November 16, 2014 “The Storeroom” Matthew 13:51-53
‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.
Don’t you love the first verse we heard this morning?
The disciples have just heard seven different parables, in two different settings, with a handful of explanations thrown in when they had questions…they’ve just heard some of the most radical teaching Jesus had to offer, they had to ask him twice what these stories meant, and yet when he asks them if they understood all of this, they simply say “Yes.”!!
Don’t you kind of get the impression that they’re just kind of trying to cover up how little they actually did catch?
It’s interesting though, as to why the people who translated the bible chose to put verse 51 with 52 and 53, instead of with the previous parable, where Jesus’ question would seem to make more sense.
You know, the original manuscripts, when scripture was originally written, it didn’t have any chapter or verse numbers, obviously. You don’t write a letter, and think in terms of chapters and verses.
These were later additions that were meant simply to make it easier for us to find what we’re looking for. (The vowels in the Old Testament were added later too, but that’s a different story for a different time).
So in a sense, the chapters and the verses…they’re kind of arbitrary sometimes.
Actually, there’s an old joke that says the people who were originally putting the chapter and verse numbers into the Bible, that they must have been doing it on horseback. 🙂
That’s the best some people can do to explain why some chapters start where they do, or why some verses are numbered the way they are. 🙂
Anyways, in my Bible, verse 51, where Jesus asks his disciples if they understand everything and they reply “yes”, it goes with what follows it rather than what precedes it. And I think it might be because what he goes on to say is dependant upon their answer.
They claim to understand what he’s saying, it’s a claim that’s supported earlier in the chapter, when Jesus makes it clear that they have been given clarity and understanding that not everyone has.
So, just to make sure, Jesus asks them if indeed they do understand all of this…and they say that they do.
“Therefore”, Jesus says.
In other words, “Since you understand what I’m saying to you”, “since you understand my teaching, or at least claim to…” therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure both what is new and what is old.”
Now, if you’re reading the NIV, you might notice that where I read the word “Treasure”, your version says “Storeroom”.
This is because, in contrast to the treasure that I talked about last week, the treasure you might own and bury in your field in order to protect from bandits, thieves, or marauding enemy soldiers, the idea in this verse is more like a storeroom within the house, you know?
A storeroom where you keep the things that are valuable, and necessary for the maintenance and the ongoing operation of your house.
It’s still treasure, but of a different kind than what you’d take out and bury.
You know, I think of a pantry, or a utility room, somewhere that you keep the items you like to have onhand, not necessarily because you use them everyday, but you use them often enough that it’s convenient to have easy access to them.
This is the storeroom that Jesus has in mind, or the “treasure” in this particular parable, that he’s referring to.
It’s where you keep your goods.
Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret about our house.
We don’t really have a storeroom, exactly.
Instead, we have multiple storage rooms. Our house is old enough that it’s full of little, odd shaped closets and rooms here and there, and we find ourselves using lots of our different closets for storing lots of different kinds of things.
But when we bought our house, there was one room in the basement that hadn’t really been cleaned out before we moved in.
We call it a fruit cellar, it’s got a dirt floor, it’s underground, and it stays pretty cool and dark in this particular room, and there’s a bank of shelving along one wall where it was obvious the previous owners kept some canned goods and other things.
The idea of a fruit cellar is that it stays cool in the summer, and warm enough in the winter, to help prevent spoilage for different kinds of things you might grow in your garden, like potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, apples, that kind of thing.
So it was a beneficial room to have, especially back before refrigeration was as easy to do as it is today.
Well, like I said, when we bought the house, this was the one room that the previous owners really hadn’t cleaned out.
I’ll be honest, it took us a long time before we decided to clean it out. (we didn’t need the space for anything, and to be honest, it’s a little creepy down there).
But one day we finally decided to do it.
We took a Saturday, and we filled up a few big garbage bags with junk.
We brought out big pieces of old carpet, broken pieces of wood, some dried up drywall plaster, a few old, rusty pails of paint…that kind of thing.
We did find a few electric motors that we had no idea if they worked or not, so we found homes for them with people who might be able to test them and use them if they did work, but basically it was just a bunch of junk that the previous owner probably, at some point, stored up, thinking that at some future point he’d get back to use these products, or fix them, or whatever.
Well, that future point had come, and we put most of it in the dump.
