I’ve known people over the years who are always looking for something new. Whether it’s clothes, technology, music or motorcycles, but they pretty much live by the motto, ‘Out with the old; in with the new.’
There have also been people I’ve known who reject anything new and hang on to what’s old as much as they can. The old is familiar, safe and comfortable, so they don’t see any reason to change from the old ways they know and love.
If we think about a spectrum with a desire for the new at the one end and hanging on to the old at the other, where do you think Jesus would be?
I’ve heard people argue that Jesus was all about the new. He came to teach us a new way of relating to God and living as God’s people that was very different from the religious people of his time and place. Where the old ways were about the rule of law and threats of punishment, people like to point to Jesus teaching a new way of grace, love and peace. They can argue that the parables of Matthew 13 are an example of Jesus rejecting the old, law-based ways of religion, and initiating a new relational way of knowing God.
When we get to the end of this series of Jesus’ parable, though, we find that Jesus was not in favour of rejecting the old in pursuing the new, but neither was he ignoring the new in order to hang on to the old. Instead, in verse 52 we hear Jesus say that people who have been schooled in the old ways who are then discipled in Jesus’ new teachings about the Kingdom of God have both new and old treasures.
For Jesus, what’s important is not whether it is old or new. What’s important to Jesus is the treasure itself.
The treasure he is talking about is the Kingdom of God. Jesus has already described the Kingdom as a treasure that a person would sell everything they have to possess in verse 44. This Kingdom is so valuable to us because it gifts us with ‘righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17 NIV). We receive this Kingdom through the presence of Jesus, because he brings the Kingdom to us through the gospel (see Matthew 4:17).
We can find this good news in the Old Testament when we read it through the lens of the gospel of Jesus, and so he doesn’t get rid of the old. Instead we can re-interpret the old ways in the light of Christ to find the ‘righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ there as well. Ultimately, whether the ways are old or new, what matters is Jesus and the coming of his Kingdom through the gospel, because he is the one that gives us life and brings us into a new relationship with God as his children.
This is really important for us to hear as a congregation. We are currently talking about simplifying what we do around a strong discipling focus, as well as re-thinking our ministry to young people by working through the material contained in Growing Young. Some people might see these conversations as an opportunity to discard some of the ‘old ways’ of doing church to embrace new approaches or practices. Others might be afraid that we intend to discard the old ways, and so hang on to them more tightly.
It is critical that we hear what Jesus is saying: what’s important is not whether our treasure is old or new. What’s important is the treasure itself – Jesus and the coming of God’s Kingdom through the gospel.
This treasure is what will gift all people, both old and young, with the grace and love of God. This treasure is what will give us purpose and direction as we seek to communicate God’s goodness to our young and older people alike. This treasure is what will create faith, hope and love in people’s hearts and transform us into the people God is calling us to be. This treasure will grow us as Jesus’ disciples and equip us to participate in his mission in the world. This treasure – the good news of Jesus and the coming of his Kingdom – will give us everything we need for our future in this world and in the next.
Whether we prefer old or new ways of thinking or practice, what matters is the Treasure himself – Jesus Christ and the Kingdom he brings through the gospel. When we treasure him, we find the riches of God’s righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. As we grow with these riches in our life, God’s Treasure spills out from us into the lives of the people around us.
More to think about:
- Generally, do you tend to prefer things that are new or old? Why is that?
- What about in your church – do you prefer old traditions or new innovations? Can you explain why they are important to you?
- Where do you imagine Jesus sitting in the spectrum between the old & new? Closer to one end or the other? In the middle? Can you explain why you think that way
- What might be the ‘new’ treasures Jesus says the homeowner (NLT) in his parable brings out of the storeroom? What might the ‘new’ treasures might be?
- If you were to focus on the ‘Treasure’ of Christ & the coming of his Kingdom in your congregation, instead of whether the ‘treasure’ is old or new, how might things be different?