March 14 | Luke 19:11-27

Throw-away_society_(2931744617)So somehow I missed this passage when I set this series up. I kinda wish I hadn’t noticed because it’s a horrifying parable. But the goal here is to work through the whole gospel, for better or for worse. In order to get caught up I will combine what is scheduled as today’s reading with tomorrow’s (which maybe makes more sense anyway!).

As already stated, this is a horrifying parable. The traditional interpretation is that we all have something contribute (that’s nice), and that we are called and expected to use what we have to grow God’s kingdom (that’s not so unreasonable). But then at the end, the one slave who did not use what he was given for growth is left with nothing, and those who rejected this master are summoned to be slaughtered. Yikes. So much for “gentle Jesus.”

This is an image for God that I simply cannot embrace nor does it seem to match up with what God is going through Jesus in Luke. This whole gospel has been about equality and lifting up the lowly and bringing down the haughty. This passage seems to do the opposite. It paints a picture of God who is angry, power hungry, unrelenting, and unforgiving. So what do I do with it?

As always it’s important to keep Jesus’ audience in mind. This parable comes immediately after the Zacchaeus episode, and in that episode we see the generous, forgiving, loving, and empowering Jesus that we love and know. Zaccaheus is viewed by the authorities and the crowds as an unclean sinner, yet in Zacchaeus Jesus calls out beauty. But remember that the Zacchaeus episode has an audience. We’re not certain who specifically “all who saw it began to grumble” (19:7) were, but they are presumably the same people referred to in the beginning of this parable in verse 11: “As they were listening to this…” The target audience of this parable, are those who grumbled at Jesus who went to “be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

That does not mean that we are not in anyway the target audience as well, and can therefore throw this parable away as I subconsciously tried to do. It does, however, speak to what it means to be faithful with what God has given us. I think one could say that what Jesus is saying here is that if you are going to use the grace, love, blessing and gathering in of God in your life to judge, condemn, exclude, and marginalize, then look out. To be faithful with what God has given us is to build up, not tear down; it is to gather in, not to push out; it is seek and save what is lost, not discard what remains.

This is a tough one. Don’t take my interpretation as the interpretation. Remember parables are meant to disrupt and disturb us. They are meant to be messy. So what do you see in this mess?

2 thoughts on “March 14 | Luke 19:11-27

  1. For me, it’s the Donald Trump passage of our time. I do not locate God as the king in this parable. Jesus tells this story just before the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday (Luke 19:28-40). He is giving us a picture of a king’s earthly power and its destructive nature. Kings go off to foreign countries/powers to gain legitimacy against those who live in the land. They do this even in the face of open opposition to them (and what they stand for). Then they come back and wield that power against the innocents and marginalized (and everyone) from the land. The servants in the story know this so they bow to the king’s demands (and work to provide so that they can be spared this misery). The ones who do not are slaughtered. An earthly king’s power judges harshly and slaughters anyone who disagrees.

    Jesus will then contrast that himself by embodying a different type of kingly power through his triumphal entry. He is a king that will come with authority from heaven to bring about a new kingdom (God’s kingdom) that is pretty much the opposite of everything above. I will let the reader draw their own conclusions on similarities to today’s world of political power.

    The Matthew text about talents (which is similar) is about stewardship. The Lukean story mentioned here (which is different than the Matthew story) is about power.


    1. I’m totally with you on this. It’s easy to try to draw a clear parallel between Jesus and the king, because so often that’s what’s going on with that kind of language, but it just doesn’t make sense in the context of Luke nor in who Jesus is and how he functions in the Gospels overall. And, as you point out, you cannot divorce a parable about a king that directly precedes the “triumphal entry”. Furthermore, so much of this Gospel as a whole (and in particular the “Palm Sunday” scene) is about that contrast between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God. Kings come in on white horses, not young colts, begging the question, “just what kind of king is this?” Thanks, Matt.


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