Answers for Longing Spirits
The Introit speaks of a longing spirit which begs the Lord to come to its relief, spreads its hands to the Lord in prayer, thirsts for Him in a parched land. Look around; you know this is not what the Lord intended. You know this crime, disease, unbelief, suffering, and death is not what the Lord set out to create. You're like the people in the text listening to Jesus' wonderful words about the kingdom. You long for that kingdom to appear now. But that's not what happened in our text; instead Jesus preached to them the sermon you're about to hear.
Jesus tells them He is like a king who had to go off to a far country in order to get His kingdom. His subjects however hated Him and sent a delegation to the one conferring the kingdom saying, "We don't want this fellow to reign over us." This explains a lot. Jesus is in a far country now. He has ascended to the throne of heaven where He, the God-Man, rules the universe. But what do we see back here? We see citizens who are at home in this life, who are not strangers and exiles like us here, who aren’t His servants like us, rejecting Christ reigning over them.
Or maybe you don’t hear those so full of hate for Christianity in general and Jesus in particular. They say things like they wish Mary had gotten an abortion or hell won't be such a bad place. But more than that, you can't believe they can get away with saying such horrible things about God and Christ. If you said those kind of things about even your mom or dad someone would punish you sharply and quickly. So, how come God lets them get away with it? Remember where we are in the kingdom story. The king is in a far country getting His kingdom. While He is away, it doesn't appear that He rules here. It looks doubtful He is going to get the kingdom. Because Christ is "away" in the far reaches of eternity, the God-haters, Christ-haters, and Christian-haters go unpunished.
But this is only how things look; it is not how things are. That's the point of this parable. You can't see what's happening in that far country, so Jesus tells you. Yes, His subjects don’t want Jesus to reign over them. But that doesn't slow Jesus down. The parable shows His subjects protesting against king Jesus, but what does it show Jesus doing, "He was made king, however, and returned home." The Man Jesus who walked this earth as an ordinary mortal was made Lord of all, King of kings. He says, "All power has been given to Me in heaven and earth" (Mt 28:18), Paul says, " “At the name of Jesus every knee bows, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philp 2:10). But, the real answer to longing spirits is His reign isn’t suppose to be visible till He returns visibly on the Last Day.
And what happens then? Does Jesus have to engage in some fierce battle with His enemies? Not hardly. In royal dignity King Jesus attends first to His slaves, that is His Church. And almost as an afterthought Jesus says, "But those enemies of mine who did not want Me to be king over them - bring them here and kill them in front of Me." Beware all open enemies of Jesus; He’ll return in glory and have you dragged before His throne to be slaughtered before Him and dumped in hell for eternity. This is most certainly true.
The open enemies of Jesus truly trouble us, but hypocrites even more so. We long for these secret enemies of Jesus to be exposed. We know they’re in the King's house just like we are. They’re subjects of the king by baptism just like us. And they remain in the King's house just like we are while He is away getting the kingdom, but they don't use the mina the King left them.
Before we go farther, we must identify what that mina is the king left us servants. Is it your abilities? How about your time? Maybe it's your money? No, No, No! The King leaves all of His servants exactly the same amount, but this is not true of time, talent, or treasure. You do not all have the same amount of those things, do you? Besides God leaves all people time, talent, treasure. What did Jesus leave only to the servants in His house while He goes to the far country to be crowned King? His life-giving Body and Blood, life-saving waters of Baptism, His sin-forgiving Absolution. This is the mina. One more thing. A mina isn’t a large sum of money. A mina was anywhere from $16 to 3 months wages. It's not much in the eyes of the world. And that too fits with Baptism, Communion and Absolution. They are not much in the eyes of the world either. You don't find people beating down the doors of the church for these treasures. No, you find people ignoring them or making fun of them.
