The boss is always right! That’s the best comparison I can come up with to explain how to understand today’s scripture. Bianca, my daughter, writes for an online website that provides resources for small businesses. The website lis hard to navigate, confusing. Bee says, in her opinion, they could do much more with social media. The boss/owner doesn’t seem to see any of it. Bee has no choice but to keep going his way… The boss is always right. Turns out he must know what he is doing.. A few years ago when she started, after a few months, they gave her a $500 Christmas bonus. That year the company netted $700K. The workers may think they have better ways of doing things… but the Boss is always right!
The same thing happens when we commit ourselves to follow Jesus Christ. We are not always going to understand. Disappointments. Often we can’t figure out what God is up to… Many reject God because if they were God they would do things differently: no wars, no pain, no death, no sin…. How can a loving God allow ________.
I hope those two ideas help you hear the scripture as I read: obey the King even if you are disappointed, and the King is not a reference to God. READ Luke 19:11-27
This story told by Jesus is to help his followers come to grips with the realization that they are going to be disappointed. At the moment people are so thrilled with Jesus they are climbing trees just to get a glimpse of him, but in a few days he will be so unpopular all but a few will abandon him. In a short time Jesus will be in Jerusalem, he will go to the cross, he will die. His followers think Jesus is going to usher in a new era of the Kingdom of God. That’s what it says in Luke 19:11: READ. Jesus tells this story to warn his followers that their expectations are not going to be met, but follow anyway, because the Lord Almighty knows what He is doing. When you are disappointed with God, follow Him anyway.
A closer look at this story. The set up is in Luke 19:12. READ. If you were a Jew living in Israel at this time, you could not miss a real life historical allusion to this story.
There is an historical parallel to this story. When Herod the Great dies around the time of Jesus’ birth, his son Archelaus went to Rome to be appointed King of Israel. The people of Israel hated Archelaus and sent a delegation after him to Rome to tell Caesar that they did not want this man to rule over them. Ceasar Augustus compromised by allowing Archelaus to rule with a different title. They were all puppet rulers, subject to Rome, no matter the title… One of Archelaus projects was to build a beautiful palace for himself in Jericho, where Jesus was speaking,,, that explains the goofy twist in the story about the nobleman going to a distant country to have himself appointed as king…. it happened in their history and they were in the shadow of the palace built by that hated ruler from a couple decades earlier…
As we walk through this parable, remember the King is not an exact parallel to God, he is more like rule #2, when the boss is wrong, refer to rule #1, the boss is always right. And if you can follow a boss that you don’t get, how much more to commit yourself to the ways of God who you may not understand at all, but he is truly always right.
There are three ways groups of people respond to the King.
- The people who outright reject the King and try to undermine his rule: they send a delegation to the ruler of the distant land to try to thwart the kingship. You heard their fate: READ Luke 19:27.
- Some folks were entrusted with money from the King and chose to do nothing because they did want to lose it… Things did not go so well for them…. READ Luke 19:20-26.
- The other group listened to the boss. There is no indication they liked the king more than the other two groups… they simply chose to respond differently. They are the only people who are commended. READ Luke 19:15-17.
