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UNDERSTANDING: Serving the King

Lessons from a parable in Luke 19…..

– An examination of Luke 19:11-27

 

 

There seems to be a lot of confusion in Christian circles nowadays over the subject of the kingdom of God. If all the references to the kingdom in Scripture are examined, we discover that in the Old Testament God’s kingdom upon earth was Israel. When the Lord Jesus came to earth, He came to the nation of Israel. Both the Lord Jesus and His forerunner, John the Baptist, preached that the kingdom of heaven was “at hand”. As we know, the King was rejected by those to whom He came, but although the nation of Israel lost its monarchy and its throne has disappeared, a future kingdom is still promised. At the present time God, in His grace, has turned to the Gentiles, and both Jews and Gentiles are being added to the Church. The Church is not the same as the kingdom but is within the kingdom. We learn from Colossians 1:13 that believers at the present time are in the kingdom of God’s own dear Son. This is a spiritual kingdom.

 

The Lord Jesus told a parable about the kingdom and about responsibility within it in Luke 19:11-27. The parable sheds a lot of light upon this often-misunderstood subject. It tells of the Lord’s departure from earth to heaven and describes the scene upon earth while He is away. We learn from it that the Lord is coming again, and when He comes He will reward His faithful servants and destroy His enemies. It also teaches us that He will reign.

 

It is interesting to note the context of this parable. Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, had appealed to Jesus as the “Son of David” and had miraculously received his sight. Zacchaeus had been called from the branches of the sycamore tree where he was hidden and had received “salvation” that very day. As the people heard these things, “they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Lk.19:11). Christ was near to Jerusalem! The kingdom was therefore about to appear before their very eyes! They were wrong. We, too, can come to wrong conclusions. That is why we must be very careful when we seek to interpret current events in the light of Scripture. For example, when the EEC consisted of ten countries, some Christians sincerely believed that prophecy was being fulfilled there and then. They believed that the ten-nation confederacy described in Daniel and Revelation was appearing. We now know that the conclusion was a wrong one.

 

This parable from the lips of our Lord Jesus was told to correct a supposition and to teach that there would be a delay before the kingdom would be revealed. However, the parable is not intended simply to be theoretical. From it we can learn practical lessons about our own service for the Lord. Let us notice three things in the parable: the King’s commitment (“to receive for Himself a kingdom”), His commission (to “occupy till I come”), and His coming (He “returned”).

 

 

TO RECEIVE A KINGDOM

The original listeners would have understood the historical parallel. Archelaeus had been chosen by Herod to succeed him but was rejected by Antipas and by many of the people. Archelaeus therefore went to Rome where his appointment was confirmed. He then returned in triumph to reward his servants and to destroy his enemies. All these things had taken place at about the time of our Saviour’s birth.

 

The parable, however, is prophetical. It concerns “a certain nobleman” (v.12), or one of noble birth. He was noble already. This is a picture of none other than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself – but to begin with we need to go back in time. In Luke 18:31-33 the Lord Jesus told His followers: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully treated, and spitted on; and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death; and the third day He shall rise again.” He had come to die at Calvary, to suffer “these things” before entering “into His glory” (1). In our parable we find Him going “into a far country” (v.12), in other words going from earth to heaven after the cross. It reminds us of Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man appearing before the Ancient of Days and receiving “an everlasting dominion… and [a] kingdom…which shall not be destroyed” (2).

 

The nobleman promised that after receiving the kingdom he would return (v.12). From a careful comparison of New Testament passages we discover that the Lord Jesus will return for His saints (3) and with His saints (4). His return with His saints is to be followed by His reign. The angel Gabriel told Mary: “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (5). The Lord Jesus is committed to fulfil these things, and “the Scripture cannot be broken” (6).

 

 

“OCCUPY TILL I COME”

Secondly, from the parable let us notice the King’s commission to His servants in verse 13.  J. N. Darby’s translation is very accurate here, and it reads, “Trade while I am coming.” The tense used indicates a constant awareness of His return. Think of it like this: He could already be on His way!

 

Like those servants, we are required to be faithful (7). The “pound” each one was given was probably something equivalent to three months’ salary. Notice that each servant was given the same amount. If we are believers we have each received the Holy Spirit, and each of us has the Gospel which we are to share with others. The question that must be asked is – are we being faithful? The number ten in Scripture seems to speak of responsibility. For example there were the Ten Commandments which were to be kept; we have been given ten fingers that we can use. Knowing that the days are evil, we must redeem the time (8) and wisely use the opportunities that we are given by the Lord.    

 

The Bible tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (9). We must learn to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (10). We must ever remember that HE is coming and that He has instructed us to “occupy” or to “trade” while He is coming! Do we fear Him as we ought? We are only servants, yet we are “ambassadors for Christ” (11).  This is a high and holy calling.

