22 October 2015

A Cultural Understanding of the Parable of the Pounds (Luke 19:11-27) - Part 4

Okay, we come to the close of this little series, as we wrap up the cultural understandings behind this parable, and how a better understanding gives us a better application of this parable than is usually gleaned from it. In the last part we saw the importance of understanding audience relevance when it comes to applying this parable, and conclude that the king who left and was to return was returning to the same audience he left, to hold those same people accountable, and that was what Yeshua himself had promised to do wo his first century hearers.

So, while we may glean from this parable an idea of being faithful servants to the Kingdom in our own life, it is a great error when we see ourselves as working for a still future Kingdom, rather than understanding that we are working within a currently acquired one. This type of "already but not yet" teaching is what has crippled the church from doing the work it should have been doing all along.

Instead of acknowledging and taking the power of the kingdom now, and setting about to do our masters work under his now reigning authority, the church in general has cowered behind their doors, not challenging the culture around us, not standing boldly in the king’s name and power, and instead teaches that Satan is “king” and still in control, and they must therefore await a future coming in power that will rescue them from it all.

For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, this parable clearly teaches us about an event to start and finish within the span of one lifetime, and would begin soon - within the life of those listening. It speaks of the soon to come time when Yeshua would ascend to the right hand of the Father to receive the fullness of the Kingdom:

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."' Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." (Act 2:32-36 ESV)

It speaks of the time when he would send his servants out with the gifts of power to work at spreading the message of the kingdom:

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mat 28:18-20 ESV)

And they could expect that he would return within their lifetimes, within that generation, to be revealed in the fullness of the Kingdom, as we saw previously in the verses from Matthew and elsewhere. Over and over he spoke of the soon coming judgment and end of the age to occur within their lifetime – there are more verses and parables dealing with this than I have time to deal with now – and that he would return to those enemies of God who heard him, and he would destroy them and their whole system – which as we know, occurred in AD 70 when the holy Temple was demolished.

These would-be servants of God had ignored the work they were supposed to do, and in the end would be cast out and destroyed. These false servants – the Pharisees, priests, scribes and other Jewish leaders of the time, were all given the same oracles of God, and should have been gaining returns for centuries using these gifts of God. Instead, they hoarded them, wrapping them up in a napkin as it were, and built a system which only favored their nation and tribes - and that reign of abuse was quickly coming to an end.

This napkin, or handkerchief as some translate it, is seen by some scholars as no ordinary wrapping, but as the piece of cloth that wraps the face in the burial of a dead body. Like we remember from the scene with the raising of Lazarus:

And these things saying, with a loud voice he cried out, `Lazarus, come forth;' and he who died came forth, being bound feet and hands with grave-clothes, and his visage with a napkin was bound about (John 11:43-44 YLT)

As well as that found in the tomb of Yeshua:

Simon Peter, therefore, cometh, following him, and he entered into the tomb, and beholdeth the linen clothes lying, and the napkin that was upon his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but apart, having been folded up, in one place; (Joh 20:6-7 YLT)

The Jews had in fact turned the ways of God – ways that were to be a blessing to all of the nations – into a dead religion filled with nothing but burden and fear.

So, we find that at the Lord’s return, it would be a day of judgment to determine which of the servants truly had advanced the Kingdom in his absence. The major separating factor of the judgment is between those who were faithful and those who were not. Faithfulness, and not necessarily the amount of return - that is the key to grasp.

Those who were faithful would receive more, in proportion to their faithfulness; those who were not faithful, would have what they were given, taken away from them. This is pretty much the same thing said earlier in Luke:

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away. (Luke 8:18 ESV)

This is the tail end of the verses condemning the covering of the lamp rather than putting it on a lamp stand to be seen. The Jews had taken the light from God and kept it hid, rather than taking it to the world to see and believe. So, they were to be judged, and what they had been given would be taken away and given to the faithful.

As it turns out, these disobedience “servants” are also part of the group who would not have this man to be King over them. They would capture him and turn him over to the authorities for torture and execution. When Pilate wrote the sign “King of the Jews” and hung it on the cross, the Jews quickly told him to not do it:

So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but rather, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" (Joh 19:21 ESV)

So, they just wanted the sign to say that this man claimed to be their king, but they would not acknowledge him as so. Instead, they denied him and plainly stated “we have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15).

These enemies screamed against Yeshua, and said "His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matt 27:25), and upon his return, would be destroyed before him for all the blood that was on them.

Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. (Luk 11:49-51 ESV)

THAT generation – the one being address by these words – they would be judged and condemned for their actions, and be utterly destroyed and cast out of any part of the kingdom they thought they had.

Now, all of this was being told to the disciples, because as they approached Jerusalem, and thought the Kingdom was coming immediately yet Yeshua was correcting them, and letting them know of things to happen first, and teaching them the ways of the Kingdom, so they would be better prepared for the work to come.

Because there is a vast difference in the cultures between those first century hearers and us, it is of utmost importance that we study to understand the audience relevance in all things. Sadly, so many modern “scholars” and “theologians” who write commentaries and books on these subjects do not seem to understand this, and so we continue to see out of context and misapplied readings of these things.

For us, the Kingdom fullness is on our side – we are in the age to come spoken of in the first century. For us, we are to go forth spreading it into every nook and cranny of the globe, spreading the peace, love and redemption that were brought unto mankind through the work of the heavenly Father and his Son.

We are to go forth in confidence of his victory in all things, and the strength he provides to all of his servants to accomplish his desires. We are his hands and feet to a world that needs answers. As a church, we are not to sit idly by, making our existence here comfortable, and yet hide away in our big churches and huge ministries, just awaiting a rescue from this world. No, we are to take a stand, and work to spread the full kingdom power to cover the world as the waters cover the seas.

We should look to stand boldly for the truth in a similar manner as that of the disciples in Acts 4 when they were commanded not to preach Yeshua any longer:

Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, "'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'—for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Act 4:24-30)

We look around and see that the kings of the earth still set themselves against the Lord and his anointed. We see the attacks on every side. But, the Lord is still here – he is still sovereign – he is still able to overcome all that those false kings and rulers try to bring against his people.

If His people would stop being dormant, if they would get active in obeying the Lord, and stop hiding their light and faith under a bushel, then we will begin to see a turn for the better; if not, then we will continue to receive and deserve the judgment that continues to fall around us.

May the Lord bless us and keep us in out endeavors. Amen

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4