While the King's away some of His servants don't use the mina, and that bothers us who do. They don't come here to receive Absolution. They don't kneel here to receive Communion. They don't stand here and remember their Baptism. They bury their King's mina, i.e. the Means for delivering what Jesus finished on the cross paying for and the Father proclaimed on Easter, forgiveness. The Supper might as well be left in the sacristy for as little as they use it. The Absolution might as well be buried in the Bible rather than spoken out loud because they're seldom here to hear it. And the Baptismal waters could have just as well stayed in the tap for all the good it does them. Those who claim Christ as King, who claim they want Him ruling over them but do not use what He left them, weigh on us. Every Board of Elders I've had has been troubled by people who wish to remain in the King's House but bury His mina. When they do return, they wish to be regarded like the third slave did. He, like the first 2, call Jesus “Lord” not sir as the insert translated. He thinks he’s just as much a servant as the others.
Take heart longing hearts: those who won’t use the minas now will be exposed as "wicked servants" when He returns. For now they can hide among us even as the weeds do in the wheat. But when King Jesus comes, He's going to bring them before Him and the truth will out. They will try to act like pious, fearful Christians even as they do now. "I don't hear the Word because I don't have good enough clothes to wear." "I don't commune because I'm afraid." "I don't use Baptism because I'm not good enough." "Wicked servant! How dare you accuse your King of only wanting to absolve sinners with good enough clothes on. How dare you claim to be afraid of a King who begged the weak and heavy laden to come to Him. How dare you claim that anyone could not be good enough when covered by the Baptism of Christ."
It’s so difficult having our King in the far country. All we have left of Him is His mina, something the world openly laughs at and even some in the King's house openly scorn. Let me encourage you by telling you a secret. Using the King’s mina is always rewarded by Him. It’s like those credit cards that offer cash back. You use the card to buy something for your benefit, yet you get cash back. The company rewards you for using the card.
Notice when the King returns, He doesn’t ask His subjects how much did you give to My church, how many workdays did you attend, how many offices have you served in, but how did you use my Baptism, Communion, and Absolution? What do the faithful servants confess? "Your mina has earned..." The King's mina does it all. The servant's faith doesn't come into play; thank God for who among us believes as we should? The servant's dedication to works isn’t mentioned; thank God for who among us is dedicated enough? The servant's joy isn’t mentioned; thank God for who is joyful enough?
The mina does it all, and note: results will vary. It's wrong for Bibles to translate the King saying, "Well done," to the first servant. The Latin Bible has correctly, "Bravo!" The king isn’t focusing on what the servant did but is overjoyed at what the servant has told Him His mina did. When the King gets to the servant whose mina earned 5, He isn’t disappointed. He merely rewards him proportionally. The only one the King shows any disapproval for or punishment of is the one who didn’t make use of the King's mina. So stop looking inside of yourself and comparing what you think the king's mina is doing in you with what you think it's doing in others. That only leads to guilt or pride. How many times have you heard, thought, or said, "I wish I had faith, or zeal, or joy, or peace, like so and so"? There’s no comfort or joy in wishing. There is both in the fact that in using the King’s mina of grace you have all His blessings.
Not only does He bless you with the mina now, when He returns Jesus rewards ridiculously the using of His mina. Credit cards reward 1 up to 3% on purchases. Use the King's mina and get back 10 cities. Do you get this? Use Baptism to cleanse your conscience in life; use Absolution to comfort your guilty heart in life; use Communion to feed your soul in life. And then on the Last Day receive rule, authority, power over cities! And everyone who uses the minas gets rewarded. What better way could the Lord move you to use His Mina's of grace? Benefits now, and in eternity benefits that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind could ever imagine. Some of us make a point to use our credit card just to get back 1%. Don't you see then? Even on an earthly, self-serving level, God does everything He can to get you and I to use His minas? That's why it's so wicked not to use them and why those who don't are not excused by their needing sleep, being busy, or being bored by them.
But you’re offering no excuses today; you're using the minas today. You're putting to work the minas your king left you. You may be doing it weakly or timidly. But just like a credit card the cash back comes even when you're timid and weak using it, so it with the Lord's minas. Using them brings forgiveness, life and salvation in time, and in eternity you can't even begin to imagine what wonders they bring. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Second-Last Sunday in the Church Year (20221113); Luke 19: 11-27