Jesus is speaking to people who he knows are about to be disappointed with him. They are expecting the Lord to be a conquering King about to usher in a new era of the reign of God. It’s an exciting time of anticipation as they head to Jerusalem to the great feast. He decides to tell them a cryptic story alluding to a hated King that got himself appointed and was cruel to his people and only rewarded those that cow-towed to him. I’m thinking maybe later, after Jesus was crucified, when they were hiding and confused and did not know what to do, that perhaps, perhaps, perhaps some of the disciples/followers remembered the story, and even though they did not understand what God was up to, even though they were disappointed with God, they followed Him anyway. They decided to take the gifts he had given them and invest themselves. They looked forward to that day when they would be confronted by the Lord and hear those amazing words, “Well done, my good servant…”
If it is wise to listen to the boss, even when we don’t get him, how much more to listen and follow Jesus Christ even when we are disappointed, even when our expectations are not met. I think of the wonderful faithful Christians who are confronted with an unexpected death of a loved one, a loss of income, an unexpected twist in life, and they remain faithful to God anyway. I’m thinking of a Christian community watching a cultural shift in values and priorities and yet our calling is to follow God anyway. By telling this story, the final formal teaching of Jesus as recorded in the book of Luke, Jesus is saying you may be disappointed because your expectations are not going to be met as you envision the unfolding of the events about to come, but be like the servant who took what was entrusted to him and invest those gifts. Serve the Lord anyway…
Three responses to the King:
One group rejects the King. They refuse to accept the inevitable. Do not let disappointments of this world stymie your spiritual commitment. So your world does not work out as you expect, so what… keep going forward anyway and put your trust in God. I don’t know why God allows wars. I don’t know why he allows young people to die... I don’t know why Jesus Christ doesn’t return right now and bring an end to all our bitterness and divisiveness of this old world. But I do know there is no good outcome for those that try and control and hold on and manipulate. Don’t let today’s politics depress you, I don’t care what side of the divide you are on… God is greater than any politician! Our disappointments are only a problem when we allow them to divorce us from God….
Another response is to be like the servant that played it cautiously. This is a common temptation. When confronted by the king the cautious servant explains “I just wanted to play it safe, did not want to risk losing anything, so here is your money back just as you gave it…” a cautious Christian, is that what you want? Don’t make waves. No risks. No upsetting the apple cart. Make it through. These people, like everyone when Jesus told the story, were expecting the Kingdom of God to appear at once. When it doesn’t happen as expected, their response to the disappointment is to shrug their shoulders, cross their fingers and hope it all works out. They play it safe… and it doesn’t all work out for them… the church in America cannot afford to just play it safe anymore! We must not play it safe, just holding on… It was fascinating scanning all my father’s old slides of this church family from 50’s into the 90’s….the evolution of families, the constant evolution of change… change is always coming. If anyone tries to hold on the changes will continue anyway and we’ll be left behind…
I don’t know what it means, I got excited when the mayor of Sumas posted on FB that City Hall and other community buildings will be built right next door… That’s gotta mean opportunities… Let’s not be timid with our faith, but be active… the cautions servants did not please the king.
Only one group risks. Only one group follows the King even though they are disappointed. Only one group hear’s the words, “Well done.” I want to hear those words, not so much for me, but because I want to have a small part in the unfolding of God’s great Kingdom…one huge difference between the king in the parable and King Jesus is that the servant is commended for his success in turning a prophet. Jesus measures success not so much by worldly standards as simple obedience to follow him, even when we face disappointments.
I like the inspiring story of Wycliffe Bible translators assigned to translate the Bible into one of the Indian tribal languages in South America. Before computers, it often took as long as twenty years. During the process, the translators were teaching the Scriptures and seeing a new church emerging among the tribe. But in this case, as they came toward the end of the translation project, the tribal people were becoming more and more involved in producing drugs and less and less interested in the Scriptures. When they finally finished the translation of the New Testament and scheduled a dedication service, not one person came! 20 years of work and nothing to show for it.
This missionary was angry and bitter. The woman had given twenty years of her life so that these people could have the Scriptures, but they didn’t even want it! But then something happened in her spirit, and she was able to testify: “It is as though God has been washing His Word over my soul and healing me, and He has opened my eyes to see this all from His perspective. I am just beginning to realize now that we did it for Him! That is the only thing that makes any sense in all of this. We did it for God!”
There will be times when your expectations will not unfold according to your plans and you will be disappointed by God. Some will reject God in the face of disappointment. Many will play it safe, trying to hold on and hope it all works out. When you are disappointed with Jesus Christ , use the gifts he has given you, and follow Him anyway.