Passage: Luke 19:11–19:27
Expectations are powerful things. How we respond to life is often shaped as much by our expectations as by our experience. Unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment, frustration, even despair. On the other hand, proper expectations can sustain commitment, effort, even faithfulness. Expectations are powerful things.
For Christians, then, it is incredibly important that our expectations are defined by Scripture. We can’t simply approach the Christian life based on our ideas and assumptions. We need God to shape our expectations because, in the end, we want to be faithful to him.
Friends, that desire for biblical expectations leading to faithfulness is at the heart of our passage today in Luke 19. There is a lot going on in this text, but at the core, this passage is about resetting expectations. As we noted earlier, this is the last scene before Jesus reaches Jerusalem. He’s been on the road since chapter 9, and the journey finally comes to an end in v28.
Now, as we readers of Luke’s Gospel, we know what to expect when Jesus gets to the capital city. We know to expect rejection, betrayal, arrest, mockery, and ultimately death. We know to expect that because Jesus has predicted it, but also because we live on the other side of Easter Sunday. But what about the disciples? What do they expect as Jerusalem draws near? Well, we don’t have to guess. Luke tells us in v11, and it’s clear that their expectations were wrong. V11 – “As they heard these things, Jesus proceeded to tell a parable because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.”
So, what is the expectation? An immediate kingdom revelation. But what’s missing from that expectation? The cross is missing. The betrayal and shame and mockery are missing. The time between Christ’s ascension and second coming is missing. Just like we noted a few weeks ago, the disciples still don’t see everything clearly. Or, to use the idea of our introduction, they still don’t have the right expectation. They’re expecting Jesus to receive the crown but without the cross.
And so, what does Jesus do? He resets their expectations. That is the aim of the parable. Instead of expecting an immediate fulfillment, the disciples ought to expect a season of waiting, where their calling will be faithfulness until the king returns. This is key, brothers and sisters. The disciples are not wrong to expect Jesus to be king. They are not wrong to expect that God’s kingdom is coming. Jesus has been preaching those truths from the beginning, so that’s not the problem. The problem is that they expect the timing to be now, immediate, without any delay. And that’s why Jesus tells this parable. He resets their expectation, so that the disciples will then live with the right goal, which is faithfulness until the king returns.
And friends, faithfulness is our aim as well. Since expectations often shape our actions, we need Jesus’ correction just as much as the disciples do. We too lose sight of the cross. We too grow weary in our discipleship. We need this reset as much as the disciples. So, with an eye toward better understanding God’s kingdom in Christ, I want us to consider four kingdom expectations, as defined by the Lord Jesus, and my prayer is that these expectations will encourage us in faithfulness.
Christ Will Come Again as King
The first expectation is foundational, not only for this passage but also for the entirety of Christian theology. The first expectation is this – Christ will come again as King. We’ve already noted the reason for the parable in v11, and the setting for the parable follows in v12. Listen again to how Jesus begins, v12 – “He said therefore, ‘A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.’”
From the start, the key elements in v12 are delay and return. The fact that the nobleman goes to a far country means there will be some delay before he gets back. It’s going to take some time. A delay, in other words, is to be expected. But at the same time, the return is just as certain. Jesus is very clear at this point. The nobleman goes to the far country, where he receives the kingdom, but then he returns. He comes again to rule and reign over that which belongs to him.
And this promise to come back is further established in v13. The nobleman is so confident of his return, he gives his servants a mission. Notice v13 – “Calling ten of his servant, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’” A mina was not a huge sum of money – about 3 months wages. But the amount is not the focus; the mission is. The nobleman expects his servants to be profitable. Note that phrase engage in business. It carries the idea of doing so profitably, making some return on the investment. And that is the mission for these servants. They’ve been entrusted with the nobleman’s resources while he is way, but when he comes back as king, they will have to give an account. That’s the main insight here. The king’s return is so certain, it ought to motivate his servants to be faithful.
But then something unexpected happens. If we were telling the parable, we might immediately jump to what each servant did with the king’s money. But that’s not where Jesus goes. He includes an ominous note, v14. Listen again – “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” So, the king is opposed. Some of his subjects hate him. They even try to stop his coronation. This is outright rebellion. And so, we think, “Perhaps the kingdom is in doubt.” Perhaps the king’s coming again won’t happen after all. And if so, then maybe the servants should hedge their bets and forget about their mission.
Not so fast. We don’t want to get too far ahead, but notice the first line of v15 – “When he returned, having received the kingdom.” The opposition fails. The rebellion is unsuccessful. The king returns, and he returns with authority. Notice, then, how the key elements from v12 – delay and return – shape this entire opening section. The nobleman goes away, and there is a delay for some time. There is even opposition. But in the end, the kingdom is established. The opposition fails, and the king comes again to rule over his people.
