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The Believer and the Bible (12): Study of a Parable - Luke 19.11-27

G Hutchinson, Belfast

As certain parts of the Gospels are devoted to parables, it is important to consider how best they can be studied. Some suggestions are presented below, with a particular reference to the parable of the pounds (Lk 19.11-27).

PURPOSE

During His earthly ministry, the Lord made a decisive move to present a large element of His teaching by means of parables (Mt 13.1-15). Why?

Meaning: "Parables in Scripture are stories that illustrate truths by means of comparison. The phrase, ‘the kingdom of heaven is like’ means that elements in the story run tangent to truths about the kingdom" (R E Beacham; Dictionary of Premillennial Theology; Kregel, 1996).

Method: Parables were designed to reveal truth to the believer and conceal it from the unbeliever (Mt 13.11-15). Notice, however, that even the disciples required an explanation (v.36) of the parables. Bible study remains a spiritual exercise, and the Holy Spirit indwells us to shed light on Scripture (Jn 16.13).

Message: Each parable has a particular message to convey. In Luke 19.11-27 the message is that the establishment of the Lord’s Kingdom, though initially delayed because of His rejection (v.11), would eventually take place (v.15).

Mystery: In Matthew 13.11 the Lord spoke of the "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven". Previously He offered the Kingdom to Israel (Mt 3.2; 4.17) but, with His rejection (12.24), the mystery refers to a period of time elapsing between the Lord’s death/resurrection and the establishment of the Kingdom.

Memorability: Depending on the definition, there are in excess of 30 parables. In presenting the truth in this format, the Lord ensured that His ministry was vivid, memorable and understood by His own (Mt 13.51).

POSITION

It was only following the formal rejection of the Lord (and His rejection of the nation) that He taught more with parables. Consider the:

Judgement on Judaism: In teaching with parables, the Lord exposed and condemned the blindness of Israel. This is manifest in the Lord’s use of Isaiah 6.9-10 (quoted in Mt 13.13-15 to explain parables, but also in Mk 4.11-12; Lk 8.10; Jn 12.39-40; Acts 28.25-27 where Israel’s rejection of her King is evident).

Doctrine for Disciples: The disciples were naturally keen to know when the Old Testament promises of the Kingdom would be fulfilled (eg Acts 1.6). The parables therefore spoke of a delay in the establishment of the Kingdom – but the delay allows for Gentile blessing and the church age (Mt 16.18).

Help from History: In Luke 19 the Lord journeyed through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem. The parable of travelling to a far country to receive the authority to rule (v.12) may be a reference to Archelaus (the son of Herod the Great) who travelled to Rome to receive his rights to rule (and his palace was built at Jericho).

PARTICIPANTS

Each parable contains a range of characters central to the narrative. Regarding the parable of the pounds, consider:

The Nobleman: This is an apt reference to the Lord (v.12) – the person from nobility departs to a far country (heaven, Acts 1.11) prior to the establishment of His Kingdom (Mt 25.31).

The Servants: The ten servants in the parable (v.13) denote the faithful remnant belonging to the Lord prior to His return to earth (but also, by application, believers today). We have each a responsibility to obey the Lord and work for Him during His absence from earth.

The Citizens: The citizens mentioned in the parable represent the nation of Israel who, on the whole, rejected the Lord as Messiah (v.14; cp Jn 19.15). Despite Israel’s privileges (Rom 9.4-5), this description is a sad indictment of their spiritual blindness.

PROPHECY

The correct interpretation of the parables will help the believer understand some basic prophetic issues:

The City: The headquarters for Messianic rule is Jerusalem (Lk 19.11). The Son of David (Mt 1.1) must reign in the city of David’s rule (2 Sam 5.5; Zech 14.4).

The Kingdom: The "kingdom of God" (Lk 19.11) refers to the rule of Messiah upon earth. It is a literal kingdom, predicted in the Old Testament, and will be established when the Messiah returns to earth (v.15).

The Subjects: The inhabitants of the Kingdom are those who obey the words of Messiah and are given positions of responsibility (vv.17-19). In contrast, and prior to the commencement of His rule on earth, Messiah will judge those who rejected Him (v.27; Mt 25.11-12, 41).

PRINCIPLES

Every passage of Scripture contains important lessons for the believer (2 Tim 3.16) and the parables are no different. Consider the following:

Opportunity: Unlike the parable of the talents (Mt 25.14-30), each servant was given the same amount (Lk 19.13). Remember that we each have the same opportunities to serve the Lord (such as access to the Scriptures and the reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit).

Fidelity: Two of the ten servants were commended for being "faithful" (vv.17,19). The instruction was to "trade" with the "pound" (approx three months’ wages), and some were obedient to the request of the nobleman. As stewards, we too are required to be faithful (1 Cor 4.1-2).

Solemnity: One servant wrapped his pound in a "napkin" (a cloth for wiping perspiration from the face, v.20 – he was disinclined to engage in labour!). His description of the nobleman as "austere" (rough/harsh, v.21) reveals him as "wicked" (v.22). If this servant truly believed that the nobleman was austere he would, at the very least, have placed the pound in the bank to gain interest (v.23). As with Judas, it is possible to appear as a servant of the Lord but not possess salvation.

Responsibility: Faithfulness in service will bring added responsibility in the future (vv.17,19). Our service will also be reviewed (and rewarded) in a coming day, and hence we should be industrious in light of the Judgment Seat of Christ (eg 1 Cor 3.10-15; 2 Cor 5.10).

Humility: Notice that the parable stresses that the pound(s) belonged to the nobleman (vv.13,16,18,20). We can only serve the Lord with what He gives us. This should remove any thoughts of pride or self-importance.

Concluded.

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