The Bible really is an hilarious book. There are all sorts of points of entry for the sarcastic and snarky as well as those whose sense of humor is more polite and tame. This week, we have one of those moments between Jesus and his disciples that just makes me laugh. Like many of the jokes in scripture, however, the way the story is chopped up on the lectionary means we miss out.
Our scene begins with Jesus telling a few more kingdom parables to the crowd: the mustard seed and the yeast. After he finishes those two stories, the lectionary skips 11 verses that we had last Sunday: the terrible explanation of the Parable of Wheat and Tares. In that section, Matthew tells us that Jesus and his disciples had retired into the house where they were staying (13:36). After explaining to them the earlier parable (37-43), Jesus goes on to tell only his disciples the final three parables: the treasure in the field, the merchant in search of fine pearls, and the seine net. It is kind of important that we know this detail as we deal with passive aggressive Jesus in verses 51 and 52. Here’s the exchange from the Contemporary English Version.
After the Parable of the Sower, the disciple try to coax an explanation by saying that the crowds didn’t understand it. After the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, they are more direct, “Just tell us what it means, Jesus.” After three rapid-fire parables about the kingdom, Jesus knows full well that the disciples don’t have a clue what he’s talking about, but like most of us, when their honor is tested, the disciples lie. “Sure, Jesus, we get it.” And so he lays down the gauntlet with a final parable about themselves. “Every student of the Scriptures who becomes a disciples in the kingdom of heaven is like someone who brings out new and old treasures from the storeroom.” He doesn’t ask the question again, but you can infer it, “Do you understand?”
After what seems like an eternity in Romans, we are getting pretty used to listening to convoluted sentences, but this little parable might be the toughest we’ve heard yet. “Every student of the Scriptures who becomes a disciples in the kingdom of heaven is like someone who brings out new and old treasures from the storeroom.” I think I know what that parable means. I think it affirms my model of teaching for a congregation that spans at least four generations. I think I’m supposed to use the language of the people, even when that language changes dramatically depending on if you were born in 1934, 1954, 1974, or 2004. I think maybe that’s what I’m supposed to learn from it, but I also think it is hilarious. I think Jesus called the disciples’ bluff. I think they, like us, didn’t understand anything Jesus said in Matthew 13, and I think that might be the point.