The Absent Master

25 Nov

Parable of the Talents -3In my investigation of the eschatology of Jesus’ parables, I have come to the Olivet Discourse, and at this time I would like to consider the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The parable tells of a certain nobleman who went into a far country, but before he left he called his servants together and gave them his talents (money) each according to his ability. It is understood in the parable that, during his absence, the servants were to use their master’s money for his profit. So, after a long time, the nobleman returned and called his servants together, and he reckoned with them (Matthew 25:19), rewarding them according to their works.

This is one of several parables that Jesus told that contains the theme of an absent master. It is widely assumed that Jesus was speaking of his own going away to the Father and then returning after a long time, which is described as the church age. Of course there are problems with this interpretation. For example, Luke offers a parallel to the Parable of the Talents in Luke 19:11-27, which is called the Parable of the Pounds (or Minas). In Luke’s parable the absent master went into a far country and there to receive a kingdom and to return. However, his citizens hated him, and, during his absence, they sent a message saying they would not have him rule over them. After the master returned, he judged those men who hated him and called for their execution (Luke 19:27).

It seems clear to me that the Parable of the Pounds points to the Jews’ rejection of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. The money given the servants in both Matthew and Luke would have been authority to preach the Gospel and represent the master in various ways to his citizens. The time when the master returned seems obvious to be 70 AD, when the Old Covenant Jews were judged through the Roman armies, who conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. If this is logically true, then the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 is inextricably connected to the Apostles’ question about the destruction of the Temple and the end of the age (Matthew 24:3), showing that the Olivet Discourse is a single, united prophecy.

One of the things Jesus says, as he introduces his parables, is “the Kingdom of heaven (or God) is like…” We see this in the Parable of the Talents and the parable just before it, the Parable of the Ten Virgins, and it is implied in the Parable of the Pounds (see Luke 19:11). My point in bringing this up at this point is that, although we might assert that the Kingdom of God was restored at Pentecost, it wasn’t completely restored at that time. Pentecost would have been more like the day of the betrothal in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. The Wedding (or the Kingdom) wasn’t fully established until a later date, which would have been done upon the return of the Bridegroom / King.

An interesting point, which couldn’t possibly have missed the understanding of any Jew in the first century who heard the Parable of the Pounds, is, when Herod the Great died, he left the rule of Judea and Jerusalem to his son Archelaus. Nevertheless, Archelaus had to travel to Rome (viz. the far country in the parable) in order to have his kingdom approved by Caesar, thus, coming fully into his reign. In the case of Archelaus, the Jews sent ambassadors to Rome, asking Caesar not to give the kingdom to him. They didn’t want Archelaus to rule over them. Caesar, however, allowed Herod’s will to stand. Therefore, when Archelaus returned to Jerusalem, he took vengeance on his enemies, so much so, that Augustus Caesar removed him from his office, and the Jews came directly under the rule of Rome, which resulted in more fighting and death.

The point is not that Archelaus was removed from his office, but that his enemies rejected him and desired another king, and because of this, Archelaus treated his citizens like enemies. This is exactly what occurred in 70 AD when Jesus returned, after being fully established in his Kingdom. He returned to reward his servants and to punish his enemies who rejected him.

This same motif of an absent master and his judgment upon the wicked is expressed in other parables as well, such as the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-16), the son of the master was slain by the wicked tenants. The Jewish authorities were even able to understand that Jesus had spoken of them, showing that Jesus was referring to his own eventual coming to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple by means of the Romans armies in 70 AD (cf. Matthew 26:64). Therefore, the absent master motif was never meant to point to thousands of years away. On the contrary, according to the Olivet Discourse, all these things were to occur in the wicked generation that rejected Jesus and persecuted his disciples (Matthew 23:34-36; 24:34).


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Posted by on November 25, 2018 in 70 AD Eschatology


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