Many of us Christians believe that living in the light of the imminent return of Jesus is a desirable, even essential, behaviour pattern. The strange thing for me in this parable is that Jesus seems to be counselling the opposite. Any thing less than a long-term mindset is wasteful.
Luke 19:11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.
Tension had been building for some time as Jesus made his way to Jerusalem. Luke begins telling us about this journey in chapter 9 and reminds us again and again about it and its significance. This was a journey of destiny, and everybody knew it. The on-going sniping of his enemies was evidence that something big was going to happen and Jesus, with his constant talk of the Kingdom and his cryptic story-telling only contributes to heightening the tension. What people, in their enthusiasm, simply hadn’t heard, and what Jesus persisted in telling them, was that he was going to go to Jerusalem to die.
He had finished his time in Jericho and was now moving on. But just 17 miles from Jerusalem and with everyone was on edge, he tells this parable in order to bring the people back down to earth. Funnily enough it’s about a man of noble birth on a journey to a distant country in order to be crowned King.
And before going he distributed money to ten of his servants. Not a huge amount, about £5k in our money, but enough nonetheless. His instructions are simple:
Luke 19:13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. `Put this money to work,’ he said,`until I come back.’
Away he goes on his journey with his dissenters in hot pursuit.. A delegation goes to try and prevent him from assuming the throne. But in a simple, no-nonsense statement we read:
Luke 19:15 “He was made king, however, and returned home.
He returns now as King with a realm to rule over. But first he returns to his servants, the ones in whom he placed trust a long time previously. His purpose in seeing them is simple: ‘to find out what they had gained with[the money]’ (:15). Despite the long journey and the serious events, he had not forgotton.
Servants 1 and 2
Luke 19:16 “The first one came and said,`Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “`Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied.`Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ 18 “The second came and said,`Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 “His master answered,`You take charge of five cities.’
Both of these servants had been diligent in the discharge of their duties. Both had put their resources to work and had earned a return for the king. It seems that a long period of time must have passed for 1 mina to earn ten more or even five.
The king commends the busy servants and rewards them with even bigger responsibility. In fact, the new responsibility is directly proportionate to their faithfulness in regard to their master’s money.
It seems to me that the whole focus of this parable is on what takes place in the interim between the Master going away (19:12) and his return as King (19:12,13,15). What happens after his return, i.e.the distribution of responsibility in the kingdom, is determined by what is done in this interim period. The servants are called to be faithful to the absent king and accountable to him on his return.
Here’s the rub, then. The servants are entrusted with something from the king and charged with stewarding it well until he returns. They are expected to work in this interim period between his going away and his coming again. ‘Faithfulness now will result in kingdom responsibility later’ says Bock.
But what about the third servant? More later.