12.04.07 Lk. 19:11-28
PARABLE OF GOD’S ACCOUNTABILITY
11 As they were listening to this, He went on to tell a parable because He was near Jerusalem, and they thought the kingdom of God was going to appear right away.
12 Therefore He said: “A nobleman traveled to a far country to receive for himself authority to be king and then returned. 13 He called 10 of his slaves, gave them 10 minas, and told them, ‘Engage in business until I come back.’
14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We don’t want this man to rule over us!’
15 “At his return, having received the authority to be king, he summoned those slaves he had given the money to, so he could find out how much they had made in business. 16 The first came forward and said, ‘Master, your mina has earned 10 more minas.’
17 “‘Well done, good slave!’ he told him. ‘Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, have authority over 10 towns.’
18 “The second came and said, ‘Master, your mina has made five minas.’
19 “So he said to him, ‘You will be over five towns.’
20 “And another came and said, ‘Master, here is your mina. I have kept it hidden away in a cloth 21 because I was afraid of you, for you’re a tough man: you collect what you didn’t deposit and reap what you didn’t sow.’
22 “He told him, ‘I will judge you by what you have said, you evil slave! If you knew I was a tough man, collecting what I didn’t deposit and reaping what I didn’t sow,
23 why didn’t you put my money in the bank? And when I returned, I would have collected it with interest!’ 24 So he said to those standing there, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has 10 minas.’
25 “But they said to him, ‘Master, he has 10 minas.’
26 “‘I tell you, that to everyone who has, more will be given; and from the one who does not have, even what he does have will be taken away. 27 But bring here these enemies of mine, who did not want me to rule over them, and slaughter them in my presence.’”
28 When He had said these things, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
In this parable, the nobleman invested ten minas with each of his ten slaves, or servants. A mina was equal to 100 drachmas or denarii, which in turn represented a hundred days of labor. Therefore, 100 minas was a significant investment and Jesus only responded to the investment results of three servants. The key figure is, of course, the third servant who failed to earn anything because he not only feared the nobleman, but had no trust or respect for him either.
“They thought the kingdom of God was going to appear right away.” The disciples were convinced that Jesus would be the king of a physical Kingdom of God on earth within a few days and, in some manner, the corruption of the temple aristocrats and Roman tyranny would end. This profound statement is clear evidence that, after spending more than three years with the Him, they still thought He was some kind of a political-messiah. Little wonder then, seeing Him hanging on a cross was a horrific shock. The most unimaginable event was about to become their worst nightmare. Israel had rejected Jesus; therefore, the millennial kingdom would have to be postponed and would not be instituted until after He returns at some future date. For this reason, Jesus told them a parable of a man of noble birth, a story figure with whom they were quite familiar.
It is another story that reflected recent Jewish history, and Jesus didn’t have to get very far into it until everyone recognized it as such. “A nobleman traveled to a far country to receive for himself authority to be king, and then returned.” Many of the 38 parables Jesus told were taken from daily life experiences to illustrate various spiritual lessons. In this parable, the king travels off to another land to receive his crown and kingship. It sounds almost mythological, for who ever heard of a king traveling outside of his kingdom to be crowned as the supreme monarch? Yet this is exactly what occurred with Archelaus while Jesus was still an infant living in Egypt with His parents. This story was of such incredible significance to Israel’s social-political environment that Josephus wrote a lengthy and detailed account. A background summary is found below, followed by the historical narrative by Josephus.
Herod the Great was so cruel, that at his death the Jews and Arabs revolted, believing they could achieve freedom. But in response, the Roman General Varus came south from his district capital in Damascus, because Israel was a province within the region of Damascus, and crushed the revolt. It was a time of severe social and political tensions, as the Arabs burned and plundered several villages including Sampho and Arus. By the time Varus restored order, many were killed and 2,000 Jews were crucified.
In the meantime, Rome had to approve the last will and testament of Herod and that required Herod’s son Archelaus, to sail to Rome. When peace was restored, Archelaus sailed for Rome where he requested the title of “king.” However, when he arrived, much to his surprise, he found a delegation of his own subjects waiting for the opportunity to address the Senate. These Jews strongly opposed the title and the Senate agreed to grant Archelaus a lesser title. Josephus preserved the account.
…but as for Archelaus, he had new sources of trouble come upon him at Rome, on occasions following: for an embassage (entourage) of the Jews was come to Rome, Varus having permitted the nation to send it, that they might petition for the liberty of living by their own laws. Now the number of [Jewish] ambassadors that were sent by the authority of the nation was fifty, to which they joined above eight thousand of the Jews that were at Rome already. Hereupon Caesar assembled his friends and the chief men among the Romans in the temple of Apollo, which he had built at a vast charge, whither the ambassadors came and a multitude of the Jews that were there already, came with them as did also Archelaus and his friends.
But as for the several kinsmen which Archelaus had, they would not join themselves with him, out of their hatred to him; and yet they thought it too gross a thing for them to assist the ambassadors [against him], as supposing it would be a disgrace to them in Caesar’s opinion to think of thus acting in opposition to a man of their own kindred. Philip also was come hither out of Syria, by the persuasion of Varus, with this principal intention to assist his brother [Archelaus]: for Varus was his great friend, but still so, that if there should any change happen in the form of government (which Varus suspected there would), and if any distribution should be made on account of the number that desired the liberty of living by their own laws, that he might not be disappointed, but might have his share in it….