Friends, do you see how Jesus is giving us a preview both of his passion and the subsequent history of the church? It’s as though Jesus takes the remainder of redemptive history and condenses it down to this short parable. Jesus is the nobleman who goes away to receive the kingdom – that’s a reference to his ascension again to the Father, following his resurrection. The rebellion of v14 is the opposition of the Jewish religious leaders, who hate Jesus and do not want him to be king. The stewardship of v13 is the mission of the church – to be stewards of Christ’s resources until he returns. The remainder of redemptive history is packaged up in this parable.
And while Jesus doesn’t give us every single detail of what will happen, he does give us the most important detail – he’s coming back. There’s no doubt. Raised from the dead, Christ has ascended to heaven to receive kingship from the Father, and for a time, the church waits. But as we wait, we do so with confidence, knowing that the king is coming again. That’s not our theory, brothers and sisters. That’s not our wish or preference. That’s the Lord’s promise, explained right here in his Word. Christ will come again as King.
Christ Will Commend the Faithful
So, how should we live in response? What expectation should we bring to the Christian life, based on the King’s return? That’s where we turn next, to the second kingdom expectation from Jesus’ parable. In vv15-19, we learn that Christ will commend the Faithful. The King comes back in v15, and with authority, he calls his servants to account. V15 – “When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business.” Friends, I hope you see how the King’s authority is assumed in this verse. He orders the servants to appear and report on what they did with his money. He’s in charge, in other words, and the money belongs to him. It’s such a clear picture of our role as stewards in God’s kingdom. Whatever gifts or resources we’ve received, they belong to Christ. It’s his gift, not ours. It’s his money, not ours. It’s his life, not ours! And so, when he returns, each and every one of us will stand before him and give an account. The authority of Christ is so clear in v15.
And in response to that authority, the first two servants picture what good stewardship requires. It requires faithfulness. Notice the first servant’s report, v16 – “The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’” That’s an incredible return! This servant has planned well. He’s used his time and the King’s resources to great effect. But even here, the authority of the King is not out of view. Notice that the servant says your mina has made ten more. That’s key, brothers and sisters. Yes, the return is incredible, but it’s the servant’s attitude that ought to get our attention. How has this servant been so faithful? Because he had a clear sense of the King’s authority. Embracing and submitting to Christ’s authority is often the first step in faithfulness. “It’s your mina,” the servant says. “I’ve simply stewarded it in your place.”
And the King is pleased with this faithfulness. Listen again to his commendation, v17 – “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you have authority over ten cities.’” Oh, what precious words those are – well done, good servant. Brothers and Sisters, I hope that short phrase stirs your heart today to love the Lord, to serve the church, to care for your family, to work hard at your job, to share the gospel. What precious words – well done, good servant!
But did you notice what the servant is commended for? It’s not his fruitfulness, even though the return was incredible. No, he’s commended for his faithfulness. “Because you have been faithful,” the King says. Of all the things that please the heart of Christ, faithfulness is near the top of the list. Faithfulness both honors the Lord and pleases God.
And then to emphasize this point, essentially the same interaction is repeated in vv18-19. Listen again – “And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’” Again, the King commends the faithful servant. Even though his return has not been as great, the King is still pleased. How do we know he is pleased? Because he entrusts his authority to this second servant, just as he did for the first.
And that is the principle at work in these verses, friends. Faithfulness not only pleases Christ, but it also leads to greater responsibility in his kingdom. The first servant is entrusted with ten cities; the second servant is entrusted with five cities. The reward for faithfulness is greater responsibility.
Now, there are all sorts of questions that we might have at this point in the text. What does this greater responsibility look like in the age to come? Does this mean some believers will receive greater rewards than others? How does this responsibility relate to Christ’s own authority as king? There are all sorts of questions. But friends, this is one of those instances where the questions may end up distracting us from the clearer, more foundational principle. Stewardship in this life prepares us for the age to come. Part of Christ’s kindness to his servants – part of Christ’s reward, if you like – is to entrust his faithful servants with greater responsibility in the age to come. Faithfulness today is the training ground for eternity.
Brothers and Sisters, that ought to stir in us a deepening desire to be faithful with what God has given us today. This principle means there are no insignificant days, no insignificant callings, no insignificant tasks. Whatever the calling, whatever the stewardship – it is aimed at eternity. One of my favorite professors used to say, “God’s will for your life is whatever he’s given you to do today.” And that’s so true, friends. The principle in vv15-19 – the principle of faithfulness today as preparing us for eternity – that principle makes every day, every task, every calling in every place eternally significant.
