The Parable of the Pending Kingdom


This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series The Gospel of Luke

 

This politician hasn’t paid his taxes – but wants to run for office. That politician cannot keep his vow to his wife but claims he’ll keep a promise to this country. Another politician has never made a real decision in their life but they believe they can succeed in office. One by one you can check them off the list by their repeated failures in the small things for if they cannot be trusted in the small things, who would be wise to trust them with the big things? In this political season (as in every day) it would be wise to clarify that what someone does in private has a great deal to do with their capacity in public.

The word of God has much to say on the topics of Politics, business, and everyday life. And in this one principle of faithfulness it cries out to be heard in every arena. Most assuredly it applies to we who claim to be servants of Christ Jesus as we await his coming kingdom. It also speaks to those who reject Christ; and more directly it teaches us something about how the kingdom is about to be enacted, and it does so by referring to history which was very recent in the memories of the people of Israel.

But the parable we read in Luke 19:11-27 goes so far as to tell us explicitly what it is about. Pay attention to the topic for it is given in verse 11.

Luke 19:11-27.

The Departure and Return of the King

Approaching the parables of Christ comes with a simple principle. Not everything within the parable has meaning; but only what the parable attempts to communicate has meaning. Most of the time the context of the parable itself tells you what it wants to communicate. With that foundation in place we can look at the parable’s set up to find all the information we need to make a good reading of it.

First: note the reason that is explicitly stated. Jesus has been on a march to Jerusalem since Luke 9:51. Luke has been constantly reminding us of it. Now Jesus has reached the last major stop along the way: Jericho. Jesus has healed the blind, saved Zaccheus, and proclaimed the good news of the kingdom. That means Jerusalem is next, and the twelve disciples, together with Zaccheus still standing there probably near the sycamore tree together with the crowds who are all leaning in to hear what Jesus has been saying are all assuming that the kingdom of heaven is suddenly going to appear when he enters Jerusalem.

In their minds, Jesus is going to find a sword, rally the Passover worshipers converging in Jerusalem even now, and start his slaughter of the wicked Roman Empire with the soldiers standing guard there. Then amid the wreckage of battle he will be crowned king and there he will start a full scale assault upon Rome. Yes! It is time for the kingdom to begin to dawn at last!

So this is what triggers the parable. The beginning thrust of the parable is all about the wait for the kingdom that is about to begin. Now the Jews had in their own recent history two back to back events that mirrored this parable. Jesus is essentially quoting the newspaper. “Both Herod the Great in 40 b.c. and his son Archelaus in 4 b.c. went to Rome to receive confirmation of their rule.” So that had an immediate frame of reference for this sort of thing. In order for a king to have certainty of rule he had to receive the rule from the highest authority. In this case however the highest authority is God the Father, not Rome. Luke’s readers are likely concerned about the delay in Jesus’ return. For them there is a simple message: The delay is not a surprise, Jesus taught about it.

Moreover there is a message for the church here in this parable. We are not simply waiting without any role to play whatsoever. You and I are stewards of what Jesus has given us while we await His return. We are a part of this parable for we are still waiting for the return of the nobleman: Jesus. For this reason, we cannot afford to read this parable and study it as dispassionate observers. We are its participants – and I will dare say that we are the servants bearing the master’s gift with orders to “do business with it” as we await His return.

For this is the doctrine of the return of Jesus Christ in view. Jesus has gone away to receive the authority to reign over all the earth – and he awaits that moment when the Father will order it and Jesus will descend again just as he ascended (Acts 1) and will establish his kingdom here on earth. The King will return. But Jesus didn’t just leave his pending kingdom to lie fallow while he went – he empowered his church to steward his resources.

The Stewardship of the church

While it is clear enough that Jesus is the nobleman who goes to the “distant country” of heaven to receive the rule over his kingdom and then return; it is also clear that Jesus has entrusted his servants with something. In the parable it is called a Mina: roughly 100 days’ wages, so a little less than 1/3 of your annual income if you want to make a mental comparison. He gives them 10 minas (1000 days wages) but it is apparently divided among them so that it appears that ten servants each get a single mina to do business with until he gets back.

There is a symbol here for us to pay attention to. John Chrysostom, One of the early church fathers around 400 AD observed that “Scripture is accustomed to use the number ten as a sign of perfection…” That is quite true so if you have the perfect number of servants of Jesus receiving a perfect gift from Jesus in order to do business with that gift until Jesus should return (with an expectation of giving an accounting for your work) than we can easily enough see the meaning.

God gives his servants (The church) something. What is it? What is the Mina supposed to represent in the parable? Is the mina spiritual gifts? Is the mina the gospel? Is the Mina the word of God, the Bible? Is the mina something else altogether?

I submit to you that the text of the Parable does not tell us, and that is probably because we have the freedom and the necessity to calculate everything we are and have into the equation.

