This parable is similar to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, however while it may be similar, it is unique to Luke. Jesus is still at the home of Zaccaeus when He told this story and will soon be departing for the last leg of His journey to Jerusalem; there is a grave misconception about His purpose there, and He seeks to set the record straight.
In the first verse, Luke makes this point clear; the people thought the Kingdom would appear at once, and Jesus wants them to understand that He will be “away” for a time.
In the story, there is a “man of noble birth” who represents Jesus. He is going to a distant city to be appointed king, and when this is finished he will return to rule. Jesus as he tells the story, is about to complete His trip to nearby Jerusalem, but He is not going there to, as many believe, be made their king, He is going to die for their sins, after which He will be “away” for some time.
The nobleman in the story gives a mina (3 or 4 month’s wages for a common man) and tells them to put the money to work for him while he is gone. After this, the nobleman heads off. His servants don’t like him very much, and they send a delegation ahead to speak against him, but in due course he is made king and eventually returns home. Upon his arrival he calls his servants together to settle their accounts. One servant has invested the mina he was given and earned 10 more; an excellent job. This man is rewarded with a big job; he will rule over 10 cities in the nobleman’s kingdom. The next man realized a profit of 5 minas, and is put in charge of five cities. Then came the third servant…
This man completely disobeyed his master, and didn’t put his mina to work for the master. Instead he has carefully placed it into safekeeping for his master’s return.
The master was not at all pleased with this disobedience, for he had been quite clear in giving his instructions, and the first two servants’ actions proved it. This man had everything taken from him as a result of his failure to serve the master’s interests. His mina was given to the servant who had the ten. Some onlookers pointed out that this might not be all that fair, for the first servant already had quite a lot, and the third one had nothing. Yet the new king did not change his mind. In his view, the man got what was coming to him because of the choices he had made.
Then the new king had those servants who had been in the delegation that had tried to prevent his being made king brought in and killed. They also got what they had coming, for everyone knows it isn’t a good idea to oppose the king.
I’ve already mentioned that the nobleman represents Jesus. He went to a distant place and was made king. Jesus was going to a “distant” place also, for He would soon ascend to heaven in glory, but the day will come when He returns to settle accounts. The servants represent the followers of Jesus. We have been given much to use (put to work) for our Master while He is away, and upon His return, He wants to see a return on investment.
This may seem strange to some people because most of the time Jesus used agricultural metaphors, but here He used metaphors from the world of finance…
Those who have produced good returns will be reward accordingly. Those who put their gifts and talents away for safekeeping will also be rewarded accordingly.
The delegation who attempted to prevent him from being made king represents the Jewish leadership who arranged His death… for them His return means the Final Judgment; they are done for.
After this, Jesus heads off to fulfill His destiny.