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Luke Chapter 19 verses 11-27, English Standard Version
As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “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, 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.
*The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
The Parable of the Ten Pounds or the Ten Minas © Parva Press
The events leading up to Jesus telling this parable
The Lord Jesus was on his final journey up to Jerusalem, by way of Jericho. He had just taken the disciples aside and warned them that he would be taken from them, that all that was written about him would happen. He would be handed over to the Gentiles mocked, scourged, shamefully treated and put to death. He had also told them that on the third day he would rise from death. But they no ears to hear it or minds to understand it.
On the way into Jericho he was waylaid by a blind man persistently crying to him, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ The crowd, with good eyesight, recognised him only as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. The blind man, with none, recognised him as God’s promised Messiah, the Son of David. He was not put off by the discouragement of the crowd. He knew that the Lord Jesus, alone, could help him and, in determined faith, he cried out to him for mercy. He was heard and healed by the Lord and joyfully followed him, giving praise to God.
In Jericho itself the exceedingly rich but hated chief tax gatherer, Zacchaeus, had a totally life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus. Salvation, God’s total rescue, came to his house. The Lord used that incident to declare what he had come to do, not to be a military leader restoring the fortunes of Israel, but to be a shepherd laying down his life for their rescue . . . ‘the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.’
This is the setting in which the Lord Jesus told the parable. He told it for a particular reason. He was making his final journey; the seventeen miles up to Jerusalem for the Passover. The religious leaders were waiting for him – and watching for an opportunity to destroy him. At the very beginning of his journey to Jerusalem some Pharisees had warned him to escape, but Jesus had responded saying, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, stoning the prophets and killing those sent to you . . .’ The Lord knew exactly what lay ahead.
However the disciples and the crowd did not. They had a totally different expectation. Their understanding and hope was that ‘this was the moment’; that at this Passover the Lord Jesus would spectacularly establish the kingdom, proclaim himself king, throw off the yoke of Rome and restore the nation of Israel to the peace, power and national superiority not seen since the glory days of king David and his son Solomon.
Do you recall the sad comment of the two walking to Emmaus and saying to the, unrecognised, risen Lord Jesus, ‘but we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel’. This false hope was utterly dashed by the crucifixion and the events around it. The Son of man came not as a ‘conquering hero’, but as the suffering servant of the Lord to ‘give his life a ransom for many’.
However, false hope and euphoria had gripped both the disciples and the crowd. It had blinded their eyes and shut their ears to his warnings and was sweeping them along to think of nothing else. Hence this parable: ‘As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.’ It was a false hope, a hope built on a misunderstanding of the ways of God and a hope about to be shattered.
He told the parable to prepare them for his departure, to assure them of his return and teach them there was business to be done until that day. There is a parable with very similar teaching recorded in Matthew chapter 25; the parable of the talents. It has very much the same thrust, but it is distinct. It was spoken privately to the disciples in Jerusalem in the final hours of our Lord’s ministry. The talents that were given varied in value, according to each servant’s ability, and there is no reference to the receiving of a kingdom or reference to those who would not have him rule over them. There is also a whole section concerning a ‘guest’ without a wedding robe. As Leon Morris points out, there is not a problem with our Lord using a similar story in a fresh setting to draw out different aspects of his teaching or to reinforce his previous teaching.
The significance of the nobleman seeking a kingship
Historians suggest that the parable of the minas or ‘pounds’ was anchored in familiar, local history. As a subject people, no one could govern without the express permission of the Roman overlords. Any military leader who aspired to become the king of a conquered land had to go to Rome, to Caesar, to receive his kingship. Herod the Great had done this. On his death, his kingdom was divided between three of his sons, each of whom had to have their inheritance confirmed by Caesar. One of these sons, Archelaus, built a palace at Jericho. Archelaus was so dreadful that a delegation was sent to Rome to say, in effect, ‘We will not have this man to rule over us.’ It was in part successful, for although Archelaus was permitted to govern Judea for a time, he was never granted the title king and was eventually banished. So here is a parable that would immediately chime with local history and be well understood by the Lord’s hearers.
The parable itself
As he describes a nobleman going to a far country to receive his kingship and then returning some time later, Jesus is warning them that his kingdom will not appear immediately as they had hoped but after a lapse of time. J C Ryle describes it as a ‘prophetical sketch’ of Jesus himself and his kingdom. Jesus clearly warns his disciples that he would be leaving them, that they would be given business to fulfil in his absence and that he will return. On his return, he will call them to account, vindicate and reward them according to their faithfulness and finally bring the judgement of God on those who reject him and his kingly rule.