And this is not my perspective, friends. This is straight from Jesus. Look again at v17, and notice that phrase in a very little. Do you see that? The sense of that phrase is something trivial, perhaps something that seems to have miniscule importance. But Jesus is saying that for his servants, there is no trivial thing. The lordship of Christ, which extends over all things, turns everything into a training ground for eternity. Even the trivial things are arenas for the eternal glory of Christ to break into and transform the mundane of life.
And that means, brothers and sisters, that you do not have to wait for a bigger opportunity to live for the glory of God. You don’t have to wait for Christ to bring you out of your smallness in order to live for something significant. Right now, you can live for the King. Right now, you can prepare for eternity. Right now, you can lay up treasure in heaven. How so? By simple, humble faithfulness. So, if you’re calling tomorrow is to change diapers and wipe noses, praise God. There’s glory in that. If you’re calling is to mow grass or see patients, do it faithfully, to the glory of God. If you’re calling is to teach young minds or build new buildings or make sales calls, do it with every ounce of Christ-honoring strength you can muster, for eternity is being worked out in that office, on that jobsite, or in that conference room. When the King returns, he will commend the Faithful, and that means every task in every place is preparation for glory.
Christ Will Condemn the Foolish
There is, however, a sad alternative to faithfulness, and that is what Jesus describes in vv20-26. This is the third kingdom expectation, and it functions as a warning. From v20 and following, Christ will condemn the Foolish. A third servant appears in v20, and his testimony is markedly different from the others. Listen again to this foolish servant – “Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I have kept laid away in a handkerchief.’” So, this servant has literally done nothing. He just sat on the King’s resources, and he didn’t even do that in a wise way. Rabbinic teaching in Jesus’ day said the safest way to protect money was to bury it in the ground, but this servant didn’t even do that. He didn’t waste the money, mind you – he simply did nothing with it. But doing nothing is a pathway to faithlessness, as we’re about to see.
Why would the servant do this? Why would he be so foolish? V21 gives his reasoning, and it’s not good – “for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what did you not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” Essentially, the servant blames the King. “It’s your fault that I did nothing! You’re too hard on people. You’re too rigid, too strict, especially with money. I knew that I couldn’t please you, so out of fear, I just did nothing.” That’s what the servant says.
Now, ask yourself, friends – what have we learned about the King in this parable? Well, we’ve learned that he’s humble – he went away to receive his kingdom; he didn’t take it by force. We’ve learned that he’s wise – he instructed his servants to invest his resources while he was away. And most importantly, we’ve learned that the King is generous. He just gave 15 cities to two of his servants. Think about that. Giving away three months of salary is one thing, but giving away an entire city? And the King gave away 15. Does that sound like a severe man to you? No, it doesn’t, which means something more is going on with this servant.
And the King brings that into the light in v22. Listen to his reply, and catch how the King exposes the true state of the servant’s heart. V22 – “He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’” The King has caught the servant, hasn’t he? If the servant’s evaluation of the King is correct, then at a minimum, the servant should have put the money in the bank. Even severe men will take some return over no return. So, even if the servant’s opinion is true, he’s still been unfaithful.
But that’s the deeper conviction, friends. The servant’s opinion of the King is wrong, and that’s the problem. He doesn’t truly know the King! He doesn’t know that the King is gracious and kind, generous and merciful. The servant’s heart is not in allegiance to the King, and ultimately, that’s why he’s been unfaithful. This foolish servant doesn’t know the King.
And for that, the foolish servant is condemned. Instead of greater responsibility, the foolish servant is stripped of his stewardship. V24 – “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has ten minas.’” Faithfulness leads to greater responsibility, while unfaithfulness leads to judgment. The crowd can’t believe it, v25 – “And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’” But the King is just in his ruling. Notice the principle that sums up the urgency of faithfulness, v26 – “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Friends, this is another principle in God’s kingdom, another expectation for how discipleship works. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you. That’s how Jesus put it back in chapter 8. Here, it’s expressed in terms of giving and taking. The one who faithfully uses what he has will receive even more. But the one who is unfaithful, even in a little, will have even that little taken away. You see, it’s the inverse of what we learned in the second expectation. Faithfulness in the present prepares us for the age to come, but also vice versa. Unfaithfulness in the present leads to judgment in the age to come.
