(Matthew 13:52)

People who understand the old are commonly confused by the new. This is true in every area of life. This is true in every age. There was a time when most people walked, and they were concerned when more and more people began to ride horses. There was a time when most people rode horses, and they were concerned when more and more people began to use carriages. There was a time when most people rode carriages or wagons, and they were concerned when more and more people began to ride motor cars. There was a time when most people rode automobiles, and they were concerned when more and more people began to travel by air. And on it goes.

The same thing is true in every area of life: changes in the work place, in marriage roles, in parenting styles, in lifestyles, in education, or any area you wish to name. We who understand the old are commonly confused by the new.

It is certainly true spiritually. We say spiritually that nothing is new. In a sense, that is true. God has not changed. Christ has not changed. The Holy Spirit has not changed. What God accomplished in Christ has not changed.

But anything we learn more accurately and more correctly from scripture about God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and what God accomplished in Christ is new to us. Because no generation ever perfectly understands God, or Christ, or the Holy Spirit, or what God accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we always will be learning and understanding things we did not know. Each time we learn and understand, what we discover is "new" to us.

In a way it is not new: it has been true since the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus. In a way it is new to us because we learned and understood something we did not know. In that sense we will always grow, and we will always be moving from the old to the new.

  1. There is a person who serves a unique, invaluable role in God's work.
    1. This person knows the old and recognizes the new.
      1. He or she understands both the old and the new.
      2. In that understanding, he or she can help others understand the old and the new.
    2. Jesus told us about this unique person in Matthew 13:51,52.
      1. He asked his disciples, "Do you understand these teachings that I have given you about the kingdom?"
      2. And they said, "Yes."
      3. Then Jesus said, "A scribe who has become a disciple is like a father who is in charge of a household."
        1. "He has treasures;" perhaps Jesus was speaking of the treasures of experience and wisdom.
        2. Some of the things that he shares with his household are old, understood, and obviously valuable.
        3. But he also shares things with his household that are new, that they had never seen or considered.
        4. And because of him, they see the value of the new.
    3. To get the full impact of Jesus' statement, consider the situation.
      1. Jesus' mother, brothers, and sisters came looking for Jesus, and they found him teaching a large crowd of people (Matthew 12:46-50).
        1. Someone told Jesus that his family was there and wanted to speak to him.
        2. Jesus declared that all who were his disciples, all who did the will of God were his family.
      2. On that same day, he went to the sea shore, sat in a boat just off the shore, and taught parables to a huge crowd of people who stood on the shore (Matthew 13).
        1. First, he taught the parable of the sower.
          1. When he finished that parable, his disciples asked him, "Why are you teaching in parables?"
          2. He explained why he taught in parables, and to them he explained the parable of the sower.
        2. Then he taught a whole series of parables on the kingdom of heaven.
          1. He taught a parable about an enemy who corrupted a planted field of wheat by sowing a weed.
            1. The land owner left the weeds in the field until harvest time.
            2. Then he gathered the weeds and burned them.
          2. He compared the kingdom to the growth and development of a tiny mustard seed that grew into a 12 foot tall tree.
          3. He compared the kingdom to yeast.
          4. In fact, that day, every lesson he taught the multitude he taught in the form of a parable.
      3. The huge crowd of people left, and Jesus and his disciples went to a house.
        1. In private they said, "Please explain the parable about the enemy who sowed weed seeds in a man's wheat field."
        2. Jesus explained that parable, and then he taught his disciples three more parables about the kingdom.
          1. He said the kingdom was like a hidden treasure that a man discovered.
          2. The kingdom was like a pearl merchant who was looking for the most valuable pearl that existed.
          3. The kingdom was like a drag net that caught anything and everything when it was used.
      4. At the conclusion of all these teachings, he made the point about the scribe.
        1. He asked, "Do you understand what I have said?"
        2. He declared the great value of a scribe who could share things old and new from his treasures.

