WHEN THE KING RETURNED
Sermon preached in Rye Lane Chapel, Sunday morning, November 1955
"And it came to pass, that when He was returned, having received the kingdom ... that He might know how much every man had gained by trading." Luke chapter 19: 15.
THIS is an important parable recorded by Luke alone. In the understanding of it careful account must be taken of verse 11. Our Lord was in the region of Jericho within 18 miles of Jerusalem. He knew what lay before Him but the disciples and the people did not. The disciples were among those who felt that matters as they related to Jesus were coming to a climax. There were the unmistakable proofs of His Messiahship in the raising of Lazarus from the dead and perhaps the greater miracle of the complete transformation of Zaccheus from a merciless money grabber to a warm and generous-hearted man, anxious to show the utmost goodwill to his fellow townsmen.
Our Lord was taking the road to Jerusalem and they thought, in the light of these events that Jerusalem, the City of David would be the place and occasion of His manifestation as the Messiah King. But He knew full well how different things would be and therefore He gave them this parable to let them know that events were not so far advanced as they supposed. The story itself would be well understood by His hearers, for it was not unusual for a person inheriting a throne to proceed to Rome to receive the Emperor's approbation. Then, with His fu11 commission, he returned to exercise the authority so confirmed to him.
THE KINGDOM AND THE CHURCH
The truth revealed in Scripture and made explicit in this parable is the return of our Lord in manifested glory for the purpose of administering His Kingdom. We must not, of course, confuse the Kingdom and the Church. They overlap but they are distinct. Buckingham Palace, the seat of the royal family, where royal blood dwells, is in London but London not only includes the Palace but a large number of other dwellings as well. So the Church which is His Body is in the Kingdom but is the company of His Life and Person within that kingdom. The kingdom is more extensive. This parable deals with the coming of the Lord in manifest glory to enter upon His visible reign.
On His return He has three classes of persons with whom to deal. There are the servants who received the pound and have traded with it, there is the one who has done nothing, and there are the citizens who would not have Him to reign over them, and indeed, so protested to Caesar in Rome. With the citizens He has nothing to do as He goes away. From the moment of our Lord's rejection on the Cross, He was not, so far as we know, ever visible to those who rejected Him. The next time man in his sin sees Jesus will be when in the purpose of God the unbelieving are ripe for judgement.
BUSINESS WITH THE POUND
To His servants who, presumably are given the convenient number of ten as a symbolic figure, the Lord, before His departure, gives a pound each. In so doing He lays upon the servants a specific charge. While He is away they are not to do anything but to "occupy till I come." They were to " Trade till I come." Nothing could be simpler. From the time of His departure until His return, whether the time should be long or short, that time was to be devoted to the pound. They might, of course, have to go to sleep to renew their energies and they would have to look after their homes. There would be the duties of life that were inescapable, but all these, important in their place, were secondary to the supreme importance of trading with the pound. As He placed the pound in the hand of each servant He impressed this supreme duty upon him: whatever you do, make this pound the main business, the all important business of every day until I return in all the majesty of conferred authority.
CITIES FOR POUNDS
When He returned, one servant was able to say that He had found that the pound which belonged to His Lord, and not to the servant, had made ten pounds! How delighted was the King with His servant. " Well done." And in the exercise of His royal authority He gave him charge over ten cities. The next had made five pounds and he was accordingly rewarded with authority over five cities. These rewards are important. They were not the handing out of insignia without the slightest relation to service. In fact as the servant had really obeyed his Lord and been occupied and trading with the pound, he had developed a certain administrative ability whereby he could serve his Lord in a higher capacity. And to a greater extent than he could in the " very little" of his trading with the pound. These ten cities were not so much a reward wherein he could retire but an enlargement of his duties, a promotion to greater responsibilities consequent on the return of the king. It does not appear that the servant knew this while trading with the pound, but the king did, and it was the king when He returned who mattered.
THE UNUSED POUND
Then came the servant who had wrapped up his pound in a napkin. It has been pointed out that this was a sweat cloth carried by a man on his shoulder with which he removed the perspiration of arduous labour day by day. This man never sweated! He never had need of a sweat cloth no matter how hot the day. He therefore could use this unnecessary cloth, so far as he was concerned, in wrapping up the pound which was as useless to him as the sweat cloth.