So, what’s the takeaway, we ask? What is the application here from this sobering picture of judgment? Well, there’s certainly the takeaway that faithfulness is an urgent calling in the Christian life. That much should be clear to each of us. There are consequences to ignoring God’s gifts, disregarding Christ’s authority, and just living for yourself. It is foolish to focus solely on the present, as though every minute and every dollar belonged to you. They don’t; every minute and every dollar belong to Christ. He’s the King, and that means faithfulness to him, in the everyday stuff of life, is an urgent, high calling. That’s a pretty clear takeaway from this principle.
But there’s another takeaway here that we might overlook. It’s this – knowing the character of the King is a powerful motivator to faithfulness. What would have happened if the foolish servant knew that the King was kind, generous, gracious, and merciful? What would he have done differently? Well, he wouldn’t have hidden the money in the handkerchief. He would have done something rather than nothing. And even if the servant became afraid that his investment strategy wasn’t the best, he would have taken comfort from the fact that the King is gracious. The King is generous. He’s merciful. Even if my return is small, he’d still receive it – because that’s the kind of King he is. Knowing the King’s character would have strengthened him for faithfulness.
Friends, the same is true in the Christian life. Knowing the character of Christ is a powerful motivator to faithfulness. Christ’s character makes all the difference in how we live. When we know that Christ is merciful, we strive to be faithful, even though our best efforts are weak. When we know that Christ is generous, we pursue faithfulness, not worrying about whether our gifts are as important or as numerous as someone else’s. When we know that Christ is gracious, we don’t turn faithfulness into merit – we trust that our standing is secure in grace. Do you see the difference in makes to know the King? Brothers and Sisters, this is why growing in the knowledge of Christ is vital for your life. It strengthens you to do the very thing Christ has called you to do, and that’s be faithful.
So, put down the Christian books that make much of you, and pick up the books that magnify Christ. Go to God’s Word, and plead for the Spirit to help you see Christ, in all his glory. And when you see him, friends, faithfulness will follow.
Christ Will Crush His Enemies
There’s a final kingdom expectation in this passage, and we’ll close with this. It’s v27, where the King deals with the rebels. The expectation is this – Christ will crush his enemies. Remember back in v14 that some of the citizens didn’t want the King to rule over them. They attempted a coup, but it failed. Christ is King. So, what will happen now to those rebels? V27 tells us, and it is one of the most bracing statements from Christ in all of the book. Listen again – “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.” I used the word crush in this fourth expectation, and some may think that language is too strong. Christ crushing people? Is that right to say?
Yes, friends, it is right, and I don’t say that lightly. When Christ returns, he will unleash the fury of God Almighty against those who have rebelled against him. With flaming fire, he will inflict vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel. That’s NT language, and it expresses exactly what Jesus says here in v27. Christ will crush his enemies on the final day.
And listen, as Christians, that should not make us boastful or proud. It should make us weep in prayer that God would save the lost before that great and awesome day of judgment. This was the apostle Paul’s response to the judgment of God. Philippians 3.18 – “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” What happens to those enemies? Christ crushes them. So, what do we do? We weep in prayer to God that he would save the lost, for his glory. We proclaim to the world, “Be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.” The doctrine of eternal judgment is real, brothers and sisters. It is a right and biblical expectation that Christ will destroy the wicked on the last day. And therefore, we pray, and we preach.
If you are separated from God today – if you know that you are a sinner and that God’s wrath is coming against you – then I plead with you to hear the good news of the gospel. Christ is more gracious than you can imagine. He laid down his life on the cross to pay for the sins of his people. Christ was slaughtered in the place of sinners so that we would find life and forgiveness with God. So, if you don’t know Christ by faith, then I pray that today is the day of your salvation. Hear the gospel, confess your sin, and trust that only Christ can save you. There are any number of people here today who are ready to talk with you and then to help you follow Christ as King. That’s what the church exists to do, friend – the church is a community of redeemed sinners, everyone helping one another faithfully follow the King. So, I pray you hear that good news today.
Expectations are powerful things. The disciples had the wrong expectation about the kingdom, and so Jesus gave them this reset. We need that reset too, brothers and sisters, and I pray it leads us to faithfulness.
I want to close with a quote from Francis Schaeffer. The main application of this passage is the call to faithfulness, wherever God has you. And this quote from Francis Schaeffer’s book No Little People gives encouragement to folks like us. Schaeffer says, “There are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places. To be wholly committed to God in the place where God wants [you]—this is the creature glorified.” In God’s kingdom, there are no little tasks. There are only servants of the King, faithfully waiting for his return. May we be faithful, then, with whatever God gives us to do, until the day we hear, “Well done, good servant!” Amen, come Lord Jesus. Let’s pray.