carry off the seeds of new thoughts. Without this he hears in vain. It is of great importance to see this point clearly. There is a vast amount of ignorance about it. There are thousands who go regularly to places of worship, and think they have done their religious duty, but never carry away an idea, or receive an impression. Ask them, when they return home on a Sunday evening, what they have learned, and they cannot tell you a word. Examine them at the end of a year, as to the religious knowledge they have attained, and you will find them as ignorant as the heathen. Let us watch our souls in this matter. Let us take with us to Church, not only our bodies, but our minds, our reason, our hearts, and our consciences. Let us often ask ourselves, “What have I got from this sermon? what have I learned? what truths have been impressed on my mind?” Intellect, no doubt, is not everything in religion. But it does not therefore follow that it is nothing at all.—The heart is unquestionably the main point. But we must never forget that the Holy Ghost generally reaches the heart through the mind.—Sleepy, idle, inattentive hearers, are never likely to be converted.
II. (:52) COMMUNICATION OF BOTH OLD AND NEW
“And Jesus said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.’”
Grant Osborne: The items that come out of the storehouse, which God has placed in the disciples, relate to the kingdom truths that are central throughout ch. 13. This is why the “new” is first. The new “mysteries” must first be understood by the disciples (and the later church) and then transmitted to the believing community. In other words, the disciples will understand and teach both the truths of the old covenant (cf. 5:17–20) and the new covenant teachings of Jesus.
Stu Weber: It is important for Christians today to become familiar with both the Old and the New Testaments in order to reflect God’s full revelation. The kingdom servant (and Christian disciple) is to be like the scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom—continually opening the treasures of both old and new.
R. T. France: the specific combination of “things new and old” may have a further nuance as a warning against neglecting the old in the excitement of having discovered the new—as indeed the imagery of the parables of the treasure and the pearl might suggest. The message of the kingdom of heaven does not wipe the slate clean, but rather brings fulfillment to what has gone before, as Jesus has been at pains to demonstrate in 5:17–48. The “old” is not to be “abolished” (5:17), but to be judiciously integrated into the new perspective of the kingdom of heaven.
John Nolland: Here the disciples are allowed to occupy the role of scribes. As noted at 2:4, scribes functioned as scholars of the law and as teachers, and also had a role in the administration of justice. In Matthew’s story the disciples are being established as repositories of Jesus’ teaching in order to prepare them for the teaching role of 28:19. A judicial role will also become theirs (16:19; 18:18; 19:28).
Jeffrey Crabtree: The kingdom scribe possessed some truths of the kingdom of heaven from the O.T. and after hearing and believing the message of Jesus, he possessed more. All knowledge from his pre-kingdom past was not discarded. Rather, it remained useful and necessary information. See 5:17-48. With this, Jesus taught there is linkage between the Old and New Testaments. The trained kingdom scribe is able to understand the mysteries of the kingdom (v. 11) and “is able to maintain a balance between the continuity and the discontinuity existing between the era inaugurated by Jesus and that of the past” (Hagner 33A:402).
David Turner: When the disciples affirm their understanding, Jesus responds with what should be viewed as the eighth and final parable of Matt. 13, introduced with the characteristic formula “is like” (ὅμοιός ἐστιν, homoios estin; cf. 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47; Carson 1985). This parable is also about disciples of the kingdom, who are described as legal experts and likened to a homeowner (cf. 20:1; 21:33) who brings both new and old things from his storeroom (cf. 12:35). Jesus calls the disciples he has trained legal experts or scribes of the kingdom because their ministries will entail teaching the kingdom message as they draw upon what Jesus has taught them and teach their own disciples new truths tied to old truths (cf. 23:34; 5:17–48; 9:16–17; 11:11–13).
Warren Wiersbe: When Jesus had completed this series of parables, He asked His disciples if they understood them, and they confidently replied, “Yes, Lord.” Understanding involves responsibility. To explain this, the Lord added a final parable (Matt. 13:51–52) to remind them of their responsibilities.
They must be scribes who discover the truth. The scribes began as a noble group under the leadership of Ezra. Their purpose was to preserve the law, study it, and apply its truths to daily life. Over the years, their noble cause degenerated into a routine task of preserving traditions and man-made interpretations, and adding burdens to the lives of the people (Luke 11:46–52). They were so wrapped up in the past that they ignored the present! Instead of sharing living truth from God’s Word, they merchandised dead doctrines and “embalmed” traditions that could not help the people.
As believers, we do not search after truth, because we have truth in God’s Son (John 14:6) and God’s Word (John 17:17). We are taught by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13) who is truth (1 John 5:6). We search into truth that we might discover more truth. We are scribes—students—who sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His words. One joy of the Christian life is the privilege of learning God’s truth from God’s Word. But we must not stop there.
They must be disciples who do the truth. “Therefore every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven” is a more accurate translation of Matthew 13:52. The scribe emphasizes learning, but the disciple emphasizes living. Disciples are doers of the Word (James 1:22ff.), and they learn by doing.
It is difficult to keep our lives balanced. We often emphasize learning at the expense of living. Or, we may get so busy serving God that we do not take time to listen to His Word. Every scribe must be a disciple, and every disciple must be a scribe.
They must be stewards who dispense the truth. The scribes preserved the law but did not invest it in the lives of the people. The treasure of the law was encrusted by man’s traditions. The seed was not planted so it could bear fruit. The “spiritual gold and silver” was not put to work so it could produce dividends. As Christians we should be conservative but not preservative.
The steward guards the treasure, but he also dispenses it as it is needed. He dispenses both the old and the new. New principles and insights are based on old truths. The new cannot contradict the old because the old comes out of the new (Lev. 26:10). The new without the old is mere novelty and will not last. But the old does no good unless it is given new applications in life today. We need both.
When Jesus finished these parables, He went across the sea in a storm and delivered the demoniacs in the country of the Gadarenes. Matthew recorded this in 8:28–34. It was then that Jesus went to His hometown of Nazareth, and this event Matthew recorded in 13:53–58.
Two things amazed the people of Nazareth: the Lord’s words and His works. However, they did not trust in Him, and this limited His ministry. What caused the people to doubt Him? They were too familiar with Him in a human way, for He had grown up in their midst. It was a case of knowing Him after the flesh (see 2 Cor. 5:16) and not having the spiritual discernment that God gives to those who will yield to Him (Matt. 11:25–30). These people walked by sight and not by faith.
But, if His own friends and family did not trust Him, what hope was there that the nation would believe on Him? Early in His ministry, Jesus had preached at Nazareth (Luke 4:16–31) and had been rejected, and now He was rejected again. This was His final visit to Nazareth; those villagers had no more opportunities. Jesus would be known as “Jesus of Nazareth,” and His followers would be called “Nazarenes,” but Nazareth would not receive Him. Matthew chose this event as a fitting close to the section “Rebellion against the King.”