In the full light of the New Testament, those with Christian eyes can see in this parable glimpses of what lay ahead. The hatred of the religious establishment and Jesus’ arrest, false trial and crucifixion. His resurrection, ascension and his being made the future universal Lord, as described by the apostle Paul in the letter to the Philippians, ‘ . . . obedient to death, even death on a cross, therefore God has raised him up and given him a name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . .’ And finally, his total, kingly rule as described in Revelation by the apostle John; the Lamb found worthy and given the scroll; entrusted with all authority over the whole of human history.
So, here in this brief parable we are given a prophetic sketch of the crucified, risen, ascended, crowned and suddenly returning King of kings and Lord of lords. What a vision! The purposes of God for his Son are far greater than the disciples, the excited crowd – or many of us have ever dreamed of; the gathering of the whole world under the sovereign reign of the One who told this parable.
In the meantime, the parable also gives us a picture of the business, and the manner of conducting it, that should occupy his servants, until he returns.
The Parable of the Ten Pounds or Ten Minas © Parva Press – Continued
How did the disciples come to understand this parable? What did our Lord entrust to them? What, indeed, has he entrusted to us?
The ten servants were each given a portion of the nobleman’s wealth to trade with and so increase his total estate. Each servant was entrusted with a sum equivalent to three months wages; a very substantial sum, in modern terms, something of the order of £5,000 – £10,000 or dollars. It was placed in their hands with the knowledge that the nobleman expected them to do their very best with it to further his interests and that he would return and call each one of them to account.
At its widest level, like those first disciples, everything that we are and everything that we have is a trust from the Lord God to be used for his glory. This is the understanding offered by most commentators; everything is to be used to bring honour to him. So the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 12 urged his readers then, and us now, in response to God’s mercy, to give our bodies, our whole lives, as ‘a living sacrifice’. That must be right, for our skills and abilities, our time and money, our home and our employment opportunities are all a trust from the Lord. They are all to be brought as ‘a living sacrifice’ and used day by day with the aim of bringing honour to the Lord. This, argues the apostle, is the only ‘logical response’ if we have truly tasted the wonderful mercy of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The disciples did, indeed, spend their whole lives ‘trading’ in the service of their Lord. The late addition to their number, the apostle Paul, laboured most of all, devoting every part of his courage, intellect, stamina and energy as a willing ‘slave’ of the Lord Jesus and counting it his joy to do so.
However, it is important and informative to ask, ‘with what particular “entrusted wealth” did the apostles “trade,” with the whole of their lives?’
Very specifically, as the Lord parted from the disciples, he entrusted them with a very great commission. Mark tells us that they were to ‘go and preach the gospel to all nations’. Luke tells us that the disciples were to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Matthew tells us that the disciples were, ‘to go and make disciples, baptising and teaching them all that he had commanded them’. John tells us that the Lord charged Peter to ‘tend his sheep’ and to ‘feed his lambs’. So here is the wealth of the gospel, the whole building and caring for the kingdom of heaven, entrusted to these weak and very unstable disciples.
From the Day of Pentecost onwards, empowered by the Holy Spirit, these men ‘traded’ with the gospel wealth entrusted to them. Peter’s first sermon, in Jerusalem, under the hand of God, gathered 3,000 men into the kingdom of heaven. Those who repented were baptised and Peter and the other apostles taught them daily, aiming to build-up disciples to maturity in a true Christian fellowship. We learn that from Luke’s account in Acts, where we read that these first disciples ‘. . . devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’.
This is the treasure with which the disciples ‘traded’ and they devoted their whole lives to it. They did this not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth as our Lord had charged them. It is said of Thomas that he took the treasure his Lord entrusted to him as far as India, and Tiruvalla on the South Western tip of India is the town where he is reputed to have preached the gospel and planted a church in A.D 52.
True servants of the Lord Jesus, though individually ‘marathon runners’ are actually part of a great ‘relay’ down the centuries. Those first disciples, joined by Paul, entrusted their Lord’s wealth to faithful men. And down the centuries, faithful servants of Christ have fulfilled our Lord’s charge; bringing the gospel, training disciples, creating a people of God in each place and then tending and nurturing those people. Their aim has been to bring disciples to maturity with the ability to reach out and bring the gospel to others. This is how the Lord Jesus would have his riches increase; his kingdom grow. These are riches to be constantly invested – but the supply never runs out!