  • …What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, NASB95)
  • … “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” (John 3:27, NASB95)
  • Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6–8, NASB95)
  • As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10, NASB95)

Your home, your career, your family, your relative health (or lack of it), your wealth or poverty, your abilities, your skills, and your talents are all “minas” given to you with the order to do business with it until Christ comes back.

If we start with the idea of Spiritual gifts knowing that it extends beyond all of this then you’re in good condition to consider how this works. God has given to his church certain spiritual gifts which are ordered to be invested in service. (“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10, NASB95))

Serving the church does not just mean doing something here, it means everything from sharing the gospel to giving to missions, to going on mission, to doing some task to strengthen the church, or by washing the feet of the sick and poor and doing the works of Jesus. Even teaching. In these things you function as either a midwife bringing the church new life, or as a caretaker helping to raise these babes in the faith up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But in no situation is there a proper allowance for doing nothing for Jesus. You are given a proverbial mina to do business with. It is only yours for a season and the master is coming. He will expect an accounting for it. The judgment seat of Christ for a Christian is not “are you saved or lost” but rather “Do you gain reward or not?”

If this is correct then the challenge before you is clear. Are you serving the church of Christ or not? Or are you burying your gifts? Are you a good steward of your time and your money? Let me be blunt: your faithfulness right now to live in obedience to your coming king by using the skills, talents, and abilities he has given you in order to serve the church is the basis upon which your reward in the consummated kingdom will be based upon.

I do not read about retirement upon this earth from kingdom work. Your role may change as your abilities to use it changes, but the irrevocable gift of God is yours to invest. Are you investing YOURSELF in the kingdom of Christ?

The Judgment of the King

When Jesus comes, he will judge. He will judge the redeemed on their works in order to determine rewards; he will judge the enemies upon their works to determine their punishment as well.

The first servant steps forward and declares that he has made 1000% return on investment. His reward is 10 cities over which to rule. The second has made 500% return, and likewise he receives 5 cities to rule over. We would like to major upon these two men for their reward is incredibly gracious. God has promised that his servants will reign with him and the hint of it is seen here as well. But it will not be a blank check given to the faithless. It will be determined by your faithfulness. The principle is stated repeatedly: He who is faithful in little things will be faithful in much.

But it is not the first two we dwell upon but the last. This sorry fellow serves as a loving warning to any who imagine that they can walk the aisle, say a prayer, and never again live for Christ. He is the third to step forward and we do not get to witness the rest of the ten servants for these three are sufficient to teach us the warning of the negligent steward.

The third servant is a cowering fool who took what the master gave and kept it hidden and safe. Please get this point clear: He also does not know the master. He has already shown amazing generosity to servants #1 and #2 in giving them cities. But #3 paints a different picture. He says the king is a hard man who takes more than he receives and more than he is due.

We also learn the standard by which Jesus will judge: righteousness extracted from your own words. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we get to choose how God judges. Rather it points to a principle of scripture that everyone will be judged by God’s standard, but it will be in proportion to our knowledge and understanding.

Romans 1:21 and 2:5-16 teach that you are responsible for what you know. Perhaps it is best summarized by Luke 12:48:

And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luke 12:47–48, NASB95)

Nothing more is told us about this sorry servant except that his minah is taken away and added to the most faithful servant in the room. Amid protests we learn another principle which we’ve seen before in Luke 8:18: “To everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”

Then, at the final word of the parable we hear the judgment that fell upon the group we didn’t mention at the beginning of the parable. They had sent a delegation to the superior throne intended to deny the king of his kingdom. The nobleman’s words are hard: bring them here and slay them in my presence.

Those who reject Jesus as their Lord and king now will in that day be rejected by the king. The burden of eternity weighs in the balance. Once again we learn that there are only two classes of people: Followers of Christ and rejecters of Christ.

Application

We can read enough in the rest of scripture to place the faithful stewards among those who are true followers because real faith that actually saves is a faith that will modify your behavior towards Christ. Likewise the enemies of Christ are easy to place because they do not trust in Him, nor will they submit to Him as king. It is these sad souls who will be condemned to an eternity of separation away from the only source of joy and giver of life.

But it is the miserable servant in the middle whom those of us in church are likely to worry over. What are we to do with him? Does he represent the saved? Does he represent the unsaved? For my part, that he does not know the master is sufficient to say to me that he represents the religious but unsaved. Wrangle as you will over the fate of a character, the lesson for you and I is insurmountable: You and I are stewards of the many gifts of God, our singular task is to faithfully invest them by serving with them until the day that Christ returns.

Clearly you must be one who serves God today in order to be rewarded then for your faith in his return. And even more clearly is the warning that you must embrace him as your king today in order to dwell under his kingdom then.

King Jesus has gone to get His kingdom, He has given you all that you possess today in terms of both wealth, health, skill, and wisdom so that you can serve Him with it. Do so. Be the good and faithful steward.

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