It’s very easy to think that what we’re experiencing with the pandemic is the beginning of the end of the world as we know it. I had the same feeling in 1991 when Saddam Hussein started sending scud missiles into Israel. I remember exactly where I was and what I was thinking – Jesus is going to come back any moment. It’s now almost 30 years later though and we still await our Lord’s return. All of which brings us to our reading in Luke 19. There Jesus spoke a parable which he found necessary to teach his disciples “because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (v.11). You can’t blame the disciples for that because everything leading up to this moment has suggested such an eventuality. For instance, back in chapter 8 Jesus “went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (v.1) and “the twelve were with him”. In the next chapter “he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God” (9:2) and later in the same chapter he said “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (v.27). It’s also in that chapter where the disciples, through Peter, confirm they understand who Jesus is – “The Christ of God” (v.20) – the king of the kingdom of God. Jesus then, with determination, “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (v.51) and commanded his disciples to preach to the people “the kingdom of God has come near” (10:11). So, here is the king, heading towards the place of David’s throne, preaching the nearness of the kingdom. Of course, they thought the kingdom would immediately appear!
What they conveniently forgot is what Jesus said his mission was in going to Jerusalem – “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (9:22). The lesson for us is that it’s all very well being excited about the kingdom of God, but that requires a commitment and responsibility to prepare ourselves for that kingdom, and that’s the lesson of the parable in chapter 19. It’s the parable of the Ten Talents where Jesus exhorts his followers to make good use of the resources that are given to them. Those who used their talents well are given the commendation “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities” (v.17). Really that’s what Jesus has been exhorting throughout the whole time he is leading his disciples towards Jerusalem. For instance, back in chapter 12: “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” (v.42-44). The lesson for us is if we want to be part of the kingdom of God then we ought to be preparing ourselves for what is going to take place in that kingdom. We’re going to be given authority to help Christ rule and change this world to reflect the glory of God. The lesson from the parable is whether we are using our opportunities now to develop the kind of character and attitude necessary for our work in the kingdom.
We shouldn’t be like the man who was only given one talent. In the parable he kept it “laid away in a handkerchief” (v.20) and was condemned for not putting his opportunity to good use. Why did he do that? Look at what he says – “for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow” (v.21). Is that our view of God, that he is severe or strict? You see, it all depends on what sort of relationship we have with God, and that will affect our religion and our attitude. If God is like a taskmaster to us, demanding service of us, then we’re going to develop a fear-based religion and be too scared to do anything lest we offend God.
So, what can we do to prepare ourselves for the kingdom of God? First, let’s make sure we understand who God is. He is not a strict taskmaster but a loving father who is on our side. He wants us to succeed and he has given us our talents – time, resources, skills – as a gift so we can have a part in his eternal kingdom. That’s awesome! Let’s get excited for the kingdom of God, but excited for the right reason. If we’re just looking for the kingdom for the sake of it then we’ve missed the point of the parable. Are we excited about the work we’ll be doing in the kingdom and is that motivating us to be “faithful and wise managers” right now? Are we kingdom-focused, not just in watching the signs of the times, but in managing our own households, working in the ecclesia, spending our time, all with the work of the kingdom in mind? Am I in tune with God’s purpose in every facet of my life, or have I compartmentalized my life so that the kingdom of God is one thing and all the things I need to get done in this life are another? All the things we need to get done in this life are meant to be part of developing our hearts and minds for the kingdom of God.
With all that’s going on in the world our focus on the coming kingdom has probably become sharpened. Let’s take advantage of that and further develop our vision of the kingdom. Make it real in our minds, and ensure our homes places that reflect the sort of people God will use in his kingdom. Let’s concentrate on doing the type of activities now that will help us and those around us be ready whenever Christ returns.
Simi Hills, CA