 

With His commission ringing in our minds we must be fruitful. Some of the servants in the parable used what they were given. One man was lazy and did not even put his “pound” in the bank. We must remember that, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty” (12). This almost seems a paradox, yet it is true.  

Christopher Wordsworth wrote:

“We lose what on ourselves we spend, We have as treasure without end

Whatever, Lord, to Thee we lend, Who givest all.” (13)   

We read of being fruitful in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. The Gospel itself brings forth fruit as its message is believed (14). As believers we ought to be “fruitful in every good work” that we do (15). The Lord Jesus said that when we bring forth “much fruit” the Father is glorified (16). We therefore should seek the Holy Spirit’s help in order to live in a way that glorifies our Heavenly Father.

 

Our service will not be easy. Remember that those servants were fulfilling their commission in an atmosphere of opposition as the citizens around them declared, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Lk.19:14). With what disrespect our Lord Jesus is treated today! All around are people who arrogantly refuse to own His lordship and right to rule in their lives.

 

 

THE RETURN OF THE KING

The third thing we must notice in this parable is the King’s coming. He returned, having received the kingdom, and called for His servants to stand before Him. He was interested in every one and wanted to know how much each had gained by trading. We must not miss an application to ourselves here. The Scripture states: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (17). Just as on earth we never sit an examination on behalf of another person, so we are to give an account of ourselves to God (18). One servant in the parable “gained ten pounds” by trading and was commended by his master; another had “gained five pounds” and similarly was commended. Each was rewarded in proportion to his service, we notice, being given authority “over ten cities” and “over five cities” respectively (v.16-19).

 

But one man was lazy. He may have felt pleased with himself for keeping his master’s pound safe in his napkin, but the tragedy was that he had done nothing with it. Thinking that his excuse was valid, he declared, “For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man” (v.21). Make no mistake, our Lord Jesus Christ is not austere; He is a gracious Master. Clearly, the lazy servant in the parable did not know his lord, accusing him of being unjust in his dealings. As a result, this servant lost the reward that he might have obtained (v.24-26).

 

In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul writes about what we build into our lives. There is only one foundation upon which to build – Jesus Christ – but various materials are available to us. We can use gold, silver, and precious stones that are costly and can withstand high temperatures, or we can use combustible materials such as wood, hay, and stubble (19). A choice confronts us as we face the challenge of life. Will we invest in the things of eternity or simply in the things of time? It is possible to be saved “as by fire” (20) – in other words with nothing to show for a life of service. Salvation cannot be lost, but rewards can. Let us therefore take heed how we build.

Following the examination of the servants, and the reward of some of them, the king in the parable turned to deal with his rebellious subjects. They had said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Just as a delegation had followed Archelaeus to Rome with this very message, we recall the hostility displayed towards our Lord Jesus when Stephen was stoned (21). Using the very same words that they had expressed, the king ordered that those who would not have him to “reign over them” should be brought and slain (v.27). For those who have rejected Christ there will be final, irrevocable judgment. The Lord Jesus “shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (22). How terrible it will be to face Him in His wrath and to be banished from His holy presence for ever.

 

The final aspect of the king’s coming in the parable is his reign (v.27). The Old Testament confirms that “a king shall reign in righteousness” (23). No enemy can prevent that reign of His! One day every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (24).

 

 

THEN AND NOW

“And when He had thus spoken, He went before, ascending up to Jerusalem” (Lk.19:28). He was going to face the cross, and from the cross He was going up to the glory of heaven to receive His promised kingdom. True to the pattern presented in the parable He will return to this earth and will reign.

 

For many years the Radio Bible Class used a little slogan, “Waiting, Working and Watching.” That should be the hallmark of the believer’s life. We must not simply be waiting for our Lord to come but working – and watching as we work. The Lord Jesus said, “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me: and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour” (25). We cannot boast of our service. After it is all over we can only call ourselves “unprofitable servants” who have simply done that which was our duty (26). It is a great privilege to be able to serve the King of kings! This fascinating parable should inspire us to go on gladly in His service until He comes.   

 

END NOTES:- (1)Lk.24:26.  (2)Dan.7:13-14.  (3)As described in John 14:2-3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.     (4)As seen in Jude 14 and Revelation 1:7.  (5)Lk.1:33.  (6)Jn.10:35.  (7)1 Cor.4:2.  (8)Eph.5:16.  (9)Prov.9:10.  (10)Heb.12:28.  (11)2 Cor.5:20.  (12)Prov.11:24.  (13)O LORD of Heaven, and earth, and sea, by C. Wordsworth: GOLDEN BELLS 89.  (14)Col.1:6.  (15)Col.1:10.  (16)Jn.15:8.  (17)2 Cor.5:10.  (18)Rom.14:12.  (19)1 Cor.3:10-15.  (20)1 Cor.3:15.  (21)Acts 7:54,57-60.  (22)2 Thess.1:7-8.  (23)Isa.32:1.  (24)Phil.2:11.     (25)Jn.12:26.  (26)Lk.17:10.