This parable is the last teaching of Jesus before he entered Jerusalem. All of the events that occur after this teaching occur in Jerusalem except for Jesus’ retreat to the Mount of Olives.
This is another story where Luke told the reason for the parable at the beginning rather than the end. Jesus told the parable because he was nearing Jerusalem and because his disciples thought the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. In other words, Jesus knew those who believed he was the Messiah thought he would become an earthly king when he got to Jerusalem. Jesus told this parable partly to counter that belief, and to instruct his disciples how to live until his return.
Some believe this story has an allusion to a historical even. Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. One of his sons, Archelaus believed the Roman Emperor would make him king. He went to Rome to receive the royal title from the Emperor Augustus.
The Jews did not want Archelaus to be king. Once during a Passover, he slaughtered several thousand Jews at the temple to quell a disturbance. The Jews sent a delegation to Augustus to seek another king. They failed, though, and Archelaus became king. He then executed his opponents.
Jesus said a nobleman went away to a far country to receive a kingdom. He, like Archelaus, went to be declared king of the country where he lived. It was not the “far country” where he would rule, but his home country.
Before the man left, he called 10 of his servants and gave them responsibilities.
To the servants, he gave money to invest while he was gone. He told them to “engage in business until I come”. He gave 10 minas to each one. (13) A mina was about three month’s wages for a laborer. Ezekiel 45:12 says it was sixty shekels. So, in the absence of the king, the servants were to be about his business and make a profit for him.
The king’s servants are the first group of people, and the main group, involved in the story. The second group is composed of his enemies. Jesus said his citizens hated him and sent a delegation to the far country saying they did not want the man to reign over them. (14)
When the man returned, he indeed returned as a king. (15) He called his servants to account. The first two servants made money with the king’s money. The king called them good servants and said “well done”.
He also rewarded the good servants proportionately to their service. The one who made 10 minas was given 10 cities. The one who made five minas was given five cities.
The one who did not engage in business, and made no money, lost his minas and they were given to another
The man who received a kingdom represented Jesus. Jesus would not receive his kingdom simply by going to Jerusalem. He would go to the far country of death and burial before being raised and ascending to heaven to receive his kingdom from the Father. Remember Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man coming to the Ancient of Days, who gave him dominion and glory and a kingdom. (Daniel 7:13-14). That is a picture of Jesus receiving the kingdom from the Father.
One of the things we see in the parable is the concept that Jesus’s return is not immediate. It is delayed. The man in the parable traveled far away and it took long enough for his servants to work and invest his money and make money for him. We also see this concept in the fact that Luke told us the story was told because some thought the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. (11) In fact, the next story shows us many people calling him king and hailing his entry into Jerusalem.
This is also another example of Jesus preparing his disciples for their life between his ascension and his return. They did not understand it at first, as evidenced by their question at his ascension: “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel”. (Acts 1:6) But they would come to understand it later.
When the Jews spoke of the Kingdom of God coming, they meant the full and final realization of the kingdom in Christ’s rule over all the earth. Jesus was teaching them that the kingdom had come with him, but it would not be fully realized until his return. He came in humility the first time. The second time he will come in glory.
We still live in this interim time. The kingdom has come and is growing, but is not fully realized. The question for us, then, is how do we live while we wait for Jesus to come in glory? Jesus answered that question in the parable by showing what the king expected of his servants.
Since he used the number 10, he did not refer to the Twelve only, but all of his disciples, represented by the number 10.
We are to take what Jesus gave us and engage in business until he returns. What Jesus gave us was and is the gospel. He gave us good news of salvation through grace by faith because of his death for us. He entrusted the gospel to us to use to make his kingdom grow.
Paul wrote: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)
That is the essence of the Great Commission: go and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:18)
In the parable, the man gave the same thing to all of his servants. He expected the same thing from them, that they would engage in business to make a profit.
Jesus gave the same thing, the gospel, to all of his servants. He expects all of his servants to engage in the business of sharing the gospel to the increase (profit) of his kingdom.
We know that the gospel is effective to accomplish the work of the kingdom. In Romans 1:16, Paul wrote “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Since the Great Commission passage is so often preached in sermons about missions, some have come to think that the only way we faithfully serve is to serve as a missionary. But we are faithful servants if we work hard for the kingdom.
Certainly, missions and witnessing are crucial parts of the work of disciples. But, so is every activity that evidences that we are changed by the gospel and are servants of Jesus.
We do this by faithfully growing in spiritual maturity through Bible Study and prayer, by faithfully gathering together to worship, by raising families in the faith, by depending on God rather than ourselves and by serving others. We also faithfully serve by sharing the gospel with others, by doing the work of missionaries and by giving to support the work of missionaries and evangelists.
We see that Jesus will hold us accountable for our service. The king called each servant before him and made them account for what they had done with his money.
We also that the king not only demands faithful service, he rewards it. The king said “well done, good servant”. He gave rewards for service, proportionate to the service. Yet, the reward was also disproportionate to the service. The servant made 10 minas, but received 10 cities!
Even greater, the Bible says that Jesus’ faithful servants will reign with him. 2 Timothy 2:12 says “if we endure, we will also reign with him”. In Revelation 3:21, Jesus said “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne”.
Sadly, there was one servant who failed to serve. He did not engage in business, he just kept the money wrapped up in a cloth. He resisted his master’s instructions and refused to use his gift. Jesus said he was a wicked servant. The king took his money away from him and gave it to the faithful servant. Jesus had already taught that “whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it”. (17:33)
The second group of people are the enemies of the king. They hated him and said they did not want him to rule over them. (14) The king had them killed. (27)
There will be many who reject Jesus. They refuse to serve him. They refuse to acknowledge him as Lord and as King. The Bible is clear that those who reject Jesus will suffer the second death, which is eternal punishment and torment.
I am grateful to have heard the gospel from faithful believers from an early age. In addition to my parents, there were many women who taught Sunday School for children. They told us the stories of the Bible. They told us about Jesus. There were also pastors and evangelists who preached the gospel and singers who sang it.
This often occurred in small churches and small towns with no glory attached. There was no fame for these people. They were simple people who received the gospel and gratefully invested it in others, including me.
May God grant us the grace to serve him in all aspects of life and the courage to tell the gospel to others. May we long to hear the words “Well done, good servant”. And may we indeed hear them on that day.