The grounds of his behaviour were clear. He governed his life by his view of his Lord, and his views of his Lord were governed by his own critical, fault finding, lazy nature. He was not interested in the Lord's return, he did not suppose it mattered very much whether the Lord returned or not and in any event he could leave matters alone until he arrived, if ever he did arrive! In the meantime his views on His Lord were not without some sympathy with those of the citizens. The fact that the Lord had commanded him to trade with the pound meant nothing to him for he had never dreamed of so giving up his will to the returning king that he should obey him.
THE PENALTY OF OPINION
The penalty for this servant is first the pound. That which was a trust in the case of the other two was confirmed as a gift multiplied form on His return, but in this other case the pound is taken away from him, and so far as we can see the failure to trade with the pound meant the loss of its spiritual possession together with complete inability to serve the Lord in His Kingdom.
The principle seems to be quite clear. If you take your privileges seriously and make use of all that God bestows upon you, you will discover an ever-enlargening capacity. The more you do the more you will be able to do. If, on the other hand you make no use of present opportunity, then the less you will be able to do. As to the citizens, whose wills are in rebellion against his authority, the judgment is conclusive: " Hew them down in My presence. " Now three important issues emerge which must receive some attention.
MIND YOUR BUSINESS NOW
First : It is clear that the child of God rightly understanding his Lord is to be careful. He needs balance. There are some who think that the Second Coming can take care of itself and the immediate duty is that which emerges out of their conscientious ideas of the present. On the other hand there are those who are so occupied with apocalyptic that they fail to grasp adequately the relationship between the Living Presence now and the Living Presence then. While it is true this present era of waiting for the Lord is, in the comparison of eternity, a relatively short period, nevertheless this period is of the utmost importance. The work which we have to do is that which is commanded of us by our Ascended Lord and is to be our main preoccupation until He returns to take up the Kingdom. If it is not, then the administration of the kingdom will be defective.
THE PREVIOUS POUND
Secondly, we must have some understanding of the meaning of the pound. To me there appears to be but one interpretation. When our Lord left this earth He declared concerning the Holy Spirit: "If I depart I will send Him unto you." I cannot escape the conviction that the pound symbolises the Holy Spirit, a golden responsibility indeed. If this be so then the servant who by faith has received the Holy Spirit will know that his main business until the Lord returns is in relation to the Holy Spirit. It is for every believer to recognise the gift and to acknowledge the duty of obedience therein.
What matters is that his whole personality shall be exercised in relation to the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit may satisfy Him, strive through him and achieve God's ends in him. So surely as the Spirit thus does His work in the believer so surely will the believer be increasing in capacity for all God's purpose in and through him for all eternity. It is therefore the duty of every believer to be watchful lest in condemning the man who wrapped up the pound in a napkin, he be guilty of the same terrible negligence himself. Life in association with the Holy Spirit, service in association with the Holy Spirit is the one way by which any one of us may be faithful in "very little" and be trained and disciplined for the larger duties that await us on the King's return.
Thirdly and finally we must ask ourselves how we can trade with the pound, and how it can multiply itself through our diligence. The answer seems to be fairly simple. It is always a miracle to me that the One Indivisible Holy Spirit can and does dwell in His entirety in each and every believer. The mystery of it we do not know but it points to the answer we are seeking. When the servant leads a sinner out of darkness into light, when he leads somebody into truth so that they are really born again of the Holy Spirit, so that their wills are given up to God for the Spirit to dwell and reign in them then the " pound " is "multiplied." God gives you the " credit " of the soul so saved and of all who shall be so saved through this born again one. The preacher who led C. H. Spurgeon to Christ is not known but God knows him and he has been blessed with all the "pounds" of C. H.Spurgeon. "What is our crown of rejoicing?" asks Paul of the Thessalonians, and his answer is "Are not even ye at His Coming?" Wherefore I conclude that in this time of waiting we must recognise that we have no time to lose. His coming may seem to be delayed but it is all too short for what there is to be done. Our little lives permit no time to be lost if we are to be disciplined and ready for the day when He comes to assess the value of our "very little " and to confer upon us His "very much" for all eternity.
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