Biblical Text: Luke 19:11-27
Title of Message:
Accountability and the Kingdom of God
Central Point or Truth:
There are three central truths, that judgment will come upon the unfaithful stewards and leaders of God’s people; that the Kingdom of God is present now; and the need for faithfulness and obedience. “The parable of the pounds is certainly not, as Luke 19:11 assumes, an announcement of the delay of the Parousia…” (Jeremias, The Parables, 99). Jesus had acquired the kingdom during the present time of his ministry, this being declared or manifested by his majestic triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The power and authority of the Kingdom of God is in operation now. “The kingdom of God involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history” (Ladd, A Theology , 91). The kingdom of God is not only a future realm but the present dynamic power and dominion of Jesus in this present history as it is known. This parable conveys the point that “the ‘kingdom’ in question was not a realm or a people but the right to reign as king. According to this passage, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God in terms of the exercise of divine royal power” (Ladd, Jesus and the Kingdom, 132). This is contrary to traditional opinion that the parable’s central truth is about faithful stewardship after Jesus’ ascension and until the second coming of Christ. “Everything gets carried out with the dispatch. The ‘getting of the kingdom’ is not an unrealized event of the future, but one already accomplished in the story. The reward to those who have handled their charge well does not consist in some future overseeing of possessions, but present, and consist in power over cities within the Kings realm” (Johnson, 144). The kingdom of God now is not only God’s rein, which is similar to the concept that rabbinic Judaism held, “it is rather a dynamic power at work among men” (Ladd, 235). The power as demonstrated in the person and mission of Jesus the Christ. Those who did not recognize the present power and rule of the kingdom would be condemned at the future consummation of God’s kingdom. Johnson suggest that “we must take seriously the possibility that Luke intended his parable to confirm 19:11, for the progress Luke’s story after the parable shows us in fact a ‘manifestation’ of God’s kingdom ‘immediately’” (Johnson, 152).
The scribes had been entrusted with the spiritual leadership of the nation. These leaders did not accept Jesus’ authority. A recent political incident was a part of their memory. “This parable closely parallels the details of the trip of Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, to Rome in 4 B.C. to receive imperial ratification of his hereditary claim to rule Judea, along with the Jewish embassy which opposed him and Archelaus’s subsequent revenge of the Judeans” (Blomberg, 218). This parable is a warning of judgment.. “The sanguinary revenge inflicted upon the people by Archelaus after his return had never been forgotten; Jesus appears to have used this incident in a crisis-parable as a warning to his audience against a false sense of security” (Jeremias, The Parables, 59).
There was an expectation by some that the kingdom of God would appear immediately (Luke 19:11). Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and it was there that some possibly believed he might set up the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. The parable of the talents, particularly in Luke’s account, relates to his triumphant entry into Jerusalem as king. “The progression towards Jerusalem takes place ‘after he had said this’. These words establish a link with the preceding periscope. That periscope has indicated that the kingdom will not appear immediately in Jerusalem. However, the subsequent story has an almost immediate declaration of Jesus’ kingship in Jerusalem. The apparent futurity of the kingdom in v. 11 must be read in the context of the presence of the kingdom in v.38” (Guy, 128). Not only is the event after the parable significant. The event prior to the parable is also important to understand the parable. “Luke’s introductory clause, ‘as they were listening to this’ v. 11, counsels against making any significant structural separation after v 10 and deans that we grapple with the relation of the parabolic teaching in vv 12-27 to the preceding account of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus (vv 1-10)” (Green, 674). Salvation arriving at the present time to the life of Zacchaeus is a notable reference that Luke makes about the presence of salvation, today. The parable was told, according to Luke, for two reasons, he was headed towards Jerusalem and because they expected the Kingdom immediately.
Content / Exegesis:
Jesus was possibly speaking to the crowd, the disciples, and the scribes, his opponents. “In the journey narrative, Luke is generally careful to specify Jesus’ audiences, and purposefully. To the disciples, he has Jesus address teachings on discipleship; to the crowd, calls for repentance, and warnings; to the opponents, sayings of rejection and judgment. His failure to make this audience clearer to his reader leads one to think that the group to whom the parable was spoken was meant to consist in all those with Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, with the parable addressing each segment in diverse ways” (Johnson, 145).
The parable being addressed to the spiritual leaders of Israel is a warning of Judgment. Joachim Jeremias refers to this parable as being against the opponents of Jesus as being the claimant to the throne. “God has entrusted them (scribes) with much – the spiritual leadership of the nation, the knowledge of his will, the key to the kingdom. Now God’s judgment is at hand; now it will be decided whether the theologians have justified or abused this great trust, whether they have made good use of his gift or turned it to their won advantage and to the imposition of burdens on their fellow-men, whether they have opened the door to the kingdom, or shut it their judgment will be specially severe” (Jeremias, Rediscovering, 131).
