Ford Madox Brown (British Pre-Raphaelite painter, (1821-93), 'Jesus Washing Peter's Feet' (1852-56), oil on canvas, 1167 x 133 mm, Tate Gallery, London.
Ford Madox Brown (British Pre-Raphaelite painter, (1821-93), 'Jesus Washing Peter's Feet' (1852-56), oil on canvas, 1167 x 133 mm, Tate Gallery, London.

In previous lessons we have considered a number of parables and analogies designed to train disciples in both character and values. Here we continue with practices that Jesus sought to embed in his disciples' lives.

11.1 Humble Service

11.2 Service in the Kingdom

11.3 Showing Love and Mercy

11.1 Humble Service

We'll begin with parables about disciples as servants -- humble servants. We discussed several parables about humility in Lesson 9.1 -- the Parables of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, Becoming Like Little Children, Welcoming Little Children, and Places at the Table. Here, we'll consider two additional parables that add the idea of service with humility -- the Acted Parable of Washing the Disciples' Feet and the Parable of the Dutiful Servant.

Acted Parable of Washing the Disciples' Feet (John 13:4-17)

Most studies of Jesus' parables don't include Jesus washing his disciples' feet. But I feel I must include it, since Jesus obviously intended it as an acted parable, a visual example of what humble service looks like, with the purpose of teaching his disciples to be humble servants of one another.

The Setting of the Last Supper

At the Last Supper, the disciples are arranged around a very low table, reclining on their left arms and supported by divans or cushions, leaving their right hands free to feed themselves, as was the custom of the day. Their feet, sandals removed, are splayed out behind them, with some space between their feet and the walls so those serving the meal can bring the various dishes to the table.

We know from Luke's Gospel that even at this holy meal there is an undercurrent of unrest among the disciples, an argument that had come up again and again over the course of Jesus' ministry.

"A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest." (Luke 22:24)

Jesus uses this dispute as a "teachable moment."

Washing the Disciples' Feet (John 13:4-5)

Since sweaty feet clad only in sandals get grimy on unpaved roads and streets, it was customary for a host to provide a basin of water so guests could wash their own feet upon entering.1 Washing someone else's feet was a task reserved for the most menial of servants. A Jewish commentary on the Book of Exodus suggests that Jewish slaves could not be required to wash the feet of others, that this task was so demeaning that it should be reserved for Gentile slaves or for women, children, or pupils.2 A wife might wash a husband's feet; a child might wash a parent's feet. Rarely, a disciple might honor a distinguished rabbi by washing his feet. But for a superior to wash an inferior's feet was never ever done! Except by Jesus.

"4 He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing3 and wrapped4 a towel5 around his waist.6 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying7 them with the towel that was wrapped around him." (John 13:4-5)

But Jesus goes further. He pours some water into a basin8 and proceeds to gently wash the feet of the disciples. If you've ever participated in a foot washing service, you know that most people's feet aren't soft and pretty -- especially older people whose toes have been broken numerous times and whose feet are often bony and calloused. These disciples are relatively young, but have spent their lives in sandals or bare feet and have suffered many injuries -- not to mention the dust of the day.

Jesus takes the feet of each disciple in his hands, washes them gently, then dries them with the towel that is around his waist. He goes to the next disciple and to the next. I imagine that the room is absolutely still, except for softly spoken encouragements of love from the Master. His disciples don't know what to say. It is painful for them to see him like this. To submit to this intimate service from him is awkward in the extreme!

Simon Peter's Objection (John 13:6-9)

The bold fisherman can't stop himself from protesting.

"6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?'
7 Jesus replied, 'You do not realize9 now what I am doing, but later you will understand.10'" (John 13:6-7)

Peter loves this man and he can't stand this, so he blurts out, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" I can't stand seeing you like a menial servant! It offends my sense of rightness and order! And I don't deserve it from you!

Jesus gently replies that later he'll understand why this is necessary. But Peter will have none of it.

" 'No,' said Peter, 'you shall never wash my feet.'" (John 13:8a)

The Greek here is extremely strong, literally, "not ever unto the age."11

Washed by Jesus (John 13:8b-11)

Jesus' response is equally strong:

"8b Jesus answered, 'Unless I wash12 you, you have no part13 with me.'
9 'Then, Lord,' Simon Peter replied, 'not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!'" (John 13:8-9)

Jesus insists that he must wash Peter. But here, Jesus moves in meaning from physical foot washing to spiritual cleansing from sin that is absolutely necessary for any person to have fellowship with Christ the Lord, symbolized here by foot washing and elsewhere by baptism.14

Peter's response is immediate: Then wash me from head to toe!

