“Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasure as well as old.”
With all His conflict with the Pharisees and teachers of law, it surprising to hear Jesus affirming then in some places like this. Jesus here tells teachers of the law that they are welcome to join in the kingdom of heaven and that not everything they have learned need be cast aside.
But perhaps this should not surprise us. He declared earlier in the sermon on the mount that “not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).
Here’s how I make sense of this: I spent the first decade of my life in a church that taught much of the Old Testament, in fact the whole Bible, as interesting stories. But I never heard the gospel there. When I did hear the gospel preached to me at age 11, it was like yeast being added to all those stories (to borrow from another of Jesus’ parables). All of a sudden they came alive in a new way. It was the same old story, Samson & Delilah or Jesus healing a leper, but suddenly it had something to do with me personally, in a way that even telling these stories in a moralistic manner could not compare.
When we come to the Old Testament, we often struggle with reading it as Christians. What does Ehud stabbing a fat king have to do with me? How can the bleak outlook of Ecclesiastes minister to one who holds fast their hope in Christ?
Jesus says here, don’t just toss them out. The picture of the merchant is the picture of a wise person, who understands the value of things that might not have the same utility they once had. After collecting Sears catalogues for a number of years, my mother-in-law discovered that the most valuable part was the seasonal leaflet promotion that came with the catalogue, precisely because it was the first thing that everyone threw away.
So go back to one of those Old Testament stories that still confounds you and ask Jesus:
Lord, what is valuable here that I, your disciple, need to know?