11. Dues and Rewards 2 (Luke 19:11–27)
Immediately following the conversion of Zacchaeus, Jesus sees the need to teach a parable “because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” It is not explicitly said who the “they” is that makes up the audience of the parable. The temptation is to say they are the multitude because the parable is about the coming destruction of those who would reject Christ. But this is not correct. The “they” were those who had “heard these things,” that is, Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus: “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (19:10). Jesus had said these things while eating dinner with Zacchaeus. It is hardly possible that a whole multitude of people had squeezed into one man’s house. So, it is apparent that the “they” here is only Jesus’ disciples.
This makes perfect sense, since the disciples were the ones who truly believed Jesus was the Messiah. They were the ones who had traveled with Him for this whole journey to Jerusalem, hearing His denunciations and His teachings about the kingdom. Thus, they were the ones most anxious to see the kingdom manifest immediately. Of course, Jesus had already warned them explicitly twice that He must first go to Jerusalem to suffer and die (9:44–45; 18:31–34), and we are specifically told that they did not understand this. Matthew tells us that Jesus at that time told a very similar version of this parable to the disciples (Matt. 20:1–16). So now, Jesus reiterates those core truths once again in a parable to them. It is clear He wants to burn these ideas into their minds for when the time comes that they are able to understand them.
The parable He tells, therefore, is first, intended for the disciples to understand, and second, meant to deflate the false hope of an immediate deliverance. It is, in fact, an affirmation of the judgment that would soon come. Jesus says,
A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas [a weight of silver], and said to them, “Engage in business until I come.” But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to reign over us.” When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, “Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.” And he said to him, “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.” And the second came, saying, “Lord, your mina has made five minas.” And he said to him, “And you are to be over five cities.” Then another came, saying, “Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” He said to him, “I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?” And he said to those who stood by, “Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.” And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten minas!” “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (Luke 19:12–27).
This parable can only be taken as immediately applying to Israel that would soon reject and kill Christ rather than receive His kingdom. The nobleman is obviously Jesus. But note that he was going first to go away in order to receive a kingdom, and then return to take an accounting of his servants and citizens. In hindsight it is easy to see that He referred to His ascension to the right hand of God (Acts 2:34–36) as the receiving of the kingdom, and that His day of reckoning in which He would destroy those who rejected Him was the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. But the suffering and cross had to come first, and that would occur during this current journey to Jerusalem. The disciples remained confused about this even after Jesus was resurrected and appeared to them: on the day of His ascension they asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) (after all, He had gone away to death and now come back). He told them they were not meant to know the exact time (1:7); but in the mean time, they had Spirit-filled work to do in Jerusalem, all of Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth (1:8). This is apparent in the parable as well, for the nobleman instructed his servants in his absence to “Engage in business until I come” (Luke 19:13).
They were not idly to “occupy” as the language of the KJV suggests, but to take what the Lord had given them and be productive for the kingdom. During this time, they would be mingled among the other apparent servants, the unbelieving Jews. All of these were entrusted with the same oracles of God as the disciples of Jesus. The false servants were the Pharisees, Priests, scribes, layers, and leaders of the people—all of whom should have been gaining returns with God’s gifts but had instead squandered them as we have noted several times. They were instead already plotting to kill Jesus the day he entered Jerusalem (Luke 19:47). Thus, when the day of reckoning came, the productivity of the true servants versus the false servants would be manifest: the true had produced returns, but the false had gained nothing. The false merely wrapped up God’s gift and kept it to themselves, fearful of losing what they had been given, despite God’s promise that He would prosper them. We have touched on this theme before: when Israel should have taken the glory of God’s law to the ends of the earth as a testimony to the nations, she instead assumed favored status for herself, and became a consumer of great wealth, and a prostitute to the kings of the earth.
The ironic detail here is that the unprofitable servant hid his portion in a “handkerchief.” But this was no normal handkerchief, it was a soudarion—a piece of cloth used to wrap the face in burial of a dead body (See John 11:44; 20:7). The Jews had turned God’s way of life to the nations into a dead religion of burdens and fear.
The fearful, unproductive servant proves he is not fit for the Kingdom in that he deals with his failure as did fallen Adam: he blames God. Adam blamed the woman for giving him the fruit, and blamed God for giving him the woman (Gen. 3:12); and likewise Eve blamed the serpent for her fall (3:13). Everyone was to blame except the people who actually committed the sin. Likewise, the unprofitable servant blamed the austerity of the nobleman: “I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” Indeed, like any man of great capital, he hired others to labor for him, and expected passive income returns on his investments. And yet, in this cowardly criticism, he confessed he knew that God expected him to produce returns. “He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’” (19:22–23).