And the result? – Ten more, five more or no more
Noting that the master commends the first two servants for their faithfulness, Kenneth Bailey perceptively asks, ‘Is the focus of the story profits, as we might easily assume, or is it faithfulness to an unseen master in a hostile environment?’ Was it a willingness to be publicly known as the servant of their absent lord at a time when men around hated him and did all they could to permanently undermine his authority over them? Did the servant who wrapped-up his ‘pound’ want to keep his options open and his status as a servant secret in case his master did not return as king?
The ten servants each received the same amount with which they were to trade. We are only told of the faithfulness of three of them. The first put his whole heart to it, his effort was blessed and he gained ten more. The second did his best, and his money made five times as much. The third failed to trade at all, he just kept the money safe.
It is our turn now to play our part in contributing to the Lord’s kingdom; in ‘trading’ with ‘the whole council of God’ entrusted to us. How faithful will we be? What will we report to our Lord and Master?
Over the years some Christians, following in the steps of the apostle Paul, have been spectacularly used of God to build his kingdom. To name but a few: Augustine, that early, giant of God. Athanathius, who stood ‘against the world’ as he guarded the truth of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. John Bunyan, who spun so much rich, gospel truth into that compelling yarn, The Pilgrim’s Progress, a book that has been a spiritual tonic and strength to Christian men and women for centuries. George Whitfield, who proclaimed the gospel so effectively in this country, and in America, in the eighteenth century. John and Charles Wesley, whose sermons, books and great godly hymns still feed the church in our own day. I am sure that each of us can think of others who ought to be in that list.
In the same way there have been times when Christian men and women, working together as a team, as a church or Christian organisation, have been especially fruitful before God. They have been fruitful, first, in bringing people under the sound of God’s gospel, then faithful in discipling those who truly respond, and leading them on to Christian maturity. And, finally, they have been faithful in enabling them, in their turn, to be effective ‘traders’ of their Lord’s treasure, bringing others to faith, and then on to maturity in Christ.
Then there are a great many Christian men and women who have borne a faithful, but maybe less spectacular witness. Just reflect for a moment on those who have helped and encouraged you in your own spiritual pilgrimage. Maybe a teacher or a Sunday School teacher, a friend or colleague, a particular preacher or someone who just cared and ‘bothered’ with you.
Or it may have been a church where you first saw real Christian faith, love and forgiveness demonstrated with just a quiet, ongoing, positive influence and witness in the whole community. Nothing spectacular, yet here is the bedrock of faithful ‘trading;’ the building of the kingdom of God.
Do note the generous praise and encouragement the returning noble lord gives to these faithful servants, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ The reward is his master’s praise and more work, greater responsibility. We might have preferred the thought of rest and retirement! However, bear in mind that his ‘service is perfect freedom;’ that it is our great joy and privilege to be about our Father’s business – so that willing slave of the Lord Jesus, the great apostle Paul, counted everything else as ‘dung’ in comparison with this.
And finally, and very sadly, there is an even greater number of Christian people and Christian churches that have just kept the treasure to themselves. ‘Wrapping it up’, they have kept the treasure entrusted to them uselessly ‘safe’, or as they would probably see it ‘pure’.
Do note, here, the severity of the returning Lord with regard to those who clearly know his will but fail to do it faithfully. ‘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.’
The Parable of the Ten Pounds or Ten Minas © Parva Press – Continued
The practical encouragement and warning of this parable
The horrible question to ask is, where do I stand, and how does my church measure against this parable? For this parable speaks of the judgement of a wonderfully patient, generous and encouraging – yet also ‘severe’ – Lord who will call each one of us as individuals, and each one of his local churches to account.
For those who are faithful, the Lord’s parable has words of great encouragement and reward, ‘Because you have been faithful over . . . you shall be . . .’ The fuller words in the comparable parable of the talents are even more spectacular and wonderful, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your lord. Since you have been faithful . . . you shall be . . .’ However, the thrust of them is the same. There is great joy and reward for those who are faithful.