"Jesus answered, 'A person who has had a bath15 needs only to wash his feet16; his whole body is clean.'"17 (John 13:10a)

What does Jesus mean by this? Jesus is using the analogy of taking a bath vs. footwashing. It is necessary for every believer to experience full salvation and cleansing from sin (depicted by taking a bath). After that, all that is necessary is washing away the occasional dust of the road, the sins that we commit day by day (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2).

Sometimes, like Peter, we resist this frequent need for cleansing -- whether out of false pride or a sense of unworthiness or vulnerability We don't want to let the Holy One this close, this intimate. And so we resist him. How foolish of us! He knows us and our sins and wants to restore to us his full cleansing and fellowship. And we must let him!

Now, on this night in which he was betrayed, Jesus extends this teaching to inform his disciples that he knows Judas will betray him. Judas is the exception in this band of cleansed men.

"'And you are clean18, though not every one of you.' 11 For he knew who was going to betray19 him, and that was why he said not every one was clean." (John 13:10-11)

A Parable of Humble Service (John 13:14-17)

The acted parable is over. Now Jesus takes a few minutes to explain part of its meaning to the disciples.

"12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned20 to his place. 'Do you understand what I have done for you?' he asked them. 13 'You call me "Teacher" and "Lord," and rightly so, for that is what I am.'" (John 13:12-13)

Jesus has a right to be served by virtue of being Rabbi and Lord. In this parable, he takes that right to be served and turns it on its head. He serves; they must serve each other.

"14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example21 that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant22 is greater than his master,23 nor is a messenger24 greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed25 if you do them." (John 13:14-17)

Remember the context of his acted parable: Jesus' disciples arguing about who is greatest (Luke 22:24). If Jesus the Lord and Rabbi sets an example of humbling himself to serve, how much more should we, his disciples, serve one another and the hurting of this world, rather than tout our own self-importance. In Mark's Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples:

"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45)

Jesus washing the disciples' feet is indeed a parable. Jesus is saying, like I am a servant to you, so you must be a servant to one another. It is an acted parable, summarized with a clear comparison.

I am sure that Jesus' disciples talked over his precious parables for the rest of their lives. But this Acted Parable of Washing the Disciples' Feet was one they never, ever forgot, for he had acted it out in their midst.

Q53. (John 13:4-17) In what way is Jesus washing the disciples' feet a parable? Why did this act of washing their feet feel so shocking to the disciples? In what sense is this a parable of cleansing? In what way is it a rebuke of pride and competition? In what way is it a parable of humble service? In what areas of your life do you need to implement its teaching?

Parable of the Dutiful Servant (Luke 17:7-10, §181)

(Also known as the Parable of the Master and Servant)

Our next parable also talks about humble service.

"7 Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'?26 8 Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'?" (Luke 17:7-8)

The slave that Jesus describes in this brief parable seems to be the only slave in this household, used mostly for farm labor -- plowing, looking after livestock -- but also responsible for cooking and household chores. The slave would live with the family as a part of the household, but his was a pretty hard existence. (For more, see Appendix 6. Slavery in Jesus' Day.)

Being Served or Serving (Luke 17:7-8)

Jesus invites his hearers to imagine that they had such a slave to work around their house and farm. Then he asks a rhetorical question: Does the master offer to fix dinner for the slave or the other way around? Of course, the slave has to prepare the meal and serve the master and his family before he can eat himself -- all that after a hard day in the fields!

That isn't fair! we retort. Of course, many people in our own culture work two or three jobs because they have to. Is it fair? No. But it is required by the responsibilities they have. The point here is that, fair or not, the slave is expected to work in the fields and fix the food. That is his duty. The master isn't there to serve the slave, but the slave to serve the master.

Thanking the Servant (Luke 17:9)

In the culture of Jesus' day the master wouldn't "owe" the servant a reward for his hard work.

"Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?" (Luke 17:9)

We might expect a "thank you."27 But in that culture, the idea of a debt of gratitude that must be offered to even the score would be seen as placing the master in debt to the slave.28 If you've watched British period shows on television, you observe that the lords and ladies of the manor never call the serving staff by their first names, nor are they thanked each time they perform a service. That has some similarities to our parable.

A Servant's Duty (Luke 17:9-10)

"9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told29 to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"30 (Luke 17:9-10)

"Duty" and "order" and "command" aren't very popular concepts in current American culture. In the first half of the twentieth century the concept of duty was widely accepted. But by the mid-1960s, authority was the target of widespread protest. The society shifted. To be real disciples, we must be obedient to God's word and do our duty as followers of Jesus in a fallen world.