Now upon the liberty that was given to the Jewish ambassadors to speak, they who hoped to obtain a dissolution of kingly government betook themselves to accuse Herod of his iniquities …. That Herod had put such abuses upon them as a wild beast would not have put on them, if he had power given him to rule over us; and that although their nation had passed through many subversions and alterations of government, their history have no account of any calamity they had ever been under that could be compared with this which Herod had brought upon their nation.
That it was for this reason that they thought they might justly and gladly salute Archelaus as king, upon this supposition, that whosoever should be set over their kingdom, he would be more mild to them than Herod had been; and that they had joined with him in the mourning for his father, in order to gratify him, and were ready to oblige him in other points also, if they could meet with any degree of moderation from him: but that he seemed to be afraid lest he should not be deemed Herod’s own son; and so, without delay, he immediately let the nation understand his meaning and this before his dominion was well established, since the power of disposing of it belonged to Caesar, who could either give it to him or not as he pleased.
That he had given a specimen of his future virtue to his subjects, and with that kind of moderation and good administration he would govern them, by that his first action which concerned them, his own citizens, and God himself, also, when he made the slaughter of three thousand of his own countrymen at the temple. How, then could they avoid their just hatred of him, who, to the rest of his barbarity, has added this as one of our crimes, that we have opposed and contradicted him in the exercise of his authority?….
When Caesar had heard these pleadings, but a few days afterwards he appointed Archelaus, not indeed to be king of the whole country, but ethnarch of one half that which had been subject to Herod, and promised to give him the royal dignity hereafter, if he governed his part virtuously….
Josephus, Antiquities 17.11.1-4 (Excerpts from 299-321)
It is an irony of history that Herod the Great made the same trip to Rome in 40 B.C. to acquire the same appointment. He received it, but his son Archelaus didn’t. Being angered over this humiliating event, Archelaus was determined to punish his subjects, and proved to be an abusive dictator worse than his father. For this reason, Mary and Joseph were told, upon their return from Egypt, not to return to Bethlehem but rather, go to Nazareth. As a result, he was humiliated and spilled out his vengeance upon his subjects. He raised taxes and those who failed to pay were rewarded with utmost cruelty. Ten years later he was removed from his position by the Roman Senate.
In Luke 19:11-28 Jesus took this historical event and made it into a teaching parable and added His own instruction to it. He wanted the disciples to understand that He would not go to Jerusalem to be crowned as the political-messiah, as some were expecting. Rather, He would be leaving them to return at some future time. Upon that future return, Jesus expects to find His servants fruitful and productive in the work they were entrusted to complete.
This is an example of a historical event that was molded into a parable to teach a spiritual lesson. The audience immediately understood the story of the king and they were able to connect with the teaching of Jesus. Notice the parallels:
(Lk. 19:12) A nobleman traveled to a far country to receive the authority to be king.
Josephus: Archelaus sailed to Rome to receive his kingship
(Lk. 19:14) But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We don’t want this man to rule over us!”
Josephus: Jewish ambassadors went to Caesar and said they did not want Archelaus to be their king.
(Lk. 19:15) At his return, having received the authority to be king.
Josephus: Archelaus received the authority to be king without the title of “king.” He functioned as a king but with a less dignified title.
Clearly Jesus once again displayed Himself to be the Master Teacher.
“Well done, good slave.” Some translations read, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” These are words that every believer desires to hear someday from our Lord. Today, all too often, this parable is restricted to financial matters, but in reality, it covers all aspects of life.
Jesus, His disciples, and many others, left the oasis village of Jericho that is about 1,000 feet below sea level, and began the arduous march up to the Holy City. Since Jerusalem is located centrally within the Central Mountain Range at 2,700 feet above sea level, for centuries Jewish poets and song writers cherished the phrase “going up to Jerusalem.” The phrase is often found in Jewish songs of ascent. In route, Jesus said Jerusalem was where many prophets were killed in centuries past, and the past was about to be repeated. Again He warned His enemies of their coming judgment and that His words would fall upon rebellious ears. He also taught that the Kingdom of God would not be a political sovereignty, but a holy lifestyle, where God rules each individual with a blessed reward for those who were faithful. Likewise, those who were hostile to His Word would be punished. As Jesus and the disciples walked to Jerusalem, in true Jewish custom, they would have sung the Psalm of Ascent (Ps. 118).
At this point it is good to compare two similar parables. In Luke 19:11-28, the servant who kept the master’s money in a cloth (19:20) viewed his master as being less than honorable – so much so, that when an account was required, his master was very angry. It was a matter of self-fulfilling prophecy. Had he invested successfully, he would have received a similar blessing as the others. In Matthew 25:14-30 is a similar parable with the same theme; one where an individual chose to bury his investment money rather than invest it. The Mishnah states that this method of keeping money safe was common at this time. But again the servant is described as being wicked not only because he failed to invest the funds, but he also saw his trusting master in a negative light.
. See Appendix 20.
. See also 12.03.08.X.
. Bible historians have long connected this parable with the life of Archelaus and his trip to Rome to attain the title of “King of the Jews.” It was typical of Jesus to frame His parables to everyday life and events that His audience clearly understood. See Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 2:388-89.
. Josephus, Antiquities 17.9.1-3.
. Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.9 (290-294).
. Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.10 (295).
. The position of ethnarch was a lower ranking than that of a king, and consequently, the change was extremely humiliating to Archelaus.
. Parenthesis added for clarification by Whiston, ed.
. Josephus, Antiquities 17.9.3-7; 17.11.1-4; Wars 2.2.1-3; Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 367.
. Gilbrant, “Luke.” 569.
. Mishnah, Baba Mesi’a 3.11.