Red Letter Year: 8/30

Luke 19.11-27

11 The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away. 12 He said, “A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. 13 Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’ 14 But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want him to be our king.’

15 After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. 16 The first servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!’

17 ‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’

18 The next servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.’

19 ‘Well done!’ the king said. ‘You will be governor over five cities.’

20 But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. 21 I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’

22 ‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, 23 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

24 Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’

25 ‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!’

26 ‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 27 And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king — bring them in and execute them right here in front of me.’”

Comments

We have seen this parable before in Matt. 25. Well, sort of. Luke makes some significant changes to the story. Instead of a master and servants in a household-estate setting, this story is about a man on his way to becoming a king. It is no coincidence that Luke placed this parable just before Jesus’ triumphal entry. Jesus is on his way to becoming king and telling a story about a man on his way to becoming king. Don’t miss that. This version of the parable must be understood in its kingdom-now context. (As opposed to Matthew’s, where the focus is about the long delay between the master leaving and returning; in Luke he becomes king rather quickly.)

There are also significant differences with the servants. Matthew has three who are assigned different amounts of money to work with, though all are large sums. The first is given about $4 million, the second about $1.6 million, and the last $800,000. The first and second doubled their amounts and are rewarded with rest in the master’s ‘happiness,’ the third buried his and is cast out and punished. In Luke, there are 10 servants, who are each assigned about $10,000. We are only given the results for three. The first grew his assigned amount to $110,000 and the second grew his to $60,000. Both are rewarded in the form of political assignments – they are given leadership positions based on the stewardship they showed to what they were given. The third hid his $10,000 in a napkin. He is not punished, but he is also not placed in leadership in the new king’s kingdom. He is a cautionary tale for those “who do nothing.”

So, what’s the point? Luke starts this by telling us that the people were expecting the kingdom to begin right then. This parable is how Jesus responded to that expectation. Unlike Matthew’s where the basic message is “I’m going away right now and will be gone a long time” – in other words a “not yet” message, in Luke Jesus is basically saying, “Yes, the kingdom begins right now and here’s what it is going to look like. I am taking up my kingship now and defeating my enemies. And then I am going to put some of you in charge of helping me run this new kingdom, not based on different talent levels, but based on your diligence in working with what you have to produce kingdom results. I expect you to grow the kingdom. I expect you to advance the kingdom. It begins right now. Now get to work.”

When you think about it, the two versions of this parable we have are a perfect picture of the already – the kingdom is here now, and the not yet – the end is not here but is coming. Keep working with what you have at hand. Keep growing the kingdom. The king is here. The king is near. Let the kingdom advance.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Red Letter Year: 8/29

Luke 18.35 – 19.10

35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. 36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. 38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”

42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.

19 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Comments

Between the rich ruler who rejects Jesus and the rich ruler who accepts Jesus, Luke positions the healing of a blind man. Mark and Matthew place this event as Jesus is exiting Damascus. Luke has it as he is entering because it serves (in part) to transition from the blind ruler to the ruler who wants to see – climbs a tree so he can see – and is healed by receiving Jesus and his Gospel.

The difference between what Jesus commanded the (nameless) rich ruler to do – give everything to the poor – and what Zaccheus offers (with no command) – giving half to the poor – is significant in one respect: that the command to sell possessions, like all commands, comes in specificity. Neither the command the one refuses to obey, nor the freely given obedience of the other may be taken as an exact model to follow. Instead, each must do what Jesus commands, whether it is to sell everything, or to come down from a tree and follow.

Luke uses the present tense here, indicating that what Zaccheus describes was his standing practice, not a one-time event that was the result of a conversion, but an ongoing, regular practice. He was already following the most stringent interpretation of Torah and thus not deserving of his reputation as a notorious sinner. His generosity had not impoverished him but his possessions held no hold on him. They were not the impediment for him they were for the other rich ruler.

And so it must be with us. As we saw yesterday, we can expect Jesus to demand from us whatever gets in the way of having an intimate relationship with him. The rich ruler stands as a warning for us. Zaccheus stands as an example of what it looks like to follow Jesus. Camels don’t fit through the eyes of needles, except when a miracle has occurred. The grace of God transforms our hearts in such a miraculous way as to make living like Zaccheus possible for us too. Then we will be able to say, ‘I was blind, but now I see. I was a slave, but now I am free.’

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.