The traditional view of the parable is that it is about parousia (return) of Jesus. There are some who do not hold to this traditional view. This may be because it is interpreted in light of the Matthean account of the parable. The other view under investigation is that the parable is about Jesus’ immediate Kingship, and the kingdom of God being present immediately, yet not in the form of the future consummation. “There is little in the parable itself which demands considering it an allegorical tale about the ascension-parousia. In particular, there is nothing in Luke’s version to indicate a temporal delay. Matthew’s Parable of the Talents appears to have affected the reading of Luke’s story” (Johnson, 143). Johnson also states that the getting of the kingdom is not a future event not yet realized but one that is already accomplished in the story (Luke 19:15). He also states that the reward do not relate to some future overseeing of possessions. “They (the rewards) play a present leadership role within the kingdom gained by the nobleman” (Johnson, 144).
The traditional opinion of Luke 19:11 is that Jesus is refuting the expectation of the kingdom. It is interesting to consider the view that 19:11 is not refuting but confirming instead of confuting. The verb “appear’ may have different meanings apart from only a full-scale, visible realization of the kingdom. “It is not al all impossible that Luke intended to mean that ‘the Kingdom of God was going to be declared.’ This would find immediate confirmation in the proclamation of Jesus as King in 19:38” (Johnson,150).
Fitzmyer argues that Luke intentionally altered Mark’s reference to the David kingdom to Jesus being just king. “It is not the kingdom of David that is coming, but Jerusalem’s ‘king’ himself” (Fitzmyer, 289). Fitzmyer does so because he understands that a declaration of a kingdom here would be incompatible with the postponement of the kingdom’s appearance in 19:11. Yet it is wise to consider that “king” implies “kingdom”. “19:11 is not a distancing by Luke from an imminent or present kingdom. Rather 19:38 is to be read in conjunction with 19:11. There is not yet a kingdom, but there is a king, and so by implication there is a kingdom” (Guy, 134).
Guy states that when it is argued that 19:11 is clearly futuristic and that consequently all the other present-oriented statements must be interpreted in a futuristic sense that may be an imposition of our twentieth century western understanding with its dichotomous approach to logic and thought upon first century Lukan thought (Guy, 136).
The parable of the talents is about the present kingdom of God in the life and ministry of Jesus. The key verse of this parable is 19:11: “While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” The parable of the pounds does not deny the expectation but confirms it. “Jesus is proclaimed as a King and does exercise rule through his apostles in the restored Israel. This is a ‘manifestation’ of God’s kingdom” (Johnson, 157).
The parable is not only about the timing and manifestation of God’s kingdom but also about faithfulness. “Jesus underscores the certainty of the ‘appearance’ of the kingdom, but characteristically shifts the focus from the question of when to the issue of faithfulness in anticipation” (Green, 674). The kingdom of God is associated with faithfulness to its King. The message of the kingdom is associated with faithfulness to God’s revelation of his word entrusted to the leaders of Israel. Because of the lack of faithfulness judgment was approaching.
The Kingdom of God’s authority may be exercised now. The future consummation and all of its glory is not an excuse to not use the dynamic power of the kingdom now. Faithfulness to God is not only being a good steward in holding the correct teachings and revelation of God but it also involves living a life of power manifested by godly character as well and ministering to others the powers of the world to come. The pounds that are now entrusted to believer is the preaching of the cross with its message of salvation, the healing of sick bodies, setting free from satanic bondage, and the other works that Jesus and his disciples performed.
The pound entrusted to Israel was the revelation of God’s redemptive plan and correctly representing the character of God. The teaching of the coming Messiah as a suffering servant was hid and exchanged for a mean legalistic Lord (“For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow” 19:21). The Gospel of grace must be preached and lived. This is only possible as long as the church is alert to the deception of legalism. The natural tendency of religious bodies it towards legalism and self effort instead of the grace and inner transforming power of God.
The futuristic aspect of the kingdom is a challenge for watchfulness and accountability. Because of the impending judgment Jeremias states that the primitive church interpreted and applied the parable of the talents as one of the five Parousia-parables. “The five Parousia-parables were originally a group of crisis-parables. They were intended to arouse a deluded people and their leaders to a realization of the awful gravity of the moment” (Jeremias, The Parables, 63). The other four crisis-parables are the nocturnal house-breaker, the bridegroom arriving, the master of the house returning, the merchant returning from his far journey. Ministry must be done today in light of the judgment seat of Christ.
The church, especially each individual Christian, must be burdened for the horrible punishment that awaits, the citizens (Luke 19:14, 27), those who do not serve Christ. Compassion for the lost will change the eternal future for some who do repent. If the church does not have compassion then that many more people will face an eternal catastrophic ending.
The parables illustrate the mystery of the kingdom of God. “the Kingdom of God has come into the world , but it comes with persuasion rather than power and must be accepted to be effective, even as the ground must receive the seed” (Ladd, Jesus and the Kingdom, 238). As agents of the kingdom of God believer should continually persuade others towards Christ.
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Fitzmyer. The Gospel II. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1990.
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke (Word Bible Commentary).
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.
Guy, Laurie. “The Interplay of the Present and Future in the Kingdom of God.” Tyndale Bulletin 48.1 (119-137) 1997.
Jeremias, Joachim. The Parables of Jesus. New York: Scribner’s,
Jeremias, Joachim. Rediscovering the Parables. New York:
Johnson, Luke Timothy. “The Lukan Kingship Parable.” Novum Testamentum 24.2 (139-158) 1982.
Ladd , George Eldon. Jesus and the Kingdom. Waco, Tx: Word, 1964.
Ladd, George, Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament.
Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1974.