Unworthy Servants (Luke 17:10)

Now Jesus brings the parable to the point of application.

"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" (Luke 17:10)

Do we expect some reward from God when we obey his commands and do what he says? Are we like the Pharisees who expect that our piety will earn us some special treatment? To be true disciples we must forsake an attitude of entitlement and instead see ourselves as "unworthy slaves." The adjective is achreios, "pertaining to being unworthy of any praise, unworthy."31

The New Testament is quite clear about the difference between merit and grace (Romans 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:8-10). The blessings of God are ours because of our adoption as "sons," but that adoption itself is by grace. God doesn't owe us anything -- he gives it freely. We owe him an unpayable debt.

Who Is the Servant?

It is easy for us to get grace backwards. Our prayers tend to be "gimme" prayers, not servant prayers.

  • Help my business succeed.
  • Help my children to be safe at school.
  • Heal my mother's cancer.
  • Protect the widows and orphans.
  • Provide food to those experiencing a famine.
    And -- while you're at it, God, -
  • Work in my boss's heart to give me a raise.

Too often we pray in the way you might command a genie who has granted us ten wishes. Is this any way to address God to whom you owe your allegiance and life and salvation? You are his servant, not the other way around!

Our prayers should rather be servant's prayers:

  • Father, what do you want me to do today?
  • How can I help Johnny learn to be more polite to his friends?
  • Give me strength and boldness to witness for you in this situation.

We are not to command God, but he is to command us!32

The Parable of the Dutiful Servant has a two-fold lesson for us disciples:

  1. We are not to allow ourselves to be soft and pampered, so as to excuse ourselves from hard labor and hard hours in serving the Lord.
  2. We are not to presume upon God and expect his thanks. Instead we are to serve him dutifully without any expectation of reward.

Anything he bestows upon us -- and those blessings are very great -- is not because of any obligation God has toward us, but come to us fully and completely at his gracious pleasure. We are his servants, his slaves first. And afterward, after we have learned that lesson of obedience well -- oh, what joy! -- he condescends to call us his "friends"

"14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:14-15)

11.2 Service in the Kingdom

Jesus tells two similar parables about assignment of responsibilities to servants. The more familiar to us is the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). It has a great deal in common with The Parable of the Minas or Pounds (Luke 19:11-27).

Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30, §228)

Parable of the Minas or Pounds (Luke 19:12-27; §195)

Eugene Burnand, 'Parable of the Talents' (1909), illustration in The Parables (France, 1909).
Eugene Burnand, 'Parable of the Talents' (1909), illustration in The Parables (France, 1909).

Both parables are in the context of a delay in Christ's return. Both parables involve giving servants money to invest in various enterprises, so the master's total capital will be increased by the time he returns. Both teach that Christ's servants are expected to use what they have in Christ's work until he returns.

But these are different parables. Jesus, who repeated his teachings constantly in town after town, obviously told this basic parable in two different ways, depending upon what he was seeking to emphasize, even though the primary point of each form of this parable is nearly the same.

The best approach is for us to study them together, noting the differences as we go, and then drawing together the lessons designed for disciples to grasp. These parables are tricky to interpret, so I'll delay interpretation until we've assessed all the details.

Context of the Parables

Matthew's Parable of the Talents is included in a block of parables about the End Time. Jesus begins with the words:

"It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them." (Matthew 25:14)

"It" refers to "at that time the kingdom of heaven will be like..." (verse 1), referring to the time of Christ's Second Coming. Luke's Parable of the Minas or Pounds follows immediately after Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus in Jericho, which is just a few miles from Jerusalem.

"He went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once." (Luke 19:11)

Luke tells us something of the purpose of the Parable of the Minas -- and both parables, for that matter -- to convey to his disciples that there will be a delay in the coming of the Kingdom.

A Wealthy Man / Nobleman Going on a Journey (Matthew 25:14)

Each parable begins with a man preparing to go on an extended journey. In Matthew, the man is a wealthy slave owner. In Luke, the man is a nobleman on the verge of being crowned a king.

"A man of noble birth33 went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return." (Luke 19:12)

Jesus' hearers in Jericho would have immediately thought of Herod the Great's son and heir Herod Archelaus (reigned 4 BC to 6 AD), who had been both feared and despised by his subjects.34 He had gone to Rome to be made king over his father's domains, but was later deposed for misgovernment.

