In 4 BC when Herod the Great died, his territorial rule was divided between his three sons. Archelaus, one of Herod’s sons, was assumed to rule over Judea. Though Archelaus began to rule immediately upon his father’s death, his royal title could only be ratified by Augustus Caesar. So Archelaus made the long journey to Rome where he expected to be crowned as king. However, there was an active opposition to his rule by his subjects in Judea. A delegation of fifty Jewish leaders came from Jerusalem to Rome seeking an audience with Caesar claiming that Archelaus was unfit to govern because of his cruelty. The thousands of Jews who were living in Rome participated in the demonstration against the rule Archelaus. Caesar eventually allowed Archelaus the opportunity to prove himself worthy to rule Judea. When Archelaus returned to Judea he executed swift punishment against the men who rebelled against his rule.
What Jesus does in this section of Luke’s gospel is tell a parable grounded in the near history of the nation. We are told in verse 11 that the reason the parable was told by Jesus was because he was near Jerusalem and people thought the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. The reason this topic is important is because it is the last week of Jesus’ life. This is Jesus’ last time to come to Jerusalem. Verse 1 tells us that Jesus is in Jericho as he tells this parable, a town on the way to Jerusalem where we saw the salvation of the Lord come to Zacchaeus.
Jesus begins with a parable about a nobleman who went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return. I would like to highlight something before we continue on in the parable and that is the timing of the kingdom. The nobleman is going to go away to a far away place, receive the kingdom, and then return. This is the first time we have seen in Luke the teaching that Jesus was going to leave but then return. Please notice that Jesus does not say that he is going to a far away country, returning, and then receiving the kingdom. He does not receive the kingdom upon his return, but receives the kingdom first and then returns. This is what the scriptures prophesied.
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13–14 ESV)
Jesus is about to leave the earth and return to the Father where he will receive the kingdom. Then there will be a time when he will return. So this is the set up to the story. Before he leaves for the far country, he calls ten of his servants and gives them ten minas. Each servant is given one mina. One mina was approximately four months of wages, so this is not a small amount of money. One mina is about one-third of your annual salary. The charge given to the servants is to make money, to put the money to work so as to make a profit. This is the idea of their charging being to “engage in business.” Verse 14 is the point of parallel to the historical event of Archelaus. The citizens hate this nobleman and do not want him to rule over them. So let’s set the parable for a moment. The nobleman is about to go to a far away country to receive a kingdom and return. Before he leaves, he gives his servants a mina to make money while he is away. Further, the citizens of the kingdom hate the nobleman and demand that he does not become their ruler.
When the nobleman returns, after successfully receiving the kingdom, he ordered his servants to come to him so that he would know what they had profited by doing business with the nobleman’s money. The first servant appears and tells him that he used the mina in business and made ten minas more. In verse 17 the nobleman praises his servant. Because the servant has been faithful in little, he is given authority over ten cities. The second servant has taken the nobleman’s one mina and turned it into five minas. Notice that the second receives commending and is given authority over five cities.
The focus of the parable rests on the third servant in the story. Notice that the servant returns the mina to him. He admits that he did not do business with the mina, which is what the nobleman commanded him to do. He rejected the command and hid the mina in a handkerchief. Now listen to what the servant says of the nobleman. “I was afraid of you because you are a severe man.” I was so afraid of your severity that I did absolutely nothing. This response does not make any sense which is why the parable continues. The nobleman says that he will condemn the servant with his own words. If you thought that I was a severe man, why didn’t you turn a profit like I ordered you to do? The mina is taken away from him and given to the one who made ten minas. The ending is simple and clear. In business, money should be invested with someone who has proven that he knows how to make money grow. This servant has proven unable to carry out the task given to him. Therefore what was given has been taken away. He has been shown unworthy to belong to this kingdom and to be one of his servants. But the story does not end there. Remember the citizens that he read about in verse 14 who did not want the nobleman to rule over them and sent a delegation to try to stop his enthronement. They failed. Picture how this envisions Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. We will see the triumphal entry and the proclamation of the arrival of the king. Jerusalem does not want him to be king and so they kill him. But they will fail to stop his enthronement. The nobleman received his kingdom and returns. Verse 27 declares that these who did not want him to reign over them will be slaughtered, just like what happened historically to those who tried to stop Archelaus from becoming king.
Messages From The Parable
There are two sins that are noted in this parable, which really will be seen in the end to be one sin. What is the sin of the servant in verses 20-23? His sin is doing nothing. He took the mina given to him and did nothing. Now listen to the parable because this person is a servant. This is not talking about the unbelievers in the world. Do not apply this to them. Apply this to yourself. This parable is to be applied to people who believe they are the Lord’s servants. The condemnation is that you took the mina and did nothing. We have seen on a number of occasions throughout the study of Luke’s gospel that we will be held in account for what we did with our wealth and how we used our wealth for the kingdom of God. God has given us our wealth and we will be judged by what we did with it. But I would like to explore another area where God has given to us richly for which we will be called into account.
What have you done with the gospel? The gospel is the greatest gift that we have received. Our salvation is a gift from the Lord. So what are we doing with that gift? We have received the gospel and Jesus wants us to put that gospel to work in the world. The most important job we have been given is to be sowing the seed of the word of God. We cannot do nothing with the gospel. We cannot remain unconnected to the body of Christ. We cannot refuse to grow in the word of God, developing to a maturity of the faith and knowledge of our Lord. We cannot refuse to serve each other. We cannot refuse to teach. We cannot refuse to lead. Do you see the selfishness of this servant? I know what you gave me and I decided to do absolutely nothing with it. I was afraid of you. I was afraid of failure. So I did nothing.
I believe that the parable identifies one reason why we refuse to do something with the great gospel gift we have been given. Listen to the perception the servant has of the Lord. The servant describes his as a severe man. He is considered an unreasonably demanding master. He is pictured in his mind as a harsh, unjust taskmaster. You are too hard to obey! You are too demanding of me! You are requiring too much. Do you hear what the servant is doing? He is blaming God. He is saying that because his master is so demanding, he was afraid and did nothing. God is not demanding. If you think he is demanding, then you do not know our Lord at all and I would like to study the scriptures with you to show you the true character of God. But let’s suppose you are right and he is asking too much of us. How does disobedience make your point? If he is demanding so much of us, then how does our laziness and stubborn refusal fix the situation? If you are right, then you better obey because he is going to judge because he is the ruler and we are servants. We do not get to tell him how to rule and the kingdom is not entered on our terms. God has given you the mina of the gospel of grace. What are you doing with it? Are we hiding it? Are we sitting on it? Or are we putting it to work? Doing nothing is sin.
But there is another group of people in the story and another sin is identified. These are the citizens who hate the Lord and do not want him to rule over them. Their judgment is certain as it is described in verse 27. What is the difference between the citizens and the servant who did nothing with the mina? Nothing because they are both in rebellion to the king. One openly states that they do not want the king to rule and the other does not speak their rebellion, but their lives reflect the rebellion. Both are rejecting his authority. If you are in the group like these citizens. You are refusing the rule and reign of Jesus as king. He is going to come back in judgment. The scriptures clearly show that Jesus ascended to the Father in heaven and took his rightful place on the throne and has begun to rule. Now we are awaiting his return. When he returns, those who are his enemies will be judged to condemnation. This is why the gospel message call is to submit to the king before he returns. So often people seem to have a hard time with eternal punishment. But notice it is the choice of each person. These people do not want Jesus to rule over you. So Jesus will leave you in the kingdom of darkness, sin, and Satan rather than bringing you to the kingdom of life, as you requested. You are choosing what will happen when the king returns.