I have had a recurring bad dream in which I step on stage to give a Sunday message and mind goes totally blank! I have no idea what I am supposed to say! In my dream, people are looking at me like I have lost my mind and I have. Luckily I wake up and realize it’s all a bad dream. I have talked to other public speakers and they say they have similar dreams of being on stage in their underwear. I think all of us fear not being prepared for a really important event. But what if it were true? What if you stand before God and you’re not ready? That would be a bad dream from which you would not wake up!
Jesus tells this parable to warn us about this upcoming event that we need to be prepared for. He told the parable because the disciples and others who were journeying with Him to Jerusalem had the wrong notion that He would institute the kingdom of God immediately. They didn’t realize that He would suffer and die, be raised again, ascend into heaven, and that many years would go by before He returned to establish His kingdom. Jesus wanted to let His hearers know what they were supposed to be doing in His absence. They were not supposed to sit around waiting for Him to return. Rather, they were to be actively doing business for Him with what He entrusted to them. The day will certainly come when He will return. At that time, each servant must give an account for what he has done.
Because we all will give an account, we must faithfully do business with what Jesus has given us until He returns.
There was a commonly known historical parallel to this story. Both Herod the Great and his son Archelaus had journeyed to Rome to receive the kingdom of Judea from Caesar. In the case of Archelaus, the people of Judea hated him and sent a delegation after him to Rome to tell Caesar that they did not want this man to rule over them. Augustus compromised by allowing Archelaus to rule, but only with the title ethnarch, on the premise that he would have to earn the title king, which he never did. Archelaus had built a beautiful palace for himself in Jericho, where Jesus was speaking.
In the case of Jesus’ parable, He is the nobleman who goes to a distant country to receive the kingdom. He is referring to His departure into heaven after His death and resurrection, where He would sit at the Father’s right hand until He made His enemies His footstool. During His time away, He entrusts to each servant ten pounds of silver, which was about three to six month’s wages. Each servant gets the same amount. This parable should not be confused with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. In that parable, the owner is a businessman who entrusts five, two, and one talent to three different servants during his absence. A talent was worth about twenty year’s wages, so the amount was considerably more. Here, the owner is a nobleman who gives ten servants ten pounds of silver each. When he returns, he asks for an accounting, but we are only told of the responses of three of the servants. After he has dealt with them, he proceeds to judge the citizens who did not want him to rule over them. What can we learn from this parable?
- The kingdom of God is not here in its full and final form.
Jesus is correcting the false view of the disciples (and others) that the kingdom of God would be instituted in its full form when Jesus got to Jerusalem. He is showing them that there is both a present form of the kingdom, while the king is away, and a future full sense of the kingdom when the king returns. Jesus has already spoken of the present sense of the kingdom, that it is in their midst because He, the King, is in their midst (11:20; 17:21).
But the disciples struggled with the idea that the kingdom would be delayed. Even after the resurrection, they asked Jesus, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6 The disciples finally came to clarity on this matter (Acts 3:19-21), but at this point they did not yet understand. They fully expected Jesus to establish His reign over Israel in the immediate future. Jesus wanted them to understand that there would be a delay. In the future, the King will return and will rule in power and glory. In the meanwhile, He is still King, although absent. He wants His followers to know what they should be doing during that time. Rather than sitting around waiting for the king to return, they should do business for Him, actively working to bring people to Christ by sharing the gospel and making disciples.
- Jesus has entrusted to all of us the same resource to use for Him.
Again, we must distinguish this parable from the parable of the talents, which teaches a different lesson. That parable shows that different servants have been given different abilities, and that the danger is for the person with relatively smaller ability to do nothing. This parable shows that every servant has been given the same gift.
Since each of ten servants received a bag of silver shows that it was not just the twelve apostles that Jesus had in mind, but instead, all of God’s servants. This parable is not directed just to those in leadership, but to all of Christ’s people. The fact that each was given the same amount shows that it is not referring to differing gifts, but to something that all followers of Christ share in common, the gospel message of Jesus Christ. We all have been given the same gospel and we are told to do business with it for our King during His absence.
If we do not possess the gospel personally, we are not a Christian yet, no matter how often we attend church. A Christian has heard the good news that Jesus Christ is the Savior of sinners and has personally believed that good news as his own. In other words, a true Christian does not just believe in a general sense that Jesus is the Savior. He believes it in a personal sense, that Jesus is my Savior. He died for my sins. When I stand before God and He asks, “Why should I let you into heaven?” my only plea will be, “Because I have trusted in Your Son Jesus who shed His blood in my place on the cross.” If you have personally believed that message, then the gospel has been entrusted to you. And it has not been entrusted to you just for you to treasure for yourself.
- While we wait for the Jesus’ return, we must do business with the gospel in a hostile environment.
The servants are to use the Jesus’ treasure in with people around us who angrily protest, “We do not want this man to reign over us.” In the parable, this is a reference to the Jewish nation, which was rejecting Jesus as her King. They protested to Pilate, “We have no King but Caesar” (John 19:15). But beyond that, it also refers to this evil world that is hostile toward God and does not want to submit to Jesus as Lord and King. It is in just such a hostile world that we are to do business with the gospel, multiplying it by investing it in the lives of people.
Clearly, there is always a risk in doing business in a hostile environment. But the greater risk is not to do business at all. We cannot be like the 3rd servant and carefully wrap up the Master’s treasure in a handkerchief, not employing it for His purposes.
Also, it is implied here that the power of the gospel is in the message itself, not in the skill of the messenger. The servants do not say, “Master, my great business skill has multiplied your money!” No, they said, “16 Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!’ Luke 19:16 (NLT)
The power is in the master’s treasure, not in the servants. The power of the gospel is not the power of slick salesmanship, but rather God’s power working through His Word.
All of this leads me to ask, “Do we see ourselves in business for the Master with His gospel?” He has entrusted the gospel message to every believer and said, “Do business with this until I come back.” Are you doing business with the gospel for Jesus? Are you using the good news of Christ as Savior to bring others into His kingdom? That is the question Jesus would have us consider in this parable.
If we do not see ourselves as a gospel entrepreneurs we will not be thinking about ways to multiply the Master’s resources for His purpose. The apostle Paul saw this as his aim. He states the governing purpose of his life: “I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” (1 Cor. 9:23). But not just Paul and the apostles, but every believer should be living for the same purpose, to do all things for the sake of the gospel. We should see ourselves in the gospel business, using Jesus’ capital to make a profit for Him in His absence. If we are not thinking that way, we should change our thinking, because …
We will look at why in the next post.