You stand there, look down at your hands. The weight is about five sticks of butter; the value, more than you'd make in the next three months; the responsibility…the possibility…too much to comprehend. Before you stands the man you serve; you serve him joyfully, although you know he’s quite a shrewd businessman who drives a hard bargain.
But he’s always been fair to you.
And now he’s going away to be crowned as king, similar to the way King Herod went to Rome so that his good friend the Caesar would appoint him to be king.
And a delegation has already been formed – a group of people to argue that We don’t want this man to be our king!
The heft of cash in your hand jolts you back to reality. You’re holding what amounts to the next three months of your wages. You and your fellow servants are left behind to invest his money – left behind to work and invest among people who, this very moment, are plotting some way to rebel or overthrow a kingship that hasn’t even happened yet.
Perhaps the difficult part, the biggest challenge is where to invest. But then again – you’re supposed to work and invest in a place that hates your master and, by extension, hates you.
So many options, so many opportunities, so many ways to invest this cash; and so much hatred, vehemence, opposition to the man who WILL BE king…whether the people like it or not.
And it’s apparent, in this unusually-detailed parable (that borders on political satire or editorial) — it’s apparent that the servants face a number of challenges as they seek to invest this mina.
- There’s the external opposition: Left behind to live and work and invest in a hostile environment? Walking and working in a world where your name is associated with this hated king, living and trying to serve HIM while there’s a target on your back?
- There are the many-varied options for investing this cash: Stock market, real estate, small business startup? One of those new lending companies where investors pool their cash to make the sort of risky loans that banks won’t touch? Use the money to flip a house – buy some foreclosure or undervalued property, fix it up, sell it at a profit?
But perhaps most dangerous of all:
- The worry, the doubt, the temptation to stop or slow down or draw back or be intimidated by the opposition, even when there’s the constant need to go on and put this money to work;
- The worry, the doubt, the temptation to think that his king would not return, and that the servant could hit the snooze button on life for a few years, or months, or weeks, and that there would still be time to turn a respectable profit.
Perhaps you can sympathize.
Living in a world that hates your king, denies his kingship; and you hold a treasure to invest.
Not talking about your talents or abilities; not talking about your wealth; not talking about your personal gifts or interests or anything like that.
The treasure you hold - both you individually and us, together, congregationally - the treasure we hold is the message of Jesus Christ. The gospel. The beautiful truth that God himself, second person of the Trinity, the Son of God became human within the womb of the virgin Mary nine months before Christmas.
- Even though he is above the law, because God makes the law (obviously), Jesus willingly submitted himself to God’s law;
- Even though as God he has no beginning and no end, this Son of God has always existed and will never die, cannot die…yet his human nature contributed the ability to die. And Jesus willingly chose to yield his life on the cross.
To forgive you and me.
And maybe you’ve hit snooze.
Maybe you’ve been intimidated by the opposition to this king.
Maybe you’ve tucked this treasure away, far away, where no one can see it or hear it. What a terrifying prospect – to stand there, stammering with that unfaithful servant when the master returns!
Where shall we run? What shall we do?
Look back at what you hold. Re-examine the treasure.
You hold Christ. You possess the message of free and full forgiveness through Jesus – and remember why he came! He came to wash away our sins, our worries, our bitterness…to wash away our UNFAITHFULNESS with this message of salvation!
Jesus did not take the treasure of the task the Father had given him and wrap it up in a handkerchief! He did not cease to work hard on his assigned task until he was laid in the ground wrapped in a burial shroud.
Talk about an investment - and what a return! We’ve sung about it this morning, and perhaps you recall the echo of Paul from 1 Cor 15:
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
That’s the investment Jesus is talking about today! That’s the treasure we hold in trembling hands, the treasure of the gospel message – the treasure of knowing WHO Jesus is, and WHAT Jesus has done! That’s what Jesus talks about here:
So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
It wasn't only ten on the mount of Ascension. It’s far more than ten today, even among our group gathered here.
