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Sermons » 14/09/2008 (6.30pm)
- Luke 19
A sermon preached by David Holloway
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Tonight, I want us to think about a Commission Jesus gave in his Parable of the 10 Minas in Luke 19 verses 11-27. My headings tonight will be, after a few words of introduction, first, THE CONTEXT; secondly, THE COMMISSION; thirdly, THE CHALLENGE; and, fourthly, THE CHECK UP.
This parable is almost an historical allegory. It teaches, first, that Christ’s return when ultimately God’s kingdom is to be fully established, will not be as soon as some think. Secondly, it teaches that in the meantime his followers need to get on with creatively working and witnessing to Christ as they live godly lives. And, thirdly, it teaches that Christ’s followers and everyone else have a great responsibility. For when Christ returns, he will call each one of us to account. It will be “judgment day”. So much, then, by way of introduction.
Let me now ,first, talk about THE CONTEXT of this parable. It may actually allude to Herod Archelaus.
When Herod the Great died in 4 BC, he left his kingdom to be divided between his sons. The north was to go to Herod Antipas. Judea in the South was to go to his son Herod Archelaus, a pretty brutal man. And the Jews hated Archelaus. So Archelaus in the light of a Southern Jewish uprising wanted his authority confirmed by the Emperor in far away Rome. He went off, therefore, for that purpose. However, a Jewish delegation also went to Rome to oppose this appointment, but they were unsuccessful. So Archelaus returned home as the official ruler in Judea. And one of the things he did was to build a palace with white marble terraces in Jericho, a town not far from Jerusalem. And Jesus is now in Jericho. You can see that from verse 1 of chapter 19. But having met Zacchaeus, a chief tax-collector, whose life was changed inside out by Jesus, Jesus is facing a serious problem.
Many of the Jews thought that somehow he was about to bring in God’s kingdom, in a great new way, immediately when he entered Jerusalem. Perhaps there would be some uprising and victory over the Romans. And some of the disciples may have expected that, too. When Jesus had spoken of his coming death and resurrection, we read in verse 34 of the previous chapter (chapter 18): “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”
So having just said that “today salvation has come to this house [of Zacchaeus]” (chapter 19 verse 9), Jesus is now at pains to quash any wrong expectations regarding his entry to Jerusalem. He, unlike Mohammed going into Medina to conquer, was going into Jerusalem to die. Look at verses 11-12 of chapter 19:
“While they were listening to this [his comments about Zacchaeus], he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.”
Many in Jericho would have known all about Archelaus. So Jesus may well be using the story of Archelaus as a starting point for this parable. A man of “noble birth” is, therefore, someone like Archelaus (in one way), but unlike Archelaus (in another). For this nobleman was a good man, not a wicked tyrant like Archelaus. But like Archelaus he went off to be properly appointed by the Emperor and then to return.
Of course, when the first Christians read Luke (after Jesus’ death and resurrection) they would have realized that this absent nobleman represents Jesus Christ as he now is. Although absent from us today, he is risen, ascended and reigning at the Father’s right hand. There, as our High Priest he “always lives to intercede [to pray] for us” (Heb 7.25). That is an amazing thought. If you trust him, he is praying for you.
Well, all that is the context of this parable. It is being told to explain that there was going to be a delay before God’s kingdom was to be established. First Jesus had to die for the sins of the world, rise again and send the Holy Spirit.
And that is why …
Secondly, Jesus needs to tell his disciples and followers how to live in this period between his first and second comings. And you have (in verse 13) what I have called THE COMMISSION:
“So he [the noble man going off to a distant country] called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’”
The servants (or literally, slaves) of this nobleman represent all professing Christians. Their master has left with them one mina each. He wants them all to see if this money can increase and grow while he is away. They are, as we read, to “put this money to work.” That is the commission. And they know he will come back. But “when?”, they are not told. So what can we say about this commission and how it relates to us today? Well, we can say, at least five things.
One, these servants now had great freedom. Their master was no longer breathing down their necks ordering them to do this and that. They were now personally responsible for what they did.
Two, what they had to work on was a gift from their master (and all had the same). And at the end of the day what money they had made would still be their master’s.
Three, the master was wanting to see growth. He wanted them to have a growth mentality with regard to this money. He wanted the money to be put to work to make more money.
Four, this clearly was not an issue of the master wanting to make a fortune out of cheap labour. A mina was a relatively small sum. It was worth about three months wages. So this looks like the original idea for Alan Sugar’s Apprentice TV series. It looks like a business experiment, or a business test, to discover which servants would be good as future city governors in the new kingdom.
And, five, they were having to work in a hostile environment. Look at verse 14:
"But [after the nobleman had gone off to the distant county] his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.'”
You remember, this happened in the case of Archelaus. This is a parallel situation with the citizens hating the nobleman. So it must have been hard for the servants to do business. But do business, they had to. How, then, is this relevant today and to us? Well, every professing Christian and every Christian leader of whatever sort, has to come to terms with these five truths or facts.
One, the Master, Jesus Christ, is not going to force you to do anything.
Two, everything you have - your life, your brains, your family, your home, your wealth, your personality, your education, your job, your church and Christian friends, and, above all, your faith in Jesus Christ – it is all a gift of God’s grace.
Three, your duty is to see those gifts of God’s grace grow. In this life, in everything you should be seeking to see improvement and growth. That means in your own life, first of all – as you seek to love, trust and obey Jesus Christ more and more. Then in your directly Christian work you should be praying and working to see the church grow, and your part of the church grow, in both quality and quantity – people living more godly lives and more people starting to live godly lives.
