As the Lord Jesus moved from Jericho on the path to Jerusalem, the people wondered what would happen when He got there. Would He reveal Himself as the conquering Messiah? Would He usher in the Kingdom of God? Would Israel have her final victory over the oppressive control of Rome?
Imagine the fervor of the people as they thought about what the days ahead might bring!
Israel was the nation that had watched the Red Sea tumble down on the Egyptian chariots. Their ancestors saw God destroy the Assyrian army overnight!
But the people were missing something. The heroes in those stories…King Hezekiah and Isaiah and Moses…the great servants of the Lord…were heroes in the Bible because they listened to God. They waited on the Lord and obeyed.
Over and over again, Jesus had spoken of the coming days. The Lord was communicating His plans to His people, but they weren’t listening so they didn’t know how to obey. In fact, they were going to kill the Messenger!
Jesus knew what lay ahead for Him. The Father had purposed it before He made the world. But the people did not understand, and so Jesus told this parable. In some ways, the story is told in a way that cloaks His meaning with mystery. But in truth, anyone who sincerely pursued Jesus, who was listening intently, would find understanding, and that is exactly why Jesus told it this way. Only those with ears to hear would truly hear. This is what He said:
“‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. “Put this money to work,’” he said, “until I come back.”
“‘But his subjects hated him, and sent a delegation after him to say, “We don’t want this man to be our king.”
“‘He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
“‘The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina had earned ten more.”
“‘“Well done, my good servant’!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”
“‘“The second came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned five more.”
“‘His master answered, “You take charge of five cities.”
“‘Then another servant came and said, “Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.”
“‘His master replied, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking what I did not put in and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?”
“‘Then he said to those standing by, “Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.”
“‘“Sir,” they said, “he already has ten!”’”
“‘He replied, “I tell you that everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here to kill in front of me.”’”
Wow. In this parable, Jesus is the king. Against the hopes of the crowds and His own disciples, Jesus was letting them know He was going to go away for a time. That is what Jesus meant when He said He was going to a faraway city. He was going to die on a cross and rise again, and then He was going to ascend into Heaven. And just as He said in the parable, Jesus is coming back.
The point of the story is this: what will Jesus find when he returns? Will there be servants on the earth who have taken His generous gifts and used them for His glory?
Apparently, there will be! In the parable, there were two servants who took their mina and multiplied it. A mina is a coin that is worth about three months of a common laborer’s wage. The servants who used their mina to create more minas are an image of what God wants His people to be doing as we wait for His return. Will we work to take His gift and multiply it during our time on earth?
We can ask ourselves: How will we live, now that we have the precious gift of salvation? What will we do now that the Spirit of the Living God is inside us? How will we pray and seek the Word? How will we love others? Where will we proclaim the Gospel, telling the world the Good News about our coming King? As we step out in the small areas of faithfulness that God provides…the one mina…He will honor it with even greater responsibility and reward in Heaven!
Everyone who puts their faith in Jesus will spend their lives in eternity with Him. That alone is an unimaginably great gift. But there are degrees to the greatness of the reward that each of His servants will receive, and these depend on our faithfulness to Him in how we live our lives on earth.
The servant who did nothing with his mina had no thoughts about how he could work or labor for his King. As opportunities came, he turned away from them. He grumbled about the austere, high standards of the King, but in truth, he was lazy! The King had given him a very generous opportunity, but he groused around in self-pity while the other two men got to work.
And then he blamed his failure on God. In the story, he accused the king of being harsh. Is that true? How did the king treat the men who had multiplied their minas? He gave them lavish and gracious rewards! But the man who had done nothing couldn’t see it. What a shameful way to abuse the blessings of the King!
In many ways, this is a dangerous temptation for followers of Christ. The Lord said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” He said, “Blessed are you when they persecute you.” If Jesus is our model for how to live, then life as His followers should show a radical separation from the ways of this world. But rising to faith and hard work means rising to value the things of God over the other options. In those things, Jesus is abundantly, powerfully generous. When He denies us the things of the world, it is to help us let go of them so we can long for the things of Heaven. The one-mina-man wanted nothing to do with heavenly things.
Jesus knew that there would be many followers to come who would be like the ten, five, and one-mina men. He also knew that as He headed into Jerusalem, there was another sort of man waiting for Him, full of venom and hate. The characters in this parable who followed the King to the far off kingdom to reject His leadership are an image of religious leaders who were plotting Jesus’ death. They believed that they had the power and authority to oust the King and decide who they wanted as their leader.
They were entirely mistaken and the judgment of the wicked will come to them and those like them.
We can see in history that one stage of that judgment has already happened. The city of Jerusalem would not last longer than the generation of men that put Jesus to death. The Romans would come and lay it to utter waste. The stories of that horrific time are recorded by Josephus, a Jewish historian.
But there is another time to come when Christ will fully judge those who reject His rule. It will not only be for the tyrants and evil men whose terrible deeds make us shiver as we read about the darkest moments of human history. Each person has been given authority and dominion over their little square of the world. Each of us has people who God has called us to love. We each have work that God has prepared for us to do. Will we act like little tyrants, managing our little worlds out of selfishness or fear? Or will we make our mina count for the name of Jesus Christ?