We did find some canning jars that, after a good wash and sterilizing, we’re using to can things in, and we found a unique bottle that we wondered if it might be worth something (it wasn’t), but really, for the most part, it was all junk.
Now, it was a lot bigger job than we thought it was going to be…partially because it had been so long since anybody cleaned out that room.
The point is this. We need to clean out our inner storerooms.
I could talk this morning about how ancient scribes, like the ones Jesus critiques so often in the gospels, I could talk about how highly educated they were, how specialized their work was, how their job was to protect the letter of the law.
I could draw comparisons to contemporary lawyers, with the years of schooling they would have committed themselves to, and the stringent rules they had to follow in order to maintain the purity of the sacred texts they were responsible to preserve.
I could talk about the way Jesus, with some shock-value, seems to be bestowing upon his disciples the somewhat coveted title of “Scribe” in this story, and the implications of that title, both for them, and for us today.
I could talk about the way he seems to be short-circuiting the whole religious system of his day, and the downright seditious nature of his statement here, when he not only compares his disciples to the scribes, but goes on to make the distinction between Scribes “trained for the Kingdom of Heaven” (that is, his disciples), and the other Scribes, who aren’t.
I could talk about the work of the Scribe in ancient Israel, and how moving and meaningful it is, then, for Jesus to entrust all who follow him, all disciples, with the same responsibilities as the official scribes of the day….he takes it up a notch, doesn’t he?
Because the scribes, they were the keepers of the storeroom.
They were the ones who made sure it was kept up, organized, clean…they were the ones who made sure nothing new came in.
They were trained, not only in reading and writing, but they were also trained in the old masters, right? They were trained in interpretation, and it was their job to pass the old treasures on from one generation to the next, as faithfully as they could.
This is why they were so highly revered, why they had the seats of honor at banquets and public events…this is why they had so much power.
They had earned it.
They were like the gatekeepers to the storeroom, they were like treasurers for the very Words of God.
Jesus here, gives his disciples a very high honor, compliment, and responsibility.
They are the Scribes, trained for the Kingdom of Heaven.
But there are two ways I want to go with this parable.
For one, the disciples, then as now, we have been entrusted with passing down the teachings of Jesus. It’s a job that’s to be taken just as seriously as the scribes of old would have approached the transmission of scripture.
We are the message. Our lives need to speak of the redemption, the forgiveness, the transformation that happens when we seek the way of Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit within our community of faith. The scary part is, that means our lives also speak of the lack of forgiveness, the absence of grace, and the need for redemption that all of us carry.
We are imperfect vessels.
But we are also the scribes, trained for the kingdom, who bring out from the storehouse treasures both old and new, for God has done a new thing in the life, and the death, and the resurrection of Christ. His mercies are indeed new every morning, just as the laws that govern our relationship to Him are as old as the hills around us.
Just as a jar of last spring’s strawberry jam goes so well with a fresh loaf of newly baked bread, so it is that the treasures we find in the Old Testament serve to compliment the New message; that of Christ and Him crucified.
But just like the fruit cellar I described earlier, as disciples of this Christ, as masters of the houses we inhabit, everything must come out to be examined in the light of this new day.
Just like our possessions, the temptation when it comes to the spiritual life is, to keep adding to the mess inside, rather than digging in and cleaning house.
The Christ-event, if we are to make it our own…it requires us to visit that storeroom, that pantry where the box of pancake mix from 1984 still sits in the back collecting dust, it requires us to bring out our treasures, both old and new, and examine them in the light of this new day.
Much of it we will find to be junk when we have the courage to face it.
It needs to be tossed, in order to make room for the new treasure, the grace offered through Christ, the forgiveness both received and extended, the open-handed generosity that replaces our striving for more…
Christ is the new treasure, but nobody has legitimate access to your storeroom, except the master of the house.
Nobody is going to clean it up for you, which makes it easy to put off cleaning it up.
But there is no room there for new treasure until you can bring out the old and recognize it for the junk it is, and at the same time preserve the genuine treasure that’s already there.
Will you pray with me as I close?
Lord Jesus, Son of David, we each have storerooms, treasure chests that are filled with more junk than useful treasure within our souls. You never force your hand, but you invite us to go there with you, to shine the light of your infinite love and understanding into those shadows. Help us, God, to examine ourselves in the light of your glorious new day, to make room for the riches you offer.