In short, at the Lord’s return there would be a reckoning among the servants. Only those who truly had advanced the kingdom would escape judgment. And we see another familiar theme in the pronouncement of grace: “you have been faithful.” The good servants are faithful. Faith is the defining issue in the separation of the good and wicked servants.
The nature of the rewards is noteworthy as well. The good servants would receive the inheritance of the kingdom; they would be made to rulers in God’s kingdom in proportion to the returns they were able to get with what they were given. This ruling in God’s kingdom is fulfilled in the disciples and the New Testament saints (Luke 22:40; Matt. 19:28; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:4, 6). The wicked servants, however, would lose what they had been given: “Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas” (Luke 19:24). Now we return to a theme we have heard several times on this journey: the losers lose more and the winners win more. Jesus repeats this clearly again: “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (19:26). Compare this to Luke 8:18, which is almost a verbatim repetition. There we saw the lesson given in relation to a parable of the lit lamp. The message was nearly the same as here: the Jews had hidden God’s light instead of used it to illuminate the world. For their selfish failure, they would lose even that which they thought they possessed. The kingdom would be taken from faithless Israel and given to the productive elect.
So much for the personal servants of the nobleman. What about the citizens who plainly said at the beginning, “We do not want this man to reign over us” (19:14)? The masses of the citizens in this would-be kingdom actually hated Jesus as well, and in merely a few days the priests and scribes and leaders among the people would lead the multitude in shouting to have Him crucified (Luke 23:13–25; Matt. 27:15–25; Mark 15:6–15; John 18:39–19:16). These wicked Israelites stood no chance at all when the nobleman returned. These are not even considered for a reckoning in the parable; they were not even considered servants. Yet they were in open opposition to the nobleman; they were his avowed enemies. As such, their judgment was severe: “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (19:27). This is a clear reference to the slaughter of masses of Jews that would occur when the Old Covenant servant system would be destroyed in that generation.
Now, we must remember that while the destruction of Jerusalem featured in this parable, Jesus’ purpose in telling it was to dissuade the disciples from seeing His entrance into Jerusalem as a coup. He was not now coming to take over the kingship and start the kingdom of God by force. Instead, He was first to encounter opposition for which He would later return and punish the city. Having this lesson in mind would be very important for the disciples considering the events that would immediately take place.
The Triumphal Entry (Luke 19:28–44)
Finally, the moment came when Jesus actually reached and entered Jerusalem. He had prepared His disciples as much as He could not to think He would immediately capture a throne or execute the judgments He had so often been pronouncing. Suffering must come first. But His proceeding actions seemed to defy that teaching.
First, he made special preparations for His entry into the city (19:28–35) riding a colt. Matthew reminds us that this was prophetically predicted (Matt. 21:5). Indeed, Zechariah had said,
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zech. 9:9).
Second, as He approached the city, the disciples obviously knew this. It is quite possible they knew the rest of that Zechariah passage as well: “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zech. 9:10). It seems that despite everything He had warned them about, they still expected Him to assume the throne then. As He approached, they began to recite Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38).
Third, Jesus did not dissuade them at this point. Even when the Pharisees among the multitude demanded Jesus stop the disciples from praising Him as the Messiah, He declined: “if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (19:40).
Fourth, Jesus weeps over the city, because He pronounces judgment upon it. It is clear that its time had come. In fact, as we covered this passage earlier in reference to the phrase “this time,” Jesus announces His presence as “the time of your visitation” (19:44). This visitation was no time for tea: “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (19:43–44).
Finally, Jesus then enters the temple in a show of force and drives out the merchants and the moneychangers (Luke 19:45; Mark 11:15). Surely in the recent combination of receiving praise, forbidding it to stop, pronouncing cataclysmic judgment, and then displaying force in the temple, the disciples must surely have thought Jesus was about to initiate the kingdom by force. It was bad enough that they could not receive all He had said to the contrary, but now He had done so much which seemed to be to the contrary.
And yet, all of this pertained not to the immediate manifestation of the Kingdom, but to the piling up of evidence in Jesus’ case against unbelieving Israel. Jerusalem was not prepared for the time of her visitation. Only the remnant had received the King as He rode in. All the leaders of Israel opposed Him. Perhaps most importantly, Jesus had discovered corruption in the temple—the merchandising of the Old Testament system was particularly grieving. This would be a key point over which the Great Whore and the True Israel Jesus would clash very soon. Since this incident is so important, I am going to take the next chapter just to discuss the cleansing of the temple. The theology and depth of the Gospel stories here is mind-blowing.
Next Section: The Time of Visitation (Luke 19:45–46)