"14 His subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' 15 He was made king, however, and returned home." (Luke 19:14-15)

Jesus is providing a bit of local color for his hearers in Jericho, since Archelaus's former palace was in Jericho.35

Entrusting His Property to His Servants (Matthew 25:14; Luke 19:13)

Both parables have a powerful man going on a journey, and both have the man dividing up his wealth among his servants, so that his household and business enterprises continue to run smoothly and profitably in his absence, resulting in an increase in his overall wealth.

Talents: "It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them." (Matthew 25:14)

Minas: "He called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" (Luke 19:13)

In ancient times, a businessman had several options to protect his capital when he must be gone for an extended period. He could bury his money, but he probably couldn't keep his household going at the same time. He could deposit his money with a banker for passive growth of interest on the funds. But for the best yield, he would find competent people who could invest his money wisely and then actively manage the investment so that when he returns, the money will have been at work and earned a handsome profit. Of course, there is some risk involved, but a businessman could minimize his risk in two ways:

  1. Diversify by dividing the capital into several different investment pools.
  2. Give the most capital to the most competent managers and less to those who have yet to prove themselves.

In the Parable of the Talents, the wealthy man uses both techniques. In the Parable of the Minas, only the first strategy is used.

The servants36 are gathered into the master's office where he explains exactly what he wants them to do. Then he distributes his funds among them. In Matthew he "entrusted37 his property38 to them." Luke's version of the parable employs the phrase, "put this money to work" (NIV). The word is pragmateuomai, "do business, trade,"39 variously translated:

"Put this money to work" (NIV).

"Engage in business" (ESV).

"Do business" (NRSV).

"Occupy" (KJV).

Each According to His Ability vs. Equal Investments (Matthew 25:15; Luke 19:13)

Minas: "He called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" (Luke 19:13)

In the Luke's Parable of the Minas or Pounds, each of ten servants gets one mina each to put to work.

"Mina" (ESV, NIV) or "pound" (NRSV, KJV) is Greek mna, a Greek monetary unit equal to 100 drachmas in Greek money.40 A Greek drachma was worth approximately the same as a Roman denarius, or the average daily wage for a laborer. If we were to calculate a laborer's wages at $150 to $200 per day for 100 days, then a Mina might be worth perhaps $15,000 to $20,000 dollars USD in today's money.41 While this isn't a fortune in Western cities, it could provide the beginnings for a profitable small business in the hands of a bold and skillful person.

Talents: "To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability." (Matthew 25:15)

In the Parable of the Talents only three servants are selected. Each servant gets an amount of capital commensurate with his potential -- "each according to his ability."42 The most promising servant gets the most, while the least promising servant gets the least.

As we saw in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Lesson 1.2), a "talent" (talanton) was first a weight, then a unit of coinage. In general, one Tyrian talent would be worth about 6,000 denarii,43 a denarius being the average amount that a laborer might earn for one day's work. If you calculate that a day laborer might earn $150 to $200 USD working six days per week, you could calculate a talent in today's currency to be about $900,000 to $1.2 million USD.

Servant 1 5 talents $4.5 to $6 million
Servant 2 2 talents $1.8 to $2.4 million
Servant 3 1 talent $900,000 to $1.2 million

This is indeed a sizeable fortune entrusted to each of the servants.

Putting the Money to Work (Matthew 25:16-18)

Now the master leaves town and the servants get to work. In the Parable of the Talents we read:

"16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained44 five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money." (Matthew 25:16-18)

Notice that the first servant "went off at once" (NRSV, cf. NIV).45 He was eager and motivated. He "put his money to work" (NIV) or "traded" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) with it.46 We don't know what kind of businesses these were. But "trading" could have been purchasing goods at wholesale and selling at retail, investing in a mine, investing in a ship or caravan bringing goods from another area, etc. It would need to be relatively short-term, since the servants didn't know when their master would return.

The Master Returns and Settles Accounts (Matthew 25:19-23; Luke 19:15-19)

Now, at length, the master returns.

"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts47 with them." (Matthew 25:19)

"He sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained48 with it." (Luke 19:15)

The servants troop into the master's office one by one to report

The first two servants in Matthew have both doubled their money -- an outstanding achievement! The master is pleased with each of them, rewards them accordingly, and praises their character.

Talents. "Well done,49 good and faithful50 servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21)

Minas. "Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge51 of ten cities.'" (Luke 19:17)

Notice that each servant is referred to as "good" in both Matthew and Luke. "Good" is used in the sense of "pertaining to meeting a high standard of worth and merit, good,"52 but it can also contain a hint of moral goodness as well (Matthew 19:17).

