Luke 19:11 – 27
As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) ‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”
Jesus tells a parable within a parable – in the first, a nobleman goes away to be crowned king, to gain power. It would not be uncommon in Roman colonies for one to go to Rome seeking the crown of a kingdom. When Jesus was yet a baby this actually happened, when King Herod the Great died, his son Archelaus went to Rome seeking to become his successor. A delegation of 50 Jews went to Rome to protest. Archelaus was not granted succession to his father’s throne, but the kingdom was divided among him and his brothers; Archelaus ruled only over Judea, and was later ousted for a Roman governor. What happened to those who went to Rome to prevent his being crowned? It is quite likely that they were killed.
But even if he does refer to history, what is Jesus saying here? First of all, Luke tells us in the first sentence that Jesus is now near Jerusalem and those following him are expecting him to establish his kingdom when they reach the city. But Jesus, in the parable, is saying “Not yet.” He will go away for a time, perhaps a long time, before he returns with a crown. And there will be those who object and refuse his kingship, and things will not go well for them when he does return.
The second parable woven together with that first is similar to the parable of the talents told by Matthew. We are more familiar with the “talents” of Matthew than with the “pounds” of Luke. In this parable, the nobleman who goes away entrusting to ten servants ten pounds, with which they are to trade into a profit. One might say this is their “Shark Tank”; each one receives enough to make an investment and a profit for the investor. On the king’s return those who invested wisely and made a large profit are given control over cities, but the one who buried the investment and did not at least make interest is punished – his pound is taken away. The story closes, “To those who have much will be given, and from those who have little even that will be taken away.” This refers not to material goods, but to faith. The servant with the one talent did not have enough faith to invest the one, but lived in fear, burying what he had.
Jesus was going away, for a long time. Some day he will yet return to culminate his kingdom; but, his disciples must live into the Kingdom in his absence. They, we, cannot simply bury our little faith until his return – that is a sure way for it to wither and die. Disciples are charged with spreading the Word, the Good News of Jesus to all the world, multiplying it a hundred-fold. That remains our job as disciples today – we still wait the return of our King. We are not given the richness of faith, of life in his kingdom, so that we can use it for ourselves, bury it in our garden. We are given faith so that it can multiply, and spread the Kingdom.