If you could quickly list your 3 favorite movies, what common theme(s) would appear?
My faves, in no particular order:
- Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – When the righteous king Aragorn assumes the throne and restores Middle Earth, my hope increases.
- The Little Princess – Watching a forsaken little girl become strong in spite of suffering, gives me courage.
- Beaches – When 2 women from very different backgrounds become kindreds for a lifetime, I see how grace wins.
Each of these movies carry the theme of restoration of what was lost and redemption for what was broken. Owing to a childhood marked by divorce and abandonment, living in a blended family, and being raised in a fundamentalist church, my heart still longs for a lost innocence about life to be restored. Those stories always speak to my early wounds and offer me hope in healing.
Last week Kathy introduced us to the Kingdom of God through Jesus and showed how He demonstrated some of the work of that kingdom while He walked the earth. Today, I want us to look together at our part in God’s kingdom.
Early in Israel’s history there is a promise of the coming kingdom of God. There are glimpses of that promise in David’s story and in promises written by prophets, but then the revelation of any new truth just stopped—for 400 years. There’s a big gap between the Old Testament and New Testament of any new truth being given. How dark would that be!
Then, an angel appears to a young girl with the promise of a Son.
“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’” Luke 1: 30-33
Eventually, Jesus would become a man and begin His earthly ministry. The glimpses of the promised kingdom became a string of images—a story of God’s Kingdom showing up throughout Palestine.
People gather to see Him. Crowds come to take in the HOPE they’ve waited for so long.
His followers believed He would be setting up His kingdom on earth immediately. As we noticed together last week, God’s Kingdom came with the Holy Spirit upon believers after Jesus went to heaven and is demonstrated in the Church now. But the future kingdom—the one where God sets all things right—will come when Christ returns to rule and reign forever.
In Luke 19, Jesus tells a parable to show us how we are to live as kingdom people until that final kingdom comes. Jesus and disciples have just passed through Jericho on their way to Jerusalem.
While in Jericho, Jesus healed a blind beggar and visited Zaccheus – both outcasts in their own right. Jesus closes the scene with Zaccheus by saying, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
With these words, Jesus sums up the sole purpose of his time here on earth. He knows he will soon be completing his mission and leaving his followers to continue the kingdom work with the help of the Holy Spirit until the time is right for his return.
So read along with me, starting in Luke 19:12, as Jesus explains kingdom work in a parable:
So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. 13 “And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ 14 “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’
Let’s get the cast of characters straight before we read on:
Jesus is the Nobleman
Believers are represented by the slaves
The Jews are seen as the citizens.
15 “When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.
This part of the parable happens at the end of the age or the 2nd coming of Christ. So right now we are living in the time when the Nobleman has gone away and we are waiting for him to return
16 “The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’
17 “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’
Money is not the point of this parable. Jesus considers the mina to be a very little thing. Faithfulness on the part of the servants is the point.
18 “The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’19 “And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’
So, though this servant’s return was not as high as the first’s, he was still faithful and given responsibility in the kingdom.
20 “Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man ; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’
This servant’s great downfall was that he didn’t trust the heart of the Nobleman.
22 “He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?
23 ‘Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’
The Nobleman condemns him based on the fact that the slave did nothing with his gift. Even interest would have been something.
24 “Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 “And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’
The people were trying to keep it fair, but the Nobleman wants to make it right. True fairness would mean they’d have nothing. Everything they had was a gift from him!
26 “I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
27 “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”
What can we learn from the servants in this parable?
- The first two, although they reaped different amounts of interest, were called faithful and awarded authority in the kingdom.
- The third slave was judged by his own standard. He called the Nobleman exacting and not generous, yet wasn’t he given the money freely? He didn’t know the Nobleman, didn’t appreciate His generosity, but instead lived in fear and hiding, not enjoying the gift.
In summarizing this parable in his book, Moments with the Savior, Ken Gire writes,
“The servants are not required to be eloquent or educated or especially gifted. Only one thing is required of them. To be trustworthy. To be people who can be depended on to work hard even in their master’s absence.” pg. 282
That reminds me of this encouragement from Paul:
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Philippians 2:1-4, The Message paraphrase
GOING DEEPER (for personal study)
Matthew 13 is a chapter rich with parables about kingdom living. Read through the whole chapter to get an overview of where Jesus was and why He was speaking in parables. Read each section separately and note the key words, phrases and characters. What theme(s) are woven through this chapter? How might you draw courage and hope for kingdom living from these parables?
DISCUSSION (please share your answer with all of us by leaving a reply we all can read.)
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Think about this quote by Beuchner. What is your “world”—the place God has given you influence right now. What is the deep hunger in that place? How does your passion meet the need in your world?