Trash? Or Treasure?
Matthew 13 contains the third of five sermons from Jesus in this gospel. In this sermon, Jesus teaches eight parables about the Kingdom of the Heavens. Last week, we tackled the first parable, the Parable of the Soils. This Sunday, we will tackle the other seven.
The last parable of chapter 13 is a rarely-studied parable—probably because it is somewhat strange and ambiguous. Jesus asks the disciples, “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.”
The scribes of Jesus’ day have been rigorously trained in both rabbinical tradition and scripture. It’s their job to interpret and apply the law to every possible situation. Jesus says that He is training a new kind of scribe—Kingdom scribes who re-interpret everything through the lens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
These new scribes discover that there are some old treasures that are still quite valuable. But just because something is old doesn’t make it valuable. As these scribes look at everything through the lens of the kingdom, they find new things that have replaced or improved upon some of the old things. In those cases, it’s the new which is treasured. The newness of the kingdom allows them to re-interpret the value of that which is old. That’s what this new breed of scribe does.
In the Kingdom of the Heavens it’s God’s job, not ours, to sort out the non-keepers. Our job is to keep fishing.
The question, “Have you understood all these things?” is also for us. If we are to be genuine disciples of the kingdom, it is imperative that we understand these parables. Jesus is still training scribes who can discern between the valuable and the worthless.
After the Parable of the Sower, Jesus tells another seed story. A farmer plants wheat, but his enemies come at night and sow weed seed. When the plants initially appear, it looks like a great crop! Only later, when the plants mature, does the farmer realize that half his bumper crop is weeds. His farmhands ask, “Do you want us to pull up the weeds?”
“No!” says the farmer. “Let them grow together till the harvest. At that time, we will pull up everything, sort the weeds into burn piles, and put the grain in the barn.” The farmer exercises great patience. This is a parable about Kingdom patience.
The next two parables are similar. Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. These are tiny seed—eighteen can fit on a dime. Plant that seed in good dirt and, in time, you have yourself a tree in which birds can nest.
The Kingdom is also like a little leaven put in sixty pounds of flour. Knead that leaven into the flour and, in time, you have so much bread dough that you can feed the whole neighborhood.
These two parables illustrate that the Kingdom begins small. As Jesus preaches, there are only a handful of true followers. But in time, the kingdom explodes. In the world today, there are 2.18 billion people who claim Jesus as Lord of their life. Of course, many of those are just fans of Jesus, not genuine followers. In the Kingdom, small beginnings produce great results.
In the parables of the Treasure of the Field and the Pearl of Great Price, Jesus teaches us about the value of the Kingdom. He tells stories about people who sacrifice everything to gain the Kingdom. They are eager to sacrifice everything! Why? Because the Kingdom is worth it! Nothing is more valuable than the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is Priority One.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
In the last parable, Jesus teaches that, in the Kingdom, there will be those who are “keepers” and those who will be discarded. When we fish, we catch “keepers” to clean and eat. Other fish we throw back. We make that judgment. But that’s not true in the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of the Heavens it’s God’s job, not ours, to sort out the non-keepers. Our job is to keep fishing. This parable has the same meaning as the Parable of the Weeds. This, too, is a parable about Kingdom patience.
Kingdom patience. Kingdom growth. Kingdom priorities. This is what Jesus wants us to ponder and understand.
LOSING PATIENCE WITH THE CULTURE
Our culture is headed south at light speed. It advocates sex anytime, anywhere, with anyone. If a pregnancy results, abort it—no matter how far along you are. Human trafficking is out of control. Porn sites dominate the web. Our world is filled with terrorism, war, and violence.
People ask, “Where’s God? If there really is a God, why doesn’t He put an end to all this? Aren’t the wolf and the lamb supposed to be lying down with one another right now? Why doesn’t God destroy all these evildoers so we righteous folks can live in peace and safety?”
How do we answer those questions? Well, we listen to the parables. We learn from the parables. Patience. Patience. A Day of Judgement is coming… but God is not in a hurry. We must have patience.
A day of separation is coming. A day when all who promote sin and evil will be eliminated. And the righteous will shine like the sun forever. Jesus’ disciples will be a part of that, but they won’t be the only ones. All of God’s faithful from days gone by will be there, too—all of God’s righteous ones will shine like the sun… forever.