51 “Have you understood all these things?” “Yes,” they told Him.
52 “Therefore,” He said to them, “every student of Scripture instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who brings out of his storeroom what is new and what is old.”
53 When Jesus had finished these parables, He left there.
Jesus is still in Peter’s house, having earlier dismissed the crowds at the shore. He explains to His disciples the parable of the wheat and tares; offers two parables that illustrate the priceless value of the kingdom of heaven; launches into the parable of the dragnet, also known as the parable of the good and bad fish; and finally gives the parable of the storeroom – the last of eight parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13. Keep in mind how Jesus ties these parables together to deepen His disciples’ understanding of the “mystery” of the kingdom of heaven:
- The parable of the sower illustrates that the kingdom can be resisted. The Messiah the Jewish leaders are looking for – political and military – will indeed come one day in power and great glory, but first He must come humbly as the Lamb of God. Many will resist, reject or oppose Him.
- The parable of the wheat and tares teaches that throughout this present, evil age, believers and unbelievers will live side-by-side, to be separated and judged one day.
- The parables of the mustard seed and leaven show that the kingdom already has come – but quietly, almost imperceptibly.
- The parables of the hidden treasure and priceless pearl demonstrate that the kingdom is of immeasurable value.
- The parable of the dragnet teaches the blunt truth that those outside the kingdom will be separated eternally from God in hell.
- Now, the parable of the storeroom makes it clear that those who understand the kingdom are to share its good news liberally.
The central theme of this parable is that the gospel of the kingdom is to be shared liberally. Jesus teaches His disciples the “mystery” of the kingdom – a more complete understanding of the Old Testament prophecies about the kingdom of heaven and their fulfillment in the person of Jesus of Nazareth – and in turn they are to take these “old” and “new” treasures and teach them to others.
The Life Application Bible comments:
Anyone who understands God’s real purpose in the law as revealed in the Old Testament has a real treasure. The Old Testament points the way to Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus always upheld its authority and relevance. But there is a double benefit to those who understand Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of heaven. This was a new treasure that Jesus was revealing. Both the old and new teaching give practical guidelines for faith and for living in the world. The religious leaders, however, were trapped in the old and blind to the new. They were looking for a future kingdom preceded by judgment. Jesus, however, taught that the kingdom was now and the judgment was future. The religious leaders were looking for a physical and temporal kingdom (via military rebellion and physical rule), but they were blind to the spiritual significance of the kingdom that Christ brought.
Adam Clarke sheds even more light on this theme in his Commentary: “No man can properly understand the Old Testament but through the medium of the New, nor can the New be so forcibly or successfully applied to the conscience of a sinner as through the medium of the Old. The law is still a schoolmaster to lead men to Christ – by it is the knowledge of sin, and, without it, there can be no conviction – where it ends, the Gospel begins, as by the Gospel alone is salvation from sin.”
The landowner is the central character in this parable. Experienced and wise, he has stored up an abundance from previous harvests to complement the fresh meat, fruits and vegetables his land now produces, and he makes these available to all those entrusted to his care. Even more, the other things he owns are secure and dedicated for sharing with those who come under his roof. Jesus says “every student of Scripture instructed in the kingdom of heaven” is like this landowner, taking the riches of the Old Testament and adding to them Christ’s teaching on the “mystery” of the kingdom, thus “correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Adam Clark comments:
A small degree of knowledge is not sufficient for a preacher of the Gospel. The sacred writings should be his treasure, and he should properly understand them. His knowledge does not consist in being furnished with a great variety of human learning … (but) in being well instructed in the things concerning the kingdom of heaven, and the art of conducting men thither. Again, it is not enough for a man to have these advantages in possession: he must bring them forth, and distribute them abroad. A good pastor will not, like a miser, keep these things to himself to please his fancy; nor, like a merchant, traffic with them, to enrich himself; but, like a bountiful father or householder, distribute them with a liberal though judicious hand, for the comfort and support of the whole heavenly family.
Jesus commends His disciples as scribes (KJV) or students of scripture (HCSB) instructed in the kingdom of heaven. They are learning so that they might teach. Ezra, who prepared his heart to teach in Israel, is called a “scribe skilled in the law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6, 10), and Jesus’ followers are to be like Ezra in knowledge and passion regarding the “old” and “new” treasures.
At the time of Ezra and probably for some time after, the priests served a dual role as scholars, but over the course of time this changed. As the Law grew in importance, its study and interpretation became a lifework by itself. So a new class of scholars arose, the scribes, who were not priests but who devoted themselves to the comprehensive study of the first five books of the Bible. During the Hellenistic period, the priests, especially the wealthier ones, were strongly influenced by Hellenism and turned their attention to pagan culture. This aroused opposition by the scribes so that by the time of Christ, the scribes formed a distinct profession and held undisputed authority over the thoughts of the people. In the New Testament the scribes are called “students of Scripture,” “experts in the law” and “teachers of the law” (see Matt. 13:52, 22:35; Luke 5:17, 7:30, 10:25, 11:45, 14:3; Acts 5:34).
The “storeroom” also is known as the “treasury” or “place of deposit.” It is a place not only for money, but for anything necessary for the comfort of the family. The Hebrew word ostar means depository, cellar, garner, store or treasure-house, so it protects and preserves anything of value (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). For the disciple of Jesus, the storeroom is the human heart – more specifically, the mind set on “what is above” (Col. 3:2) and the spirit yielded to Christ. Like the psalmist, believers are to treasure God’s Word in their hearts so they will not sin (Psalm 119:11). But even more, they are to understand the deeper truths of Scripture so they may “contend for the faith” (Jude 3) and “always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Matthew Henry writes: “The instruction of a gospel minister must be in the kingdom of heaven, that is it about which his business lies. A man may be a great philosopher and politician, and yet if not instructed to the kingdom of heaven, he will make but a bad minister.”
The treasures “new” and “old” are, of course, are the understanding of the mystery of the kingdom of heaven in the context of the Old Testament. Jesus asked His disciples if they “understood all these things,” to which they replied, “Yes” (Matt. 13:51). It is then that Jesus called them students of Scripture (scribes), likened them to landowners and challenged them to reach deeply into their storeroom of understanding and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. “Christ himself received that he might give; so must we, and we shall have more. In bringing forth, things new and old do best together; old truths, but new methods and expressions, especially new affections” (Matthew Henry Unabridged).
“Christ for three years gave instructions to the apostles; and they who preach should be able to understand the gospel; to defend it; and to communicate its truth to others. Human learning alone is indeed of no value to a minister; but all learning that will enable him better to understand the Bible, and to communicate its truths, is valuable, and should, if possible, be gained. A minister should be like the father of a family: distributing to the church as it needs; and out of his treasures bringing forth truth to confirm the feeble, enlighten the ignorant, and guide those in danger of straying away” (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament).