When I was young my father had a large collection of tools and he felt a responsibility in teaching my brothers and I the proper use of hand tools. One day we were building something at home when my father told me to go to the tool shed and bring him a coping saw. When I went to the shed, I discovered that there were several different varieties of saws. Which one was the coping saw? First, I looked at the handles to see if any of them had the word “coping” on it. None of them did. So, I grabbed one and took it to him. It was not a coping saw. “Go back and try again,” he said. I picked another saw and it was not a coping saw. On the fourth try, I managed to choose the coping saw. I now know I brought him a crosscut saw, a backsaw, a hacksaw, and finally the coping saw. My problem was that I did not know what a coping saw was; in fact, I was not aware that there were so many different types of hand saws. I did not understand the differences.
The parable we will study today rests on misunderstanding. The disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ did not understand Jesus’ mission. Earlier we read Luke 19:11-27, which contains the text of Jesus’ parable, but in verse 10 Jesus told these same disciples that His mission was to “seek and to save that which was lost.” Yet even though this statement seems easy to understand and believe, the disciples completely missed its meaning.
In Luke’s Gospel the truth about the coming death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ had already been revealed at least three times and the twelve disciples heard Him every time. But the repetition did not seem to help–they still seemed clueless about Jesus’ purpose in going to Jerusalem. In Luke 9:22, Jesus told His disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” He told them again in Luke 9:44, where He said, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”
While those words seem easy to comprehend, it appears the disciples failed to understand. So, once more, Jesus told them of His upcoming sacrificial death. This time He expanded their view-point by saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” From our perspective two thousand years later, we know that is exactly what happened. But the sad truth is that the disciples still did not under-stand. In fact, the Bible says, “But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said” (Luke 18:31-34)
Luke presented two stories from Jesus’ trip to Jericho; first the healing of blind Bartimaeus and, second, the salvation of Zaccheus. Jesus was now leaving Jericho and heading up the steep incline to Jerusalem, likely with both Bartimaeus and Zaccheus, as well as the twelve disciples and a larger group of disciples and followers. Along the way, Jesus told a parable to correct their obstinate misunderstanding. We will begin by looking at the characters in Jesus’ parable, then at the challenges the parable presents, and finally, at the purposes of this parable.
THE CHARACTERS IN THE PARABLE. Luke 19:11-14
The Misunderstanding. In this case Jesus tells us exactly why He told this parable. This parable is designed to teach an important truth about the establishing of Jesus’ one-thousand-year kingdom. Obviously, the disciples are under the mistaken idea that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to be crowned king and then He would raise an army that would defeat Rome and then He would reestablish Israel’s storied kingdom. As each step brought them closer to Jerusalem, the excitement and anticipation grew. The King would ascend to the throne and they would have a part in His kingdom.
But that is not why Jesus came. That was not what His incarnation was all about. From the very beginning of his Gospel, Luke has told us that Jesus had come to be a Savior–that He had come to save sinners. At His birth the angels declared that Jesus is a “Savior” and that He is “Christ the Lord.” Later, Simeon said that in seeing Jesus, he had seen God’s salvation. John the Baptist called Him the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
At His first coming, Jesus did not come for a crown but for a cross. He did not seek a kingdom but a gruesome and painful sacrifice. He was not looking for a throne, but a tomb. Jesus, the Lamb of God, must die on Calvary’s cross before anyone can be saved. If Jesus did not die on the cross there could be no salvation and all people; everyone of us, would die in our sins and be eternally judged and punished. No one, not even the enthusiastic but ignorant disciples could prevent Christ from His cross. It was His mission; His purpose.
The Nobleman. The nobleman represents Jesus, the journey to a distant country to receive a kingdom for Himself represents Christ’s ascension and exaltation to the Father’s right hand and after a delay, His return to reign.
The parable, then, describes the faithfulness of Jesus’ disciples in the interim between His first and second comings. Here He focuses on rewards for faithfully serving Jesus Christ. In Matthew 13, the parable of the Wheat and the Tares provides additional insight for the age of the Church. Faithful believers in Christ are pictured as valuable wheat whereas unbelievers are seen as worthless tares which will be cast into a furnace of fire at the time of judgment. Reckoning and accounting takes place when the nobleman returns. When Jesus returns, He will come as the judge who holds all under His accountability.
The Slaves/Servants. The slaves are Jesus’ disciples who are called and gifted into ministry and service. Although ten are called, only three are mentioned. The master gave each of the slaves one of ten minas. (The KJV calls these “pounds.”) The word “mina” is a transliteration of the original Greek word mna which was a minted coin in the first century. A drachma was the standard pay for a day’s labor for an ordinary laborer and a mina had the value of one hundred drachmas. Each of the slaves/servants were given one of these coins and told to faithfully add to the amount through productive service and investment.
Two of the master’s slaves did very well and earned additional minas during the master’s absence. One of the slaves failed to use or invest his mina. He buried it and returned it to the master when he returned.
The Citizens. The citizens appear at the beginning and at the end of the parable. In both cases they are cast as hating and despising the master. They refused to live under His authority and rule. They are obviously lawless and rebellious. At the end of the parable, they are placed into eternal judgment because of the hatred they had for the Lord Jesus and for their rebellion against Him. They represent people who are lost and who refuse to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
THE CHALLENGES IN THE PARABLE. Luke 19:15-24
The Challenge for the Faithful. When the master returned, now given authority as sovereign, he called his servants into accountability. Two of them were considered faithful. The first servant, through wisdom and faithfulness, was productive for his master/king building his one mina to ten minas. As a reward for his faithfulness, the king awarded him ten cities, a gracious reward incomparably greater than his stewardship of ten minas warranted. In essence, this faithful servant was made a vice-regent who ruled over a province or region under the king’s authority.
The second servant also faithfully produced although not to the same degree as the first. He was just as faithful, but the results and the reward were different. Rather than ten cities, he would rule over five. Not everyone has the same gifts, opportunities, or outcomes for faithful ministry. Still there is coming a glorious future reward for those who faithfully serve the Lord. When the Lord Jesus Christ appears, He will pour out eternal blessings on believers vastly and disproportionately beyond what they can imagine.
The Challenge for the Unfaithful. The third servant was careless, lazy, and thoughtless and had no desire to honor or please his master. He accused his master of being strict, harsh, severe, and unfair. If he had had any respect for the king, he would have invested for a minimum gain. He served the king for his own selfish purposes and goals.
The Enemies. These people refused to honor or respect the king. In open rebellion they declared their unwillingness to either follow or obey him. For them, there is only judgment. They have made their choice and their judgment will depend solely on the choice they personally made.
THE PURPOSES OF THE PARABLE. Luke 19:25-27
How the Future Will Unfold. As Jesus and His disciples travelled to Jerusalem, it became apparent that they thought that King Jesus would immediately establish His kingdom. But the Lord Jesus knew that what was ahead was a cross, not a crown. So, He had to correct their thinking. Jesus would die on the cross, be buried, and be raised again on the third day. Within days He would ascend into heaven, that is, travel to a distant country. At a later date He will return. When He does return, He will establish His kingdom, reward those faithful to Him and judge those who were unfaithful.
Rewards For the Faithful. The New Testament teaching on rewards for the faithful believers in Jesus Christ is found in several places. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 we find that “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The judgment seat of Christ will occur in heaven after the Rapture of the Church, and affects only those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Romans 14:10-12 tells us that “We will all stand before the judgment seat of God” and that “each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” At that time, just as the parable pictures, the Lord Jesus Christ will give rewards to those who lived faithfully before Him. They loved Him and carefully followed His will for their life. God’s reward for faithfulness will be beyond anything that we can comprehend.
There are those who trust Christ as Savior, but then choose to go their own separate ways, they refuse to worship or obey the Lord and live a rebellious and self-centered life. They too must stand before the Lord and they will receive no reward. This is revealed to us in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. These verses give insight into what will happen at the Judgment Seat of Christ. All of a Christian’s faithful service will appear in the form of gold, silver, and precious stones. Unfaithfulness and disobedience will appear in the form of wood, hay, and straw. Then the fire of God’s judgment is applied and only that which does not burn will remain. At that point, the Bible says, “If any man’s work remains, he will receive a reward.” But there is a warning for the unfaithful: “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” God will remain faithful to His promise of grace, but the unfaithful will receive no reward. None.
Judgment For the Unsaved. These are people who have had the opportunity to receive the Lord Jesus as Savior and Master, but they have adamantly refused. They hate Him and refuse to trust in Him. For these people there remains no hope for the future. They will stand before the King and their lack of faith will be declared from God’s throne. They will then face eternal retribution and judgment, with no hope of reprieve or parole. They will face a joyless and agonizing eternity.
We are living today in the period called the Church Age when our Master is absent but will return according to His promise. We have been given a task to perform, and we must be faithful until He comes. What will the King say to us when He returns? Will His words mean reward, rebuke, or possibly retribution?
We must remember that the final revelation of the sovereign dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ has not yet come but will soon appear, and we must anticipate our Lord’s return. While we wait, each one of us has a great responsibility to obey His will and serve Him faithfully until He comes. When Jesus does return, He will reward the faithful and judge those who refused to obey Him.
These are intense and sobering thoughts this morning and I think we should ponder them as we prepare our hearts for the Lord’s Table. If the Lord were to return today, would He find you among the faithful? Would He rush to reward you for your life of obedience and worship? And if you have never received the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, will you do that right now?
Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner, 9/15/2021