Beware the Clamoring for a Kingdom

In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus slides a parable into an historical account (with a bit of political commentary) to draw out two lessons: 

The first lesson is a warning: Clamoring for an earthly kingdom often leads to horrible results. 

Luke makes it clear to the reader that Jesus told this parable “because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.”  This parable is told to address people’s anxiousness over the establishment of the kingdom they think that they long for.  But beware of the inherent danger of this. 

The Conquistadors sought a kingdom in the new land of the Americas.  Having had heard stories about cities of gold, they sought the wealth of such a kingdom.  They sought it so desperately that they massacred thousands of native people in their attempt to gain it.  On his arrival in Cholula, the second largest of the Aztec cities, Hernán Cortés and his troops rounded up the unsuspecting priests and nobles in a square in front of the city’s temple.  The soldiers blocked all the exits from the square, slaughtered the unarmed citizens, and set fire to the city.  In a matter of hours, 3,000 to 30,000 Aztecs were slaughtered.  Beware the atrocities that follow when people clamor for a kingdom.

Amidst the economic depression and national gloom that followed Germany’s defeat in the First World War, Adolf Hitler offered the Germans a new kingdom, but this new kingdom called for the annihilation of all who were considered to be polluting Germany’s purity.  Beware the atrocities that follow when people clamor for a kingdom.

In 1991, a nationalistic government led by Franjo Tudjman was elected in Croatia, and Croatian citizens began draping flags from their balconies with the red-and-white-checkered shield that had been aligned with Nazi Germany and was associated with the persecution of Serbs during World War II.  At the same time, Slobodan Milosevic seized power in Serbia with dreams of incorporating Croatia into what he hoped would be a Greater Serbia.  The resulting conflict between the Serbs and Croatians resulted in at least 130,000 violent deaths in the 1990s.  Beware the atrocities that follow when people clamor for a kingdom.

Jesus told the people a story that would have reminded them of events close to home.  He described a nobleman who “went to a distant country to get royal power for himself,” and he ends the story with a call for his enemies who did not want him to be king to be brought before him and slaughtered in his presence.  When Herod the Great died, he divided his kingdom between three sons.  Archelaus was given the area of Judea which included Jerusalem, but Herod’s appointment had to be ratified by Caesar.  Archelaus traveled to Rome to ask Augustus to fulfill his father’s wish and appoint him as king of Judea, but the Jewish people sent a delegation of fifty men to Rome to plead with Augustus against Archelaus.  Unfortunately, Caesar sided with Archelaus and appointed him as king of Judea.  We have no record that he took the lives of his opponents, but years earlier his father did.  When Rome appointed Herod as king over the region, he promptly massacred all who had opposed him.  The first lesson Jesus shared though this parable was a warning: Beware the atrocities that follow when people clamor for a kingdom.

The second lesson is this: Put to profitable use whatever God gives to you.

What gift does God give to us?

In John 14:16 and 16:7, Jesus told his disciples that he was leaving their presence but giving to them the Holy Spirit. 

If we “bury” the Spirit (if we do not live by the Spirit), the Spirit will accomplish nothing in us.  How disappointing!

But if we live by the Spirit, then the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control will grow in us.  When such qualities grow in us, who knows what great things may happen through us! 

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