Jesus has departed for a time; as true God and true Man, this person Jesus Christ now rules as our king with all authority in heaven and on earth.
And he’s given us this treasure, and he’s promised to bless our investment:
‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. ‘
What shall we do? Think of it this way.
John Willink, known to everyone as “Jocko.” He’s a US Navy SEAL, the guy at the tip of the tip of the spear. A lean 230 lbs, a Jiu-Jitsu master. Two tours of duty in Iraq; on the second, he led Task Force Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi. Under his leadership, Task Unit Bruiser became the most highly decorated Special Operations Unit of the entire war in Iraq and helped bring stability to Ramadi. Jocko was awarded the Bronze Star and a Silver Star.
Upon returning to the United States, Jocko served as the Officer-in-Charge of training for all West Coast SEAL Teams, designing and implementing some of the most challenging and realistic combat training in the world.
In other words: He’s one tough dude, who coincidentally is quite articulate. Among our armed forces, he’s the best of the best of the best. He runs two or three of his own businesses and has authored a best-selling book.
And in a recent interview, Jocko was asked his biggest fear.
After living through and leading soldiers in the toughest, building-to-building, sustained urban combat in the modern era…what in the world could a guy with the nickname JOCKO be afraid of? He’s been through the toughest training; he’s led men and excelled in the most difficult environment; he’s stared death in the face, faced the prospect of his own death…what could this mountain of a man be afraid of?
Jocko took a deep breath, and this was one of only two times you hear his voice crack in the entire interview - the other time being when he talks about the buddies who had died & left family behind.
But Jocko takes a deep breath, pauses for a minute, and says: I’m afraid that leading men in the Battle of Ramadi will be the high point of my life.
Here he is, barely 40, honourable discharge, Bronze Star, Silver Star, bestselling author, consultant, small business owner, happily married with a couple of kids…afraid that his best moment, the moment of biggest impact, his biggest contribution . . . is in the past.
I don’t know if Jocko is a Christian. The topic of religion never came up.
But even with all his accolades, his medals, his successes, his reputation, his accomplishments…think for a moment.
Jocko’s biggest fear was that he had INVESTED all he had: his time, his effort, his early mornings, his career, the most energetic years of his life, even put his own life on the line time and again…he INVESTED all he had!
…yet Jocko was afraid that that wasn’t enough.
You can have a bigger impact than Jocko Willink, because you have something greater to invest. You have the message of Jesus Christ; and despite the recognition, reputation that Jocko might receive for his military service or his bestselling book or his consulting firm…a mother teaching her child about Jesus can have a longer impact than Jocko; a friend saying You should come with me Sunday and check out our church can have a bigger impact than Jocko; a grandmother persistently bringing her unruly grandchildren to Jesus, and not giving up…so that the kids learn what it’s like to sit at the feet of Jesus? Or the Christian seeking out the other sheep in Christ’s flock, other Christians who might feel neglected or forgotten, and bringing that person the truth of Christ; or the bedridden Christian, restricted to gazing out a window and unable to walk…but praying for God’s people around the world…investing that mina!
Correct me if I’m wrong…but have you ever felt like we don’t have as much to offer as a larger congregation? Small congregation in a small town; what could we do, especially when compared with some of the larger churches in our Synod? I mean - there are some churches whose budgets are in the millions of dollars…ten or twenty times the size of ours. There are some churches who spend more in a month than we do in a year, churches that have two families for every person we have on our books.
What could we do?
What would we have to invest?
What sort of impact could we hope to have, especially when compared with some of these huge congregations?
We and they have the same mina - no more, no less.
One mina, the message of forgiveness through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We’ve been given this mina to invest, the exact same message that our fellow churches and Christians around the world carry. And whether that mina brings a tenfold return, or five, or only one – God isn’t concerned with the amount of profit. He’ll take care of the profit - he’s given us the task of faithfulness with this message.
So let us invest. Spend time in the word of God; look for opportunities to even invite someone to church. Pray that God would bless our congregation, our efforts to build and invest and proclaim Christ’s name here. AMEN.