We lounged on couches, floor, fireplace hearth – the ten of us together that night. Our stomachs full, as always, from the spread that appears as people walk in the doors of whichever home is extending hospitality that evening. (Small group night is a good-eating night!) And was it really just weeks ago that some of us were strangers?
We enjoy each other’s food, enjoy each other’s company still more — but it’s the point when we open our Bibles, and talk and pray together, that is the real heart of our gathering each week.
As usual, we were reflecting that night on a passage we’d just heard our pastor, Jon, teach. The story, told by Jesus, is found in Luke 19:11-27, and is known sometimes as “The Parable of the Ten Minas”. For anyone who loves Jesus’ teachings, it is a well-known, common story… about faithful, industrious Servants Numbers 1 & 2, rewarded when the Master returns… and the fearful, self-isolating Servant Number 3, who maligns the Master’s character and is, well, decidedly not rewarded when the Master returns.
Moral of the story: God has given us all gifts – intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical. The purpose of those gifts is for us to put them to really good use for more than just our own benefit… and if we have a messed up view of the character of God, it will completely mess up our ability to fulfill our purpose. And we’ll regret that. Pretty straightforward, right?
But what if Jesus had a whole lot more going on in that story? From a fresh paradigm taught on Sunday — and a rich, living-room conversation — here are the truths I can’t stop thinking about since that night:
This story doesn’t stand on its own: it has a context. (Surprise!) Jesus is telling this story standing in another living-room, that of a man named Zaccheus. A man who has just had a turn-life-upside-down kind of encounter with Jesus. You can read about that in Luke 19:1-10. I mean, have you taken a give-away-half-of-your-wealth faith step like Zaccheus? Yeah, me neither.
Not only is Jesus telling this story to Zaccheus-rotten-guy-turned-repentant-faith-hero… the very next thing that takes place in Luke’s writing of Jesus’ life is Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem. It’s the end. Jesus has about a week until his bloody murder at the hands of the Romans, the final fulfillment of his entire take-every-punishment-for-the-sins-of-all-who-trust-him purpose and he knows it. About a week until he conquers death, rises from the dead, and, mission fulfilled, hangs just a bit longer with his friends before returning to heaven in glory. And he knows it.
All of a sudden, this is starting to sound like a story that might have more going on…
So catch this strange start: Noble man, headed out to become king, puts servants each in charge of a boatload of money. Bunch of people hate him – like just about everyone – and send a group after him to say “Don’t let this guy be our king!”.
Stop right there.
A handful of servants have been given a ton of money by a guy who is now gone. Not only is he gone, but just about everyone around them is grumbling about him, discrediting him, talking up how he isn’t actually coming back at all. If this guy DOES actually make it back — all the people say — it’ll be with his tail between his legs. He’s heading off to get himself whipped. Hey, some of those servants may even have helped send off that protest-group.
Servants Numbers 1 & 2, though? All that noise around them? Irrelevant. They get to work anyway. And, from the looks of it, they work hard. You don’t get a one-thousand percent return on investment by sitting back and deciding to live the cush life. These guys aren’t questioning whether that master is returning. They’re not giving themselves a bit of vacation now that the boss isn’t right there. They have full confidence in the authority of that master — and so they hit it. They don’t know exactly how long they have… or how this is all going to pan out. They just know he’s coming back, and they’re going to do all they can between now and then.
Jesus is telling this to Zaccheus, who just took this huge faith step and is now poised to look alot like Servant Number 1. But Jesus knows that within days, he will be crucified — and all of the voices around Zaccheus will be discrediting Jesus, calling completely into question any reason for Zaccheus to follow through on the transformation he has just stepped into.
So what is Jesus doing?
Jesus is preparing him. He’s saying to Zaccheus — I’m going to be gone. A long time. It may look like I won’t come back. It may look like there’s no point to you following through with what you have begun. People will hate me and discredit me. Live the transformed life anyway. Be a faithful servant anyway. I’m coming back. And you will share my joy. (Matthew 25:21, 23)
It isn’t any different with us, is it?
In our love for Jesus, we take hard steps of faith. But the voices around us tell us there is no point. Just bail and go the easier route! Why all the hard work? Where is Jesus anyway? —
But Jesus says to us: Live the transformed life anyway. Be a faithful servant anyway. I’m coming back.
And you will share my joy!
To hear Jon’s excellent teaching on this passage, click here: http://www.discochurch.com/sermons/how-you-use-you/
For some great, further reflections on this passage, click here: http://www.discochurch.com/daily-reflections/
And to check out Discovery’s small groups, click here: http://www.discochurch.com/groups/