Many of Jesus’ followers, including His closest disciples, assumed it would be just a short time before He would do what the Old Testament said He would do: set up God’s kingdom on the earth and rule over it from Jerusalem. But the truth was, in less than a week’s time, Jesus would die for the sins of the world just as the Old Testament said He would, and it would be at least two thousand years before He would begin ruling the entire world from Jerusalem.
Jesus wanted His followers to understand that He would be leaving the earth for a time but would eventually return. While they waited during the interim, there was something He wanted them to do. And that’s why He told them the parable of the ten servants.
In the story, the nobleman who was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king obviously represented Jesus. When He arrived in heaven after His resurrection and ascension, the Bible says that Jesus was “crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death for us” (Hebrews 2:9).
The servants who each received ten pounds of silver from the nobleman represent those who are servants of Christ. The silver or money they were given represents the gifts, talents and opportunities He gives us, by which we can serve Him and others.
The people who hated the nobleman and sent a delegation after him to tell him that they didn’t want him to be their king, represent all those who refuse to repent and follow Jesus.
When the nobleman returned, he called his servants in for an accounting. The first two had used the money they’d been given to make more money for the nobleman, so he rewarded them by giving them cities over which to rule. But the third hadn’t made any profit, having hidden his money. The nobleman was enraged at the unfaithful servant. At least he could have put the money in the bank and made a little interest on it! There was no excuse for what he did. Not only did he not receive a reward as the others had, but what he did have was taken away from him.
Whom does this unfaithful servant represent? He represents a professing servant of Christ, who, by his actions, proves he is not a true servant. True followers of Christ will produce some fruit, even if it’s only a little. If the third servant had produced even a little profit for the nobleman by depositing his money in the bank, he would have received a reward and would not have been reprimanded and punished. But he was, as the nobleman said, “unfaithful” (Luke 19:26). That is, he had no faith and didn’t believe what the nobleman said. True faith is always manifested by actions.
Finally, when the nobleman was done dealing with his servants, he dealt with his rebellious subjects who didn’t want to submit to his lordship. They were immediately executed. When Jesus returns, it will mean swift judgment upon all those who refused to believe in and follow Him.
Notice that everyone in the story, believers and unbelievers alike, were judged by their works, just as the Bible teaches in other places. We are saved by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus, but, as the apostle James wrote, “Faith is dead without good deeds” (James 2:26).
Q. The unfruitful servant described the nobleman as being “a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t [his] and harvesting crops [he] didn’t plant” (Luke 19:21). Is that an accurate description of what Jesus is like, since the nobleman in the story represents Him?
A. No, that is not an accurate description of Jesus. It was just the third servant’s opinion, and it describes the opposite of what Jesus is. He is not hard to deal with, but is the most merciful person who’s ever existed. He doesn’t take what isn’t His and He doesn’t harvest crops He didn’t plant.
Q. The money that was taken from the unfaithful servant was given to the most faithful servant, and some people complained about it. They thought the first servant was already blessed enough. How did the nobleman feel about that?
A. He didn’t agree at all. He wanted the most faithful servant to be rewarded the most.
Application: There are two applications of today’s parable to our lives: First, let’s make certain we’re proving ourselves to be true servants of Jesus by how we live our lives. Is God getting a return on what He’s invested in us? And second, let’s be diligent to produce as much fruit as we can for our Master. One day, we’ll be rewarded for all of it.