Luke 19:11-27 (AD 30)
Why did Jesus tell this parable?
“because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once” (v.11). He was walking towards the capital with his followers and after three years of increasingly public, popular and startling ministry, many were hoping that he would be the cause of an upheaval, maybe a toppling of godless rule or at the very least a resounding reminder that the God of Israel really was a bigger deal than the gods of Rome.
Jesus replied by telling a parable showing that most of them were not his followers at all, but rejecting him and by extension, God the Father. That despite all the blessings God had given them, there were many who repaid him with dislike and distrust.
The audience was a mixture of believers and non-believers. This reminds us that the passage is not a dire warning to Christians that if they don’t maximise their giftings, that God is going to cast them or you into hell. Rather, the primary dividing line is between those who reject Christ (they guy in the parable who buried the money), and those Jews, in particular, who accept Christ and live lives for his glory (the other two guys).
Remembering the audience is particularly important when we get to the climactic verses 26-27. The Jews had been given the rich history of God’s dealings with their people over the previous 2,000 years, they had been given the physical presence of the Son of God himself who had proved his identity many times over with his life and miracles. So if, despite being given those things they chose to reject him, then he would take away what they did have: Jesus would be gone, and he would allow them to continue in their rejection of him. They “sought to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:4). God would give them no more promptings based on his words or their history. That little they had, would be gone, and therein is the most horrifying judgement of all, and one that Paul talked about in his letters.
God is speaking to you now, today, to follow him. Maybe for the first time in your life because you don’t yet have a relationship with him. Or maybe you’ve been drifting, presuming on his generosity to ‘be there’ when you want him while you keep him at arms’ length when you’re feeling OK.
This parable is a reminder that we cannot presume. That the pull you may feel now to respond to God, if you resist it, may not be there again tomorrow; that the pull itself is a mark of God’s mercy and patience with you.
You are not thinking about him now because you are enlightened or moral, but because he is merciful enough to speak to you. Thank him for that, and turn fully to face him with your life, be it for the first or 10,000th time.