There is an arresting memorial in a local church celebrating the business acumen and astuteness of a seed merchant who amassed a great fortune and could therefore afford to be buried in the church with such a fine memorial to himself and his efforts. But as Matthew Henry points out, it was not like that with these servants. They did not say ’my skill’ or ‘my industry’ but ‘your mina’ has made so many more. God, not us, must have all the glory. Paul the apostle, a faithful servant if ever there was one, returning from great missionary journeys came back saying, ‘Look what God has done.’ An African pastor, telling of the complete transformation of his community, simply said, ‘Look, Lord, what your gospel has done.’
But in this parable, as in the parable recorded by Matthew, there are stern words addressed to the servant who just ‘kept’ the treasure; failed to trade with it himself or to give to those who would have been able to trade with it on his behalf. ‘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?’ The words literally mean ‘it should have been put on the table’. In other words, those who were able and willing should have been given opportunity to trade with it. Hence the perhaps surprising but perfectly logical judgement on the servant who just ‘kept the investment safe’, ‘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.’
Do we have such ‘investment bankers’ who can enable us to make a better use than perhaps we can of all that the Lord has entrusted to us? I suggest that we do. If we are unable, through our personal limitations or circumstances to ‘trade’ with the Lord’s treasure there are others who will go and ‘trade’ on our behalf. There are men and women willing to go and bring the gospel to other groups of people – perhaps those not accessible to us – and yet to do so they need our prayerful, active and financial support. Hudson Taylor was willing and able to carry the gospel, to ‘trade’ with his Lord’s treasure in inland China, but a manufacturer in England entrusting what his Lord had given him, namely money, enabled Hudson Taylor to go. The church at Philippi not only ‘held fast’ and ‘held out’ the gospel faith locally, it also supported and encouraged that great ‘trader’ the apostle Paul. They were partners with him in the gospel. They loved him, prayed for him, sent more money than they could afford when he asked them to help their fellow believers in Judea, and sent both a representative to visit him and a couple of times sent a gift for his support. The Lord’s ‘trading economy’ is very wide, involving more than ‘front-line troops’.
Beware, lest, we in our day, we provoke the Lord to take his treasure from us – or our church – or our land – and give it to others who will value it and make better use of it. Godliness and godly ways are given us to ‘trade with’ not just to ‘keep safe’. Matthew Henry warns us as individuals, ‘Many a man is happy to consider himself saved by the Lord Jesus Christ who is not willing to serve and obey him.’ And beware for, despite our great Christian heritage, are we not, as churches and as a society, actually coming very close to wrapping-up and putting-aside as ‘old history’ the treasure entrusted to us? Following our own opinions or the fashion of the age, we so easily prefer not to keep his commandments, follow the teaching of his chosen apostles or walk in his holy ways. Beware for that is only a very short step from saying ‘we will not be ruled by him’.
The unfaithful servant of this parable is not punished, but he does suffer great loss – as both unfaithful individual Christians and unfaithful churches will find to their dismay. The apostle Paul warns of, being saved but with the loss of everything we had laboured to build. The Lord Jesus warns a local church that, unless it repented, he would remove its lamp stand and it would slowly wither away. J C Ryle warns that unless, as a society, we turn, we will provoke the Lord God to cause true Biblical Christianity to fade away and even disappear from our land.
Finally those terrifying words, ‘But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’
We delight in the mercy, kindness and gentleness of the Lord Jesus, but here, to make sure that we do not take advantage or presume on that mercy and kindness, are some very sobering words. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is in no sense a tame lion! All judgement has been committed to him, and on his return he will judge the world in righteousness.
Remember that historically, Archelaus was so hated that a deputation was sent to Caesar to prevent him receiving authority to be king. There were good grounds for this; Josephus writes that on the first Passover after he inherited the governorship of Judea he massacred 3,000 of his subjects.
Of what enemies was Jesus speaking as he told this parable on his final journey to Jerusalem?
The world then and now says ’We will not have this man to reign over us.’ On the whole Jesus’ own people, the Jews, and the religious leaders in particular, rejected him. Despite his words and mighty deeds they refused to recognise his evident divine appointment. The apostle Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, spoke of Jesus as ‘a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders . . .you have crucified’. ‘We will not have this man to reign over us’.
However their rejection, or ours, does not frustrate the purposes of God. Jesus has been made Lord and King, and, at God the Father’s appointed time, he will return. On that day every knee will bow and judgement, terrifying judgement, will be meted out on those who fail to honour him; who reject or rebel against him, who ignore or ‘will not have him reign over them’.
