Summary: God cares how we live.
trust you all know the old adage that if you’re buying a car make sure it’s not a Monday car. In fact, they say the best cars to buy are Wednesday cars. Monday cars are the worst because of that endemic malady, ’Mondayitis’. It seems that most people have a problem moving from the relaxation of the weekend back to work on a Monday. Researchers have found that stress levels are always higher on a Monday. You’re more likely to have a heart attack on a Monday than on any other day of the week, your blood pressure will be higher on a Monday, your stomach acidity is higher, so you’re more likely to develop an ulcer and the probability of suicide is higher. Sounds like a good reason to have tomorrow off doesn’t it? Except that that just puts the problem back to Tuesday. But if you’re a Christian the problem is even worse, it seems to me. You’ve been to Church on Sunday, you’ve been thinking about the Christian life, being encouraged to follow Christ, to think about how you might be a faithful disciple of Christ, and then Monday comes and you’re back in the old grind again. And it seems so far removed from what you were thinking about on Sunday. I mean you look at the workaday world and it seems to bears little relationship to a world in which Jesus is King. Few people have jobs where there’s never an ethical dilemma or a compromise required. And we struggle to think about what it means to live as a Christian in a world like this.
I guess Jesus knew that we’d struggle with this sort of thing, because he told a parable to prepare us for just this situation. Here in Luke 19 we find Jesus nearing Jerusalem. His disciples are no doubt getting a bit excited. They’ve been listening to him talking about the Kingdom of God for the past 3 years or so, and they know that his entry to Jerusalem will be the final act in what he’s come to do. And they think the kingdom of God will be brought in immediately. But their expectation and the reality of the situation are poles apart. Jesus can see where their thoughts are going and he wants to clarify the situation and prepare them for what life is going to be like before long. Just as in John’s gospel he tells them that it won’t be long and he’ll no longer be with them, so here he tells them a parable that talks about the time to come when he will have gone to the Father and they’ll be waiting for him to return.
The setting of the story is a large empire, where a nobleman is about to receive royal power from the Emperor. Now it may be that Jesus is drawing on recent history here in telling this story. Apparently after the death of Herod the Great, his son Archelaus went to Rome to ask Caesar to make him king over Judea. But Herod hadn’t been too popular among the Jews, so they sent a delegation of 50 men to oppose his appointment. So there’s a ring of truth about the story.
Well, here is this nobleman going on a long journey. He’s going to be away for some time, and when he gets back he expects to be king. So, what does he do? He calls his servants in and gives each of them a sum of money and tells them to put it to work until he comes back.
Now notice that they each receive the same amount of money. About 3 to 4 months wages. This is different to the parable of the talents in Matt 25, where different people received different amounts. Here they’re all entrusted with the same amount and given the task of trading with it until the king returns.
And then the nobleman leaves. And the servants are left behind. This is clearly a picture of the situation the disciples are about to find themselves in and that we, too, are in. Left on their own, wondering what life is all about if there’s no king to give them instructions.
In fact, this parable hinges around 2 questions that arise in Jesus’ absence. The first is "What’s the point of life if Jesus isn’t here to share it with us?"
Jesus knew that when he left them they’d be like sheep without a shepherd again. They wouldn’t be sure what they should be doing. Do you remember in John 21, when the disciples were waiting for Jesus to appear again? Peter got sick of hanging around, not knowing what to do, so he said "I’m going fishing." It was the best he could come up with at the time. But Jesus wants them to be more prepared than that. He wants them to understand why they should go fishing if that’s what they’re going to do.