COLLINS COLUMN: Jesus may not do what we want and when we want it, but he will prevail

Published 3:25 pm Friday, June 7, 2024

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BY: Dean Collins

Jesus had a way of not acting the way everyone wanted him to act. That was true when Jesus was on the earth his 33 years, and it’s still true today. I am pretty sure Jesus is always acting appropriately! It is more about our understanding of Jesus and our lack of awareness of his presence that creates any disconnect.

In Luke 19 we read about Jesus and his encounter with Zacchaeus. I won’t retell the familiar story other than to point out that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. Both the Zacchaeus story and the parable that follows happen back-to-back. It is likely that Jesus told his parable while still sitting around at the table with Zacchaeus and those who were at the house with them.

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His purpose, their expectations

As Jesus approached his last days, there was an increased expectation of what he would do as Messiah when he arrived in Jerusalem. Expectations were high that he would set the Jewish people free. Jewish believers then and all of us now typically want freedom from what we see as the most pressing. When Jesus told this parable, the Jews were hoping that Jesus would deal with the most immediate problem, Rome. If Jesus was the Messiah then he should free the Jews from Roman rule and bring the long-awaited new kingdom.

Typically, we want Messiahs and heroes to fix things quickly and permanently so we can all live happily ever after. Those who heard the parable were a mix of people who hoped Jesus was their guy and those who wanted to make sure he wasn’t. We may want someone to save us, but we usually have a preferred method and time, which equates to my way and now.

Luke tells us why Jesus told this parable at that moment: “because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” Jesus was and is the Messiah, but he was setting expectations about how and when he would reign as the new king. We still often struggle with these expectations.

A nobleman and his servants

In Jesus’ story, a nobleman was going away to receive a new kingdom. He called ten of his servants and gave them each a little money, instructing them to take care of things till he would return. But the citizens in the parable didn’t like the plan because they actually did not want anyone telling them what to do.

The nobleman secured his kingdom and came back to check on the businesses and people he left behind. We hear only what three of the ten did with the money they had been given. The first showed his master that he had grown the investment to ten times the amount. The second five times the amount. And the third basically wrapped up the money and made sure he didn’t lose it. The two that made a profit were rewarded and given more to manage. The one who hid the money was criticized, and the nobleman took the money away from him and gave it to the servant who had accomplished the most.

Jesus ended the parable with this summary: “I  tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one 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 slaughter them before me.”

A Messiah, but not the hero

We don’t know the reaction of the listeners. Luke’s next paragraph begins with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Maybe they caught the main point of the parable. The kingdom is coming but not in the way they thought it would or when they hoped. Our issue is still the same. I wouldn’t mind if Jesus showed up today and knocked over some tables and put some troublemakers in their respective places! But that is apparently not his plan.

Jesus did ride into Jerusalem but did not become a hero who toppled the powerful and made all things right immediately. Instead, he chose a humble and sacrificial path that destroyed the root cause of all problems, man’s rebellion and sin. In his great love, he endured suffering and crucifixion to bring victory over sin. His kingdom would come the way yeast works in dough and seed grows in the ground: slowly, gradually expanding until the moment when he returns and brings final restoration of all things.

His plan, our place

His plan involves us. We are the servants entrusted with some small portion of his wealth, time, and talents. It is our work to use what has been loaned to us and to leverage it in ways that help his will be accomplished on earth as it is in Heaven. This is his plan until he returns and brings Heaven to earth. Our options are:

1) Ignore the plan of Jesus. This choice, while selfish and misinformed, may bring some moments of instant gratification. But it will not end well.

2) Accept the kingdom plan Jesus introduced. This will include experiencing some suffering and delayed gratification but will result in unknown numbers of people experiencing the love of Christ. It will also bring us contentment and peace, and result in meeting Jesus face-to-face and hearing him say, “Well done…enjoy all that I have created for you!”

We all will have days when we might wish for a minute that things went according to our plan. But in the end, and often in between, we will know we made the right decision to follow Jesus completely and watch his kingdom grow in ways that bring us joy now and forever.