So tonight, I am asking you all to pray and work for the growth of this church in terms of old believers being more obedient to Christ; and of more new believers; and of fallen-by-the-wayside old believers being picked up and helped; and especially in terms of children growing in the faith. More and more there is anti-Christian schooling. This gives them a hard time. So it means the church needs all the more to help parents nurture their children to fight against sin, the world and the devil.
Nor is growth to be just in the church. All Christians should be working for improvement and more godliness not only in our schools but in our homes and clinics and hospitals and businesses and colleges and, of course, in those places where there is suffering and hardship of any sort. So we should all be committed to our JPC vision of Godly Living as we trust Christ and obey his word; Church Growth as we tell others and serve the church; and Changing Britain, as we care for needs and contend for truth – and more so than last year. That is growth. That is putting to work not just your money but all God’s grace to you.
And, four, all this is like being selected to be on (if I may put it this way) a divine Apprentice programme. For God is preparing, testing and equipping you for eternity.
But, fifth, there are going to be enemies all around. So you have to be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. You will have to stand firm and be ready to be in a minority of one more and more as you witness and work for Christ and his standards. It is still relatively easy in this country. As Hebrews 12.4 says: “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of the shedding of your blood.” In parts of the world, however, people are dying for their faith in Christ such as in India, in Orissa, in recent weeks. Do pray for that area where there is very serious persecution. The Christian life is never going to be easy. There will always be enemies of the gospel and opposition. So that is Jesus’ commission.
Thirdly, THE CHALLENGE
The challenge is very simple. One day there is going to be a judgment. In the parable it was when the master returned as king. Look at verse 15:
"He was made king, however, 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.
One day Jesus Christ will return, and like the king, be our judge. Look at verses 16-19:
"The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'”
Notice, it is the two faithful servants who are being judged. But, you ask, are all believers to be judged? I thought that if you trusted Christ you would not be brought to any judgment. Doesn’t the Bible say in Romans 8 verse 33: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” And hasn’t Paul said in verse 1 of Romans 8: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Yes, that is so true. There is no condemnation for those in Christ. But it is the same Paul who says later on in Romans chapter 14, when Christians were wrongly judging one another: “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat … each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14.10 and 12).
2 Corinthians 5 verse 10 says the same: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
So there are two truths to hold in tension. It was the same with Jesus teaching in John 5. He taught in John 5 verse 24:
“I tell you the truth [which in the original is ‘Amen, amen’ meaning this is a vital truth – or this is so important – I tell you the truth …] whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
The true believer is safe for all eternity. But in John 5.29 Jesus says that “those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” How are you to understand this? It surely is this. True faith in Christ will be proved in some way by a person’s life. The Apostle James says: “faith without deeds is dead” (Jas 2.26).
Of course, no one’s deeds are good enough to earn salvation from God. It is all of God’s grace. But God is pleased with his servants’ weak and often failing attempts to serve him. It proves their love for, and trust in, him. And this parable teaches that for Christ’s faithful servants, the reward is certain. And it is disproportionately large. Commenting on the parable, old Matthew Henry says:
“There are degrees of glory in heaven. Every vessel will be alike full, but not alike large. And the degree of glory there will be according to the degrees of usefulness here.”
That brings us to the wicked servant who seems to stand for people who profess to believe but are not genuine. His distinguishing mark was that he did nothing. Look at verses 20-24:
"Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.'”
This is a parable. We should not press the details too far. But three things are clear about this man.
First, he had no desire for his master’s work to go forward. He just wants to keep intact his one mina safe and sound. Perhaps that’s a warning for all those who are rightly concerned for the truth of the Gospel. But that must never be at the expense of sharing the truth with others who need to hear it. In Jesus’ day he was surrounded by people who thought that the good news he came to bring was just for them and not for the world. How wrong they were.
Secondly, this servant believed that his master, the new king, was “a hard man”. He was totally wrong in this, too. His master was not hard. He was just wanting to test these servants so that he could give them far more rewarding service and privileges in his new kingdom. Ten or five minas were peanuts compared with the rewards of being governors of ten or five cities. Our God is “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4.17). He is a God who can make city governors out of slaves. And because this servant does not have that faith in his Master, now the king, is he not a true believer, for all his profession.
Thirdly, that lack of faith was proved by his disobedience. He did not “put his money to work”. So in the end he is punished, as are the enemies of the king. Look at verses 26-27:
"He [Jesus] replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing [referring to this ‘wicked servant’], even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them - bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"
Hell is a reality. All the images of hell – outer darkness and fire, weeping and wailing – are obviously “pictures” for our imagination (fire and darkness cannot exist together). But they are pointing to a terrible reality, as is the execution of these enemies here in this parable. And it is Jesus more than anyone else who makes us think about hell. But hell is why the cross and forgiveness is such good news. It is delivery from hell. Christ died bearing our sin and rescuing us “from the coming wrath” (1 Thess 1.10). And note, if there are those (as in this parable) who “hate” Jesus and say, “We don’t want this man to be our king,” they will just be receiving what they wanted – separation from his kingly rule. So finally and …
Fourthly, THE CHECK UP
It has been said the right way to read the parables of Jesus, is to put yourself inside them and see where you stand. So who are you like in this parable? Are you like those faithful servants – who were on their master’s side and wanting to help, however, minimally his work to go forward? Then follow Peter’s advice to make your calling and election sure” (2 Pet 1.10).
Or are you like that “wicked servant”? Outwardly he looked like a faithful servant but did nothing and believed wrongly and disobeyed? Or are you like those subjects who said, “we do not want this man to be our king”? If you are like those last two, why not believe that God is good and submit tonight to Jesus Christ, who died for you and seek forgiveness for your rejection. And receive new life and power as the Holy Spirit equips you for working for God’s growth both in your own life and in the life of others and also in the church and in the world. And remember, his rewards for eternity are totally disproportionate.
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