We much prefer to think of ‘the man of love’ and, like the disciples with regard to the crucifixion, we have deaf ears and blind eyes to the reality of judgement. However, do take note that there is righteous justice too. It is a matter of life or death. We would be well advised to bow the knee to him, not only a ‘friend’ and ‘Saviour’ but also as Lord and King. This is the humble ‘obedience of faith’ spoken of by the apostle Paul.
In the meantime, those who will not have him rule over them will carry on ignoring, despising and rejecting him, crushing and silencing his faithful servants. But those who are his servants must keep about their master’s business – ‘buying up’ every opportunity to serve him, playing our full part in his church, supporting and encouraging one another to proclaim, teach and share the gospel warnings, promises and commands. Doing our utmost to prepare ourselves, and those around us, for the return of the King.
So here in this parable is a prophetic sketch of what will happen on his return as King.
Let John Calvin have the last word. Here is a parable, he says, ‘to warn those in rebellion and to encourage his own servants to keep faithful’.
For those of us who faithfully and diligently serve and trade with the riches he has entrusted to us – praise and the proportionate reward of greater, joy-filled usefulness in his kingdom.
For those of us who fail to serve and to trade with the king’s riches – those riches taken and given to those who will make better use of them.
For those of us who will not bow the knee; who will not believe who he truly is or submit to him as Lord – the terrible ‘p’ word of Scripture . . . we perish.
Lord God, these are stern and penetrating words from your Son. They are not comfortable, they do not fit with our imagined ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’. But they are the words and instructions of the One you have appointed ‘both Lord and Christ’ and who will return as King of kings and Lord of lords, the heir of the universe. Help us to hear them and heed them for the glory of your name and our own eternal joy and comfort.
Questions for personal reflection and discussion
Can our ears be equally deaf, our minds equally unwilling to accept the ‘unpalatable’ aspects of the gospel?
Can we be just as easily swept along by popular false hopes and misreadings of scripture? Do the Beroeans set us a fine rule of thumb? Acts 17:10-12
Why should we view our skills and abilities, time and money as a trust from the Lord?
How should we ‘trade’ with them?
How do you react to the suggestion that the unique wealth specifically entrusted to the disciples was his gospel teaching, kingdom and church?
Have you ever been alongside a Christian who has been greatly used of God in ‘trading’ with the gospel treasure entrusted to him or her?
Have you ever been part of a church or organisation that has been greatly used of God in gathering and equipping the people of God?
Can you recount personal spiritual encouragement given to you by a less spectacular but, never-the-less faithful, servant of the Lord Jesus?
Have you known Christians, or been part of a church that has, in effect, ‘wrapped the gospel in a handkerchief’?
Just as the disciples could not accept the thought of the crucifixion, do we shrink from and refuse to believe that the Lord Jesus will return as Lord and as Judge of everyone?
No ears to hear or minds to understand, Luke 18:34
Blind man & The Son of man came to seek, Luke 18:35ff
Jerusalem, stoning the prophets, Luke 13:31-34
The road to Emmaus, ‘But we had hoped’ Luke 24:18-21
The suffering servant, Isaiah 53; To seek the lost, Luke 19:10; To give his life a ransom, Mark 10:45
Parable of the talents, Matthew 25:14-30 21
‘Obedient to death’, Philippians 2:8-11
The scroll given, Revelation 5:6-14
Until he returns, e.g. Luke 12:43, 1 Corinthians 4:5 & 11:26
Living sacrifice, Romans 12:1
Preach the gospel, Mark 15:16; Repentance and forgiveness Luke 24:47
Go and make disciples, Matthew 28:19; Tend my sheep, John 21:16 &17
Paul a slave of Christ, Romans 1:1
Peter’s sermon Acts 2:14-42, Devoted themselves v.42
Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Acts 1:8
Entrust to faithful men, 2 Timothy 2:2
Dung in comparison, Philippians 3:8
Enter into the joy, Matthew 25:21
Look what God has done, Acts 14:27
Partnership in the gospel, Philippians 1:5
All judgement committed, John 5:22
Judge the world in righteousness, Acts 17:31
A man attested to you by God, Acts 2:22
Obedience of faith, Romans 1:5 & 16:26
Saved, but with the loss of everything, 1 Corinthians 3:15
The church’s lamp stand removed, Revelation 2:4&5
Lord and Christ, Acts 2:36
Service is perfect freedom, Book of Common Prayer, Morning Prayer, Collect for peace