On Palm Sunday we read from the bible the ‘triumphal’ entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. During the preach we briefly looked at the passage before which was Luke 19:11-28. This is the seemingly familiar story of the nobleman who went away and gave his lackeys money to invest and so on. During the sermon it was said, ‘Jesus is the nobleman and we are the slaves.’ Maybe it was my contrary nature but I thought ‘is it?’
Is Jesus the man who grabs for power? Does he only reward those who make money? Or those who get results? And does he slaughter his enemies?
For me the key is the start and end of the passage. ‘he was near Jerusalem… they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately’. This is the key introduction to the parable. The passage ends with ‘he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.’
I can understand the consistent way in which we interpret a person in power within the parables of Jesus to be God or Jesus himself. It’s what we grew up with but isn’t it also convenient for those in power that God is like a king? But Jesus has consistently subverted the expectation of the coming kingdom that his followers expect will result in a political overthrow. I think this story goes with along with that subversion.
First the story starts with the nobleman needing to go and get royal power for himself. Herod in 40 B.C and his son Archelaus also went to Rome to get their approval. Doesn’t this immediately cast the nobleman as the ‘baddy’?
The nobleman then wants to know how his money has done. With those who have done well he gives more power. They take charge of cities according to the amounts they’ve made. If this nobleman is the baddy then it can be assumed that the money he’s got is through coercion and cheating. I think this because the passage just before this is the story of Zacchaeus who made his money dishonestly.
So in this reading the third servant tells the truth. He doesn’t do anything with this dishonest money. He doesn’t put it in the bank. He devalues the money by not doing anything with it. He says that the master is harsh and reaps what he doesn’t sow. This is hugely disrespectful. No one one would dare say such a thing to their master.
For uttering the truth that money is taken away from that servant and given to the one who’s the most slavish to his master’s ways.
Then the nobleman wants to slaughter his enemies.
Is Jesus giving us a warning? A warning in how evil power works and sucks people into its ways? Is he also saying that he will be slaughtered? He said it before.
I wonder if any of the disciples had that sick feeling in the stomach. It also points to our complicity with power that is evil. For why have we taken it for granted that the kings in the stories are goodies? The majority of Israelite and Judaic kings were rubbish. Most of the other emperors, pharoahs and kings are presented in not very flattering terms. So why do we somehow romanticise the notion of king? Especially when Jesus is doing everything upside down.