Matthew 13, Jesus’ third major discourse in the first gospel, is devoted to parables that explain God’s kingdom in Christ. Verses 51–52 conclude this discourse and look at the Old Testament’s role in the new covenant era.
Before His final kingdom parable, Jesus asks His disciples if they have understood all that He has said (v. 51). They answer yes, which is an overestimation of their insight since the disciples later have no clue about the nature of the kingdom and the suffering it entails. For example, Peter will object to the Lord’s crucifixion (16:21–23) and all the disciples flee upon Christ’s arrest in Gethsemane (26:47–56). Still, the Twelve are not wholly wrong to say that they have understood our Savior’s teaching, for He has explained His parables to them (13:18–23, 36–43, 47–50). Their comprehension is not mature, but it is not absent altogether. James Boice writes: “Their yes did not actually mean that they understood all that Jesus was teaching, only that they believed all that they did understand and were prepared to act on it” (The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 1, p. 252). All believers do see the truth, albeit through a glass darkly. Our knowledge will not be mature until we are with Christ in glory (1 Cor. 13:12).
Jesus’ final parable of the kingdom tells us that those who have been trained for the kingdom are able to bring forth treasures both new and old (Matt. 13:52). Discipleship precedes understanding; only those trained for the kingdom — only those who have taken upon themselves the yoke of Christ — are able to bring forth new treasures along with the old. The special revelation of Jesus allows His people to see in the Old Testament kingdom truths that have been there since the foundation of the world, but which have largely gone unnoticed (vv. 34–35). These new truths are the key to the right appropriation of Scripture, but they are not in opposition to the old truths evident apart from the parables of Jesus. As Dr. John MacArthur comments, “The disciples are not to spurn the old for the sake of the new. Rather, they are to understand the new insights gleaned from Jesus’ parables in light of the old truths, and vice versa (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1150).
The new things taught by Jesus are loyal to the intent and purpose of the Old Testament. As one commentator has said, the old covenant revelation is not abolished, it is “judiciously integrated” into the new. Nevertheless, apart from becoming a disciple of Jesus, we cannot see this precious truth. We believe in order to understand, and so we must make sure we are following the way of Christ if we want to understand His teaching.
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