Commentary on Matthew 13:47-53
We come to the seventh and last of the parables in this discourse. Of course, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus did not speak them one after the other as they are presented here. They are the work of the author’s editing, putting matters with a common theme into one place.
Today’s Kingdom parable points to the end of time. There will come a time for the end of the Kingdom on earth and then those who belong and those who do not will be clearly distinguished and separated from each other. That is something which cannot and should not be done now as the parable of the weeds indicated.
When will that end be? That, of course, we do not know – fortunately! But one thing we do know is that our own end will come in a relatively short time, even if we live to be 100. And when that happens, it will be clear to God, if not to others, whether we are leaving this world in the Kingdom or outside it, that is, whether we are with God or against him.
How can we make sure we are in the right place? By making sure that I get confession and the ‘last sacraments’ before I die? Don’t bet on it! The best guarantee is to enrol in the Kingdom today and every day, to live, with Christ’s help, in the way he has shown us. If we do that on a day to day basis the future will take care of itself and there is no need to worry.
The whole discourse is then brought to an end by Jesus asking his disciples if they understand what he has been saying and they say they do.
Then Jesus gives a description of the truly learned disciple. He is a “scribe”, an interpreter of God’s Word, who can bring from his storeroom “both the new and the old”, someone who has both the wealth of the Old Testament as well as the vision of the New. “This picture of a ‘scribe who has become a disciple’,” comments the Jerusalem Bible, “sums up the whole ideal of the evangelist and may well be a self-portrait.” The author of this gospel is clearly a Jew who has become a Christian.
As Jesus said earlier, he had not come to destroy the traditions of the ‘old’ Hebrew covenant but to fulfil it with a new covenant. He would equally reject those who abandoned the Hebrew tradition as well as those who rejected the new insights which he brought. This is a process which goes on today in the Christian faith. There is a continuing and creative tension between what has been handed down in the past and the new understandings which arise with changing circumstances. We all have to be both conservative and progressive at the same time!