As Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the last time before His crucifixion, many thought He would be crowned as a king and immediately begin ruling over Israel (Luke 19:11). Jesus addressed this assumption with a parable, which is recorded in Luke 19:12–27. In Jesus’ story, a nobleman leaves his servants at home as he travels to receive a kingdom, giving each of them money to invest in his absence. His servants and citizens respond to these circumstances in different ways—some in rebellion, some in disobedience, and some in faithfulness.
When Jesus reached Jerusalem, He didn’t sit on a throne; He hung on a cross. But He was raised, and now He sits on the throne of God. He will return not only as King of Israel but also as King of all creation. In effect, Jesus said in this parable, “I have a long journey to take before My coronation. I’m going to leave the world altogether. In the meantime, I am leaving you, My servants, with the demanding task of sharing the glad tidings of redemption through Me. Will you show yourselves faithful?”
As we consider the three responses to the coming king in Jesus’s parable, we can begin to answer that question.
The Rebels Reject the King
His citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to reign over us.” (Luke 19:14)
In Jesus’ parable, some citizens of the nobleman’s country respond to his departure with rebellion. They deny their lord’s authority over their lives. This is a response of rejection. It represents the ongoing refusal of many to acknowledge Christ as their eternal King.
Some rebels are the irreligious. One will say, “Well, you know, I have my doubts, and I don’t want to put all my eggs in this basket.” Another will say, “The Gospel story is intellectually untenable, so it would be foolish to obey.” But this rebellion is not ultimately intellectual; it is moral. It’s not a matter of the mind only; it is a matter of the will: “We do not want this man to reign over us.”
Other rebels, meanwhile, are religious people. They are content to participate in “churchy” activities, but when it comes to their “private” affairs—their bank balances, their relationships, their careers, their designs and desires—they’d prefer to do as they please. “Christ is King,” they may acknowledge with their lips; but with their lives they declare, “We do not want this man to reign over us.”
The response of the king in the story is severe and frightening: “As for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (Luke 19:27). It’s a stark picture that reflects a stark reality. There is a decision to be made about whether we will submit by faith to the rule of Christ—and there will be no place in the kingdom for those who embrace the pattern of sin, evil, and death that has given nothing good to God’s creation. We dare not find ourselves numbered among the rebels.
The Wicked Servant Fears the King
[One servant] came, saying, “Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man.” (Luke 19:20–21)
One of the parable’s servants who is given money to invest may not rebel, but he still plays it safe. Rather than risking the investment, he hides and does nothing with it so that he can offer it back when the king returns. This servant acknowledges his master’s right to rule, and he understands that the task he has been given is a weighty one—but he has fundamentally misunderstood what the task is. He was given the money for a purpose. He was given it to use. He was given it in order that it might yield a return.
The Gospel ought to be an energizing force that wells up within us, not something that stultifies us. It is to be our way of life.
It’s fair to say that Jesus, in drawing attention to this servant, is warning His followers against keeping the Gospel to themselves. He doesn’t want us to be defined by laziness, passivity, and narrow-mindedness. No, the Gospel ought to be an energizing force that wells up within us—something that we long to share with our friends and neighbors—not something that stultifies us. It is to be our way of life.
One of the saddest things to see is men and women who, through spiritual impoverishment, neglect the opportunities given to them in the Gospel and become unfaithful in the Lord’s service. They may believe, and they may fear God, but they have not experienced the life-transforming power of faith. And the prospect that they face is this: that they will appear before God poor and naked when He comes, because what they were entrusted with they have either never fully understood, or they have determined that they would simply wrap it in a blanket and enjoy it by themselves. At best they can hope to be saved “only as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). We dare not be like this wicked servant.
The Faithful Servants Obey the King
The first [servant] came before him, saying, “Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.” … And the second came, saying, “Lord, your mina has made five minas.” (Luke 19:16, 18)
Two other servants show an incredible return on the king’s investment—one ten times and another five times the original amount. These servants are rewarded by the newly crowned king with positions of authority in keeping with their service: “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities. … And you are to be over five cities” (Luke 19:17, 19).
These servants represent believers whose faith has transformed them. They do the work God asks of them, recognizing that it is no task-oriented mission but a joy-oriented privilege. And the security that comes with that knowledge empowers and encourages faithfulness.
When God entrusts us with the Gospel, our goal—whoever we are, whatever our work, whatever our situation—is to do all that we do to the glory of God.
Christ rescues us from all fear that comes with the expectation of performance and replaces it with joy that we have been chosen for the job. When God entrusts us with the Gospel, our goal—whoever we are, whatever our work, whatever our situation—is to do all that we do to the glory of God. We do this so that, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19, we might invite as many as possible to become citizens of and share in the benefits of Christ’s kingdom. In Christ, all of our days and all of our deeds may be good for someone and good for something, because we are assured that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).
The King and His Children
Scripture is absolutely clear that no one will get to heaven because of his or her good works. As the apostle Paul tells us, “By grace you have been saved through faith. … It is the gift of God, not a result of works” (Eph. 2:8–9). But consider what Paul says immediately afterward: “We are … created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10, emphasis added).
Just before Christ ascended to heaven, He commissioned His disciples—all of His disciples, down to today—to make disciples. But this is not one task that we add to our compartmentalized lives. Faith in Christ is faith in a ruling King, and all of life is embraced and redeemed by that King. We are “in Christ” as we’re working, taking the kids to school, waiting in the doctor’s office, shopping at the supermarket, or joining the Bible study. Our whole lives are in Him and for Him—not just the religious bits.
And crucially, in all these aspects of life, our communion with Him is more fundamental than our efficiency for Him. In Jesus Christ, we are part of His family, not workers in His factory. Will we fail Him? Of course. Will we stumble? Absolutely. But still we cling to this promise: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” (Lam. 3:22).
In Jesus we find our rest, our hope, and our joy. In Him we find a trustworthy King. In Him we find the power to do more than we ever imagined. Come to Christ, then, trusting that He will reward your faithfulness—whether it yields ten minas, five, or pennies on the dollar, every bit to His glory.