- Luke 19:11-27
My dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Dad sometimes brought home some lollies. The lollies were nothing like a box of Cadbury all sorts chocolates, leaving it to us to pick the flavour we liked. No, all four of us got only one sort, exactly like the other. We understood that Dad could not afford to buy more, and we understood that it was his delight to see his family enjoy the treats he brought home.
The king of our parable gave ten of his servants each one a mina—all had the same value and the same potential. The difference between Dad’s lollies and the King’s minas is that the lollies were to our exclusive enjoyment, whereas the minas remained the property of the King which had to be returned to Him, with dividend.
King Herod the Great married all up 10 wives. As you can imagine succession to the throne was a problem. He ended up executing some of his sons. In his last will he proclaimed his son, Archelaus, as successor. This will had not been ratified by Augustus Caesar, which meant that Archelaus could not assume the title of king. His half-brother, Antipas, wanted to be king. Eventually both brothers set off to Rome to plead their case, but before going to Rome Archelaus had killed 3000 people, trying to quench a revolution led by people avenging the blood of those killed by his father, Herod.
Upon his return from Rome, Archelaus treated both the Jews and Samaritans very brutally. Because they did want him as their king, Jews and Samaritans to send a delegation to Rome and complain formally to Augustus, and Archelaus was deposed and dethroned.
Why this parable?
In the previous paragraph of Luke we met Zacchaeus. Verse 9 makes this statement, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” Zacchaeus was saved, “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (v. 10)
When our Lord then left the house of this new believer in Jericho, He embarked on his last journey to Jerusalem. It was about time for the Passover, and “the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” (19:11)
Jesus then told them the parable of a “man of noble birth [who] went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return”. (Luke 19:12) For most who listened to Him the episode of Archelaus who was indeed of noble birth, but never became king, would be fresh in their minds.
Jesus wanted to teach this important lesson: his kingdom could only come after his atoning death and resurrection, after his return to the Father where He would receive his Kingship based on the finished work for which He came to earth. But there was something important which needed to be added to the “coming of the Kingdom”: the labour of his servants, appointed as “fishers of men”, would unfinished until “salvation has come” to the houses of lost sinners who need to be sought and saved.
The King of the mission
a. His origin
He was from a “distant land”. He was from the line of David, the Stump, the mighty King, everlasting Father, and of the increase of his government there will be no end. John says of Him that He was with God in the beginning, and He was God.
“A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.” (John 1:30)
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. (John 3:35, NIV)
b. His destiny
His destiny was to sit at the right hand God.
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood You purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10)
c. His departure and return
Before He left to the distant place this Man of noble birth said:
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3, NIV)
After his resurrection He appeared to many over a span of 40 days before He ascended to the Father. On that day his disciples got this comforting assurance:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11, NIV)
The ongoing mission of the King
Before He left to receive his kingdom He commissioned his church:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:18–19, NIV)
This is why the Nobleman give minas to his servants. This parable differs from the parable of the talents. The talents represent ability; the minas represent investment. Each servant got equal amounts—the power of the investment did not lie in their ability, but in the inherent growth of the investment.
So, what do the minas represent? We understand that what the servants got did not belong to them; at the return of the king, they had to give it back. From the context we understand that the minas were in connection with the coming of the Kingdom, with salvation, with the seeking and the saving of the lost. It therefore points to one thing: the Gospel of Christ—it is never ours, it has power in itself, it does not depend on ability, it brings salvation to the lost. Kent Hughes writes, “‘Joe Christian’ receives the same as St. Paul and John Calvin and Billy Graham. We all have the good news of Jesus Christ and its marvelous effect in our lives.”
a. the calling of the servants
They had to put the money to work. The Greek word here is from the same word “to do”, “to put into practice”. In financial sense it means “to do business in trade”.
Our Lord said to his disciples:
Seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4:20, NIV)
A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain. (Mark 4:26–28, NIV)
The seed is the Word of God, and the servants of Christ are nothing more than sowers of the Word. Sowing this seed happens in a hostile world; there are the enemies of Christ who do not want Him to be their King; they hate Him, and will do everything they can to frustrate the growth of the Gospel.
This is the world we are called into to make Christ’s investment of the Gospel grow. Because they hate Christ, they hate us. But let’s remember, it never depends on our ability; the outcome depends on the inherent power of the Gospel itself. We can be like that fellow who thought to handle the Gospel with such care in this hostile world, that he buried it in a sweat cloth. He thought, “I can’t be active, but I can at least be a conservative. I can preserve the Christian tradition. I can submit to a church wedding and send my children to Sunday school. I can take a Christian point of view. I can wrap my religion in my handkerchief and conserve it.” To him the Bible is a special book, but nothing more than a book. To him the gospel should not be public, because it puts him at odds with those who hate the king.
b. the accountability of the servants
Advent can blind us to assign Jesus only to the crib; to the singing of carols and the the bright lights on the Christmas tree. But advent must focus our eyes on the return, the second advent, of our Lord. We might be so caught up with the frivolous signing and the handing out of presents, that we forget about the return of Christ which will call us to account. That is the day when we will have to stand before the Him who was indeed been crowned King and who will call us to account.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. (Revelation 20:12, NIV)
This parable in one sense is comforting, but in another it frightens me. It comforts me with the knowledge that our Lord will not ask of me more that what I could do. But the scary thought is: With what will I stand before the King who calls me to account? What have I done with what belongs to Him? Will the reasons I put forward for my lacklustre investment of the Gospel then stand?
We heard the news of the passing away of Dr RC Sproul last week. I was in the process of reading up for this sermon, when I got the news. His labour in the Gospel stood as an example of a servant who appears before the King with the “your mina” , only to hear, “Well done, my good servant.” Note the word “my” in that phrase; it connects with the “his” of servants who got the minas.
c. their reward of the servants
Kent Hughes writes:
“Their reward is that in the end the Lord will receive them with honors, that they will be privileged to speak and to live with Jesus forever. For heaven does not consist in what we shall receive, whether this be white robes and heavenly crowns or ambrosia and nectar, but rather in what we shall become—namely, the companions of our King.” (Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (p. 234). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.)
But this is not the case with the last servant. Why would he be trusted with the mina after the King returned, if he was not serious about it before he was called to account. The King demands of his servants to, in a certain sense, bring as dividend on his investment what He personally did not put in—He entrusted them with it!
Can we hinder the growth of the Kingdom? It calls for a qualified answer: on one hand, “no”, because the King will give what He had given to inactive servants to those who indeed obediently put it to work; on the other hand, “yes”: our inactivity and lost opportunities may be regarded as the lazy watchman who did not warn about the approaching calamity—and we may be held accountable for their blood. What a frightful thought.
The enemy of the King
Just a short word about the enemy of the King. The efforts of them to stop Him becoming King were, and will be unsuccessful; the Father indeed made Christ King. Even they will appear before his throne to give account for their hatred and schemes against Him. The outcome is horrible beyond words: they will taste death at the hands of Him whom they pierced. It’s our job to warn them, bring the word of salvation to them, to stand in the service of the King to seek and to save the lost.
There a song with these words:
Oh, ye saints, arouse, be earnest,
Up and work while yet ’tis day;
Ere the night of death o’ertake thee,
Strive for souls while still you may.
Rescue the perishing, plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently; duty demands it; strength for your labor the Lord will provide.
The King will indeed return.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 17 December 2017