  2. Let's dig a little deeper to get the full impact of what Jesus said about the scribe.
    1. The scribe was an expert in the Jewish scriptures we call the Old Testament.
      1. A Jewish scribe copied scripture by hand.
      2. The process he used was exact, pains taking, and meticulous.
      3. To insure accuracy, there were a number of checks that were performed on his copies.
      4. This process with time and repetition made him an expert in the divine wisdom and teachings of the old.
    2. This scribe was like the scribe of Mark 12:28-34 who recognized that Jesus' teachings were correct.
      1. A scribe who understood Jesus' teachings understood new revelations from God's wisdom and purposes.
      2. He could bring new, valuable understandings from the treasures of God's wisdom and purpose.
      3. This unique role helped people see and understand the old and new from the wisdom and purposes of God.
    3. Let's illustrate that fact with the concept of God's kingdom.
      1. Until Jesus began to teach, God's kingdom was the nation of Israel.
        1. It was a specific people who had descended from Abraham.
        2. It occupied a specific geographic place with specific boundaries.
        3. It was ruled by a human king.
        4. It contained a temple on a specific geographic site in a specific city that was declared by God to be the only place for sacrificial worship.
      2. But Jesus taught about God's kingdom in entirely different terms.
        1. It was not limited to one nation of people who descended from Abraham.
        2. It did not occupy a geographic area with physical boundaries.
        3. It did not have a human ruler.
        4. It did not have a specific site for worship that was the approved place for worship.
      3. What Jesus taught about God's kingdom was radically different to what was recognized to be God's kingdom for 1400 to 1500 years.
      4. The scribe who understood both could help people see and understand the great wisdom of God and His purposes in both the old and the new.

  3. We, as Christ's church, struggle to grasp and understand God's wisdom in the new and the old.
    1. For example, we are so comfortable with our old understandings and practices in the church that it is very difficult for us to learn from scripture anything that we have not understood in the past.
      1. It is so easy to think that we have always understood everything that can be understood.
      2. It is so easy to think that we have always been 100% correct in everything that we understood.
      3. It is so easy to believe that there is nothing new to understand.
      4. It is hard to learn.
    2. As hard as it is for us to be open to learning from scripture, it was much, much harder for the Jewish people of Jesus' day.
      1. They heard a voice, but they had nothing in writing.
      2. If it had been in print, most of them could not have read it.
      3. And this voice belonged to a man who had not been trained in the scriptures by the accepted schools of that day.
    3. Let me give you a specific example. I encourage you to follow me in your Bibles.
      1. Deuteronomy 12:5,10-14.
        1. By God's specific commandment, Israel was to offer national worship at one specific place, "the place I cause my name to dwell."
        2. Only there could an Israelite sacrifice or give his tithe.
        3. They were absolutely forbidden to offer sacrifices any place else.
      2. Deuteronomy 15:19,20.
        1. All first born male animals and first born sons belonged to God (Exodus 13:1,2).
        2. First born sons were redeemed (Exodus 13:13).
        3. First born animals were sacrificed to God and eaten by the family.
        4. That sacrifice could only occur at this place.
      3. Deuteronomy 16:2.
        1. The Passover was to be observed only at this place.
        2. Only here could the lamb be sacrificed and eaten.
      4. Deuteronomy 16:16.
        1. Three times a year every Israelite man was to travel to this place to observe three occasions of national worship.
        2. Only here could this national worship be offered.
        3. When Solomon built the temple, God accepted the temple to be that place permanently (2 Chronicles 7:12).
      5. For eight hundred years the temple mount in the city of Jerusalem was that place.
    4. With the death and resurrection of Jesus, God no longer appointed a geographic place as the site of acceptable worship.
      1. No longer was there a holy site where people had to assemble to worship God (John 4:21-24).
      2. The temple of God was no longer a place; the temple of God was the body of the Christian (I Corinthians 6:19,20).

Can you see the incredible challenge of being able to know the old and recognize the new? Do you see the indescribable value of the person who not only does that, but can help others understand by revealing the God's treasures in both?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 24 May 1998

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