Then Jesus began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, that they should give him some of the fruit of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant; him also they beat and treated shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one they wounded and cast out.
“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be that they will respect him.’
“But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others.”
One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”
He answered them, “I also will ask you a question; now tell me: Was the baptism of John from Heaven or from men?”
And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From Heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’ — All the people will stone us, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know whence it was.
And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
And when Jesus drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying,”Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace. But now they are hid from your eyes!
“For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will cast up a bank around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and all your children within you; and they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
And he entered the Temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My House shall be a house of prayer;’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
And he was teaching daily in the Temple.
The chief priests and the scribes and the principle men of the people sought to destroy him; but they did not find anything they could do; for the people hung upon his words.
When Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'”
Those who were sent away went and found it as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they sat Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.
As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice, for all the mighty works they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest!”
And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
He replied, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Luke does get heavy-handed with the interpretations sometimes. In Matthew’s version, Jesus is actually in Jerusalem when he tells this story, and the context is an extremely apocalyptic monologue about the coming of a new age. There, Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple… which I am sure is something he actually did. Whatever else he may have been saying there… remains disturbingly mysterious.
Modern people automatically assume that Luke 19.11 is about them and their use of personal resources, whether that means literal money, time, or some spiritual faculty. “Use it or lose it.”
A 1st Century Jew would automatically assume the story is about God — having abandoned the Temple when the Babylonians came to take everyone important (and everything not nailed down) back home to Babylon (as prophets had been predicting for some time before) — and ‘now’ (as prophets had been saying ever since) returning there to rule His people as specified in the deal with Moses: milk & honey, peace and freedom, so long as everyone does right [and God is to fix them all so as to make even that possible!]
Luke says it’s about some mysterious ‘nobleman’ wanting to be king, and going away to confirm his position. Much as Herod Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, had gone off to Rome when his father died — and returned as a mere ‘ethnarch,’ but still ruler of most of Judea, until the Romans finally deposed him as a liability. I don’t know how many enemies Archelaus slaughtered on his return, but he’d already killed a great many Pharisees, provoking a delegation to follow him to Rome and lobby against his appointment.
The account of the claimant’s behavior would be just the sort of thing 1st Century Jews had learned to expect of their rulers, harsh, brutal — and greedy. This could certainly be a story of “what goes on in these corrupt times!”
But there’s that initial frame about ‘the Kingdom of God’. NT Wright: “In most parables about a king and subjects, or a master and servants, the king or master stands for Israel’s God and the subjects or servants for Israel and/or her leaders or prophets. This is true both in Jesus’ teaching and in some Jewish parables. In Jewish usage the relation of God and Israel was so constantly represented as that of a ‘lord’ and his ‘slaves’ that a hearer of the parable would almost inevitably seek an interpretation along those lines…”
But this is not,Wright says, an explanation that God’s return will be delayed; Jesus is saying that it isn’t going to look like what people had in mind. “YHWH is visiting his people, and they do not realize it; they are therefore in imminent danger of judgment, which will take the form of military conquest and devastation.” As in similar parables, “there is a strong probability that Jesus intended a reference to the [then] Jewish nation and its current leaders… Those who do not want the king to reign over them are like the older brother [in the Prodigal Son story] who refuses to join the party. In terms of exile and restoration, they are thos who do not want the Temple rebuilt. In the pounds, Jesus implies an analogy between those who rejected Archelaus a generation earlier and those who, in his own day, prefer their own dreams of national independence to the coming of the true king.”
I find this entirely convincing — but many many Christians have assumed that Jesus was telling this story near its beginning: his own ‘departure’ after death — rather than its ending: God’s visitation to Jerusalem, coinciding with and symbolized by Jesus’ own arrival there.
So was Jesus including a second meaning, for our benefit? About a world which would fall into similar corruption, through two thousand subsequent years, and undergo a similar judgment? Or do people just keep acting the same, and getting the same kind of results?
The initial first page posed a good question; and we’ve had some great answers so far; but people are getting bogged down there. I’m guessing I should switch to a ‘latest post first’ configuration, so we can get back to specific books & passages.
I’d like everything on this site — ideally anything in-or-about the Christian Bible — to be open to discussion here. (I’m still attempting to link things so as to facilitate that. If there’s a passage or subject you can’t find, ask & you might receive.)
For a number of years, this was a small-scale group blog [founded as ‘Friendly Bible Study’ by a man dubbing himself ‘Kwakersaur’], and I hope it can return to that format.
When my last active colleague wandered off, abandoning his own blog as well, we were on our way through Luke.
Right now: Luke 19:11-27. ‘The Parable of the Talents.’ Seemingly a simple, moralistic parable, it does seem a bit harsh.
Could it have just been a disapproving observation [as William Herzog suggests] of ‘the way of the world’ in Judea’s 1st Century economy? Or was it (as people tend to think) a way of saying “I’m going to be gone for awhile; and I want y’all to make good use of your time & resources meanwhile. You might be sorry…”?
While ‘Luke’ doesn’t go in for “wailing and gnashing of teeth” like ‘Matthew’; and the unlucky servant gets off with merely losing his ‘money’ — There’s that odd subplot of a returning king — Jesus?! — ordering “As for those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.”
In light of NT Wright’s perspective in Jesus and the Victory of God (etc.) the story could be about Israel and its 1st Century leadership. Jesus, he says, conceives of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem as YHWH’s long-prophecized return to the Temple. & will want to know, how have they been doing with the authority, wealth, traditions God has placed in their care?
As they heard these last things, he [Jesus] proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem (and because they supposed that the Reign of God was to appear immediately.) He said, therefore:
A nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them, “Trade with these until I come.”
But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, “We do not want this man to reign over us.”
When he returned, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading.
The first came before him, saying, “Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.”
And he said to him, “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a small matter, you shall have authority over ten cities!”
And the second came, saying, “Lord, your pound has made five pounds.”
And he said to him, “And you are to be over five cities.”
Then another came, saying, “Lord, here is your pound, which I kept laid away in a napkin. I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.”
He said to him, “I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into a bank? — so at my coming I should have collected it with interest?”
And he said to those nearby, “Take the pound from him, and give it to him who has the ten pounds.”
And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten pounds!”
“I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.”
“All Authority is God’s Authority
So, secondly within the first half of this lecture, I want to suggest that scripture’s own view of authority focuses on the authority of God himself. (I recall a well-known lecturer once insisting that ‘there can be no authority other than scripture’, and thumping the tub so completely that I wanted to ask ‘but what about God?’) If we think for a moment what we are actually saying when we use the phrase ‘authority of scripture’, we must surely acknowledge that this is a shorthand way of saying that, though authority belongs to God, God has somehow invested this authority in scripture. And that is a complex claim. It is not straightforward. When people use the phrase ‘authority of scripture’…
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[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through.
And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. He sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, because he was short. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree along the way.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your place today.”
So he made haste to come down, and received him joyfully.
And when people saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anybody of anything, I restore it fourfold!”
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since [Zacchaeus] too is a son of Abraham. For this son of Adam came to seek and to save the lost.”
As [Jesus] approached Jericho a blind man sat at the roadside begging. Hearing a crowd going past, he asked what was happening.
They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
Then he shouted out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”
The people in front told him sharply to hold his tongue, but he called out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”
Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Sir, I want my sight back,” he answered.
Jesus said to him, “Have back your sight; your faith has cured you.”
He recovered his sight instantly; and he followed Jesus, praising God.
And all the people gave praise to God for what they had seen.