The 22th Sunday After Pentecost November 9, 2014
2 Thessalonians 1:3-10
608, 612, 610, 50
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that 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 him who has ten minas.’ (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.’”
Jesus’ journey was almost complete. In a short time He would enter Jerusalem while crowds waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna.”
Excitement ran high as He came close to the great city. The crowds following along with Him had in mind that once Jesus hit Jerusalem, He would destroy His earthly enemies, set Himself up as a king, and rule over all Israel. They imagined Jesus casting out the Roman rulers who had oppressed them. They pictured their Messiah as one who would take over the palace, organize armies, and make them an important political and national force with whom to be reckoned. They thought the “kingdom of God was going to appear at once” as soon as Christ set foot inside the city walls.
Jesus had to correct their thinking. He had to teach them that things were not going to be at all the way they thought. There would be an overthrow alright, but it would not be an overthrow of an earthly government. Rather, it would be the trampling of the Devil and his angels. He would indeed appear in glory as king over all, causing the people of the earth to tremble before Him, and He would bring judgment once and for all on every evil, but it would not happen yet. It would not happen until the day the world itself would be brought to an end.
The people needed to change their thinking and prepare themselves for what was actually going to take place. Jesus’ parable of the minas” was intended to help them do that.
The parable opened with the main character, a nobleman, going off to a distant country, being appointed king, and returning at a later time. This was a situation the people of the day would have known and understood. The son of Herod the Great had gone away to Rome after the death of his father in an attempt to be named ruler in his father’s place. But here the Lord was not telling the story of Archelaus, He was telling His own story.
The “nobleman” who went away to be crowned king and later returned represented Jesus Himself.
In just a short time, the people would see Jesus no more. He would be crucified, die, and would be buried. He would rise from the dead, but only 40 days after that He would be taken from their sight. He would ascend into the sky and the clouds would cover Him. He would go away to His Father where, being given a position of rulership and authority over all things, He would be crowned “king” and he would be seated at God’s right hand. After a time, He would return again.
Through the parable, Christ made it clear that He was going away. He was not going to set up an earthly government. He was not going to enter Jerusalem to restore Israel to prominence again. He was entering the city only to leave it again—and leave it again very soon. Why was it important for the people to understand this? Because they needed to know that Christ had not come simply to save them from earthly troubles. If all they were looking to Him for was an easier life in the present, they were looking to Him for the wrong thing. He wanted them to look beyond earthly kingdoms and understand that He had come to forgive their sins and prepare them for life free from all sorrow in heaven.
Many Christians today still think like that crowd who followed Jesus to Jerusalem. They still look for the Lord to set up an earthly kingdom, to overthrow the governments of the world, install Himself in a palace, and be a king like other kings of this world. But Jesus reminds us that He has something better in mind, and He wants us to focus on that.
Jesus went away because He did not have in mind to rule like an earthly king. He told His disciples that He would eventually take us to be where He was. He would not stay and rule here with us: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 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 14:2-4). Our comfort is in the promise of heaven, not in the establishment of a great Christian kingdom here.
What were the people to do then while Jesus was away from their sight? The answer to this question formed the second part of the parable. In the story, the nobleman called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas—a mina was worth about three month’s wages. “Put this money to work,” the nobleman said, “until I come back.” Each servant was given the same treasure. Each was expected to make use of this treasure while the nobleman was away.
The treasure Jesus was picturing was the great treasure He had given them all: the good news of the forgiveness of their sins. He had made clear on many different occasions that this was the great gift He had for them. When a paralyzed man had been let through the roof to see Him, the first thing Jesus had told Him was, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2).
The many miracles Jesus had done were not just done for their own sake, but to show people that He was the Son of God with power and authority to clear their evil. He came with the good news that He made them clean before God. He could release them from God’s judgment—the punishment they and every other sinner deserved.
This message was the treasure that they were to put to use until the time came for Him to return again visibly. In addition, He would give them two special sacred acts—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—in which this message of forgiveness would be conveyed in more visual form .
For all of us, the parable still resonates. For Jesus is still “away” and He still calls on us to make use of His Gospel treasure—to put it to work—until He returns. How?
Jesus has given us a great treasure and He invites us to use it until He comes again. It is an exciting and happy task. A task which also prepares us for His return.
When the nobleman comes back, there will be a reckoning. That’s how Jesus told the parable: The nobleman was made king and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
Some of the servants had shown their appreciation of the nobleman’s gift by taking good care of it and making good use of it. One servant said, “Master, your mina has earned ten minas.” Another replied, “Master, your mina has earned five minas.” The gift they had been given was important to these servants and they had not neglected it.
Another of the servants had not appreciated the nobleman’s gift. In his heart he had despised it. He had wrapped it in a cloth and let it gather dust on the shelf, claiming that his master was a hard man and would not really want him to make use of the treasure. His treasure was taken away from him.
A few others had not even wanted the nobleman to become king in the first place and were open enemies of his, not receiving his treasure at all. They, along with the wicked servant were condemned and put to death.
Jesus was speaking of Judgment Day. He was showing the people that He would be away for awhile, but that He would return. When He returned He would look to see who had made use of His treasure, for it would reveal what was in their hearts concerning Him.
We too take note of what Jesus is talking about. He is coming again, and when He comes He will execute judgment and justice. He says, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12 NIV). In 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul writes, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (NIV).
When Christ comes again He will examine everyone—the living and those raised from the dead—and He will announce His final judgment. He will look for those who have loved His Gospel and made use of it. Those who have trusted Him for the forgiveness of their sins will have shown it by their outward acts. Those who have despised His Gospel will have shown it by their outward acts. So it is that man’s works will not be the reason people are saved or not, but the works will reveal the hearts of those who have and who have not trusted in Jesus to save them.
So will we be found faithful? When Christ comes again will we have made use of His Gospel? Certainly this parable highlights the importance of doing what Jesus has given us to do until He comes again. It urges us to put down our sinful flesh which does not want to do the work of the Lord.
But at the same time we do not and should not live in fear of Judgment Day because Jesus, the Judge Himself, has suffered for our sin. He Himself has worked out our forgiveness, so that when we are called to stand before Him, we will stand clothed in the white robes of His own holiness.
This is our hope and expectation.
This is what we cling to in life and in death.
This is what we believe.
A belief worked in us by God Himself.
A faith which truly leads to eternal life, just as He promises. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.