These faithful servants are rewarded with greater responsibilities that will mean a higher position and a better life.

The servant who took one mina ($15,000 to $20,000) and traded it to be ten times as much ($150,000 to $200,000) is rewarded with control of ten cities in the newly-crowned king's realm -- he now is a governor! Likewise, the servant who earned five times as much is given control over five cities. Governors were seen to be fabulously wealthy! Their nobleman master has now been made a king with a kingdom to govern so he is looking for tried and true people he can trust.

Beyond the rewards, in the Parable of the Talents the faithful servants can bask in the master's "happiness." They are invited to "enter into the joy of your master." The word chara, "joy," used here can have the sense of something that causes joy, such as "a festive dinner or banquet."53

The Wicked Servant (Matthew 21:24-35; Luke 19:20-27)

The third servant in both parables, however, is not nearly so eager to please. Burying something was considered a secure way of protecting one's treasure,54 but that only protected the capital; it did not increase it, as the master had specifically ordered. We'll look at Matthew's account; Luke is similar.

"24 Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'" (Matthew 25:24-25)

The unproductive servant is bold in his excuse. He sounds almost like he is accusing his master of being an evil capitalist,

"... Harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed." (Matthew 25:24)

What an outrageous thing to say to someone in power over you!

The servant claims to have acted out of fear. In Matthew, the servant accuses his master of being a "hard" (NIV, ESV, KJV) or "harsh" (NRSV) man, one who is "unyielding in behavior or attitude" in dealing with others, "hard, strict, harsh, cruel, merciless."55 In Luke he is accused of being strict, uncompromising, tough.56

The truth is, that this servant hates his master. He will return to the master what is his, but he certainly won't help him increase it! Bitterness is apparent in the servant's answer, along with his self-justification.

Judgment on the Wicked Servant (Matthew 25:26-27; Luke 19:22-23)

The master hears out the disobedient and insolent servant and then lambastes him. In Matthew, he is called a "wicked, lazy servant."

  • "Wicked" is ponēros, "morally or socially worthless, wicked, evil, bad, base, vicious, degenerate."57 This is in contrast to the "good" servants.
  • "Lazy" (NIV, NRSV), "slothful" (ESV, KJV) is oknēros, "idle, lazy, indolent."58

In Luke, the master replies to the wicked servant's excuses rather sharply and destroys the servant's so-called logic.

"22 I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?" (Luke 19:22)

In other words, since you knew I expected results from others, that is no excuse to refuse to produce results. Now the master suggests a painless way that even a lazy servant could have got an increase on his investment -- let someone else do the work, in this case a banker.

"You should have put my money on deposit59 with the bankers,60 so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest." (Matthew 25:27)

Modern bank institutions don't appear until sixteenth century Europe. But in ancient times, some banking functions were available through business people, such as keeping money safe, coining money, money changing, and money lending.61 If you had money to loan, you could deposit it with a money lender who would do the work and pay you for the use of your money.

Though Jews were forbidden in the Torah from receiving interest on money loaned to poor countrymen,62 some other kinds of business loans were legal for them, such as loans to foreigners.63 In fact, it may be that no prohibition whatsoever on business loans was in effect in the first century.64 There is a considerable difference between loaning money to a poor person to buy food so his family doesn't starve and loaning money to a businessman so he can expand his business.

The Faithful Will Receive More (Matthew 25:28-29; Luke 19:24-26)

The wicked servant has not been merely lazy, but has deliberately refused to do anything that will benefit his master. There is no second chance for deliberate rebelliousness.

"28 Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." (Matthew 25:28-29)

Luke's parable is similar. In Luke, one servant protests about the first servant getting more minas: "He already has ten" (Luke 19:25) But now, the king isn't distributing money on a trial, as he did before he left. Now he knows who is faithful, capable, and productive, so he gives more to those who he knows will use his investment to best advantage.

We see this kind of reward for the faithful and discerning, and punishment for the faithless and rebellious elsewhere. It seems to be a Kingdom principle.

"Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." (Matthew 13:12 = Mark 4:29)

"Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him." (Luke 8:18)

Punishment for the Wicked

The wicked and lazy servant, however, gets more than a tongue lashing and loss of the talent he had been given to invest. He is punished.

"And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 25:30)

This last verse in Matthew's account seems to shift from a parable about a wealthy slave owner punishing a recalcitrant slave, to punishment of the wicked at the Last Judgment. Elsewhere in Matthew, "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12) are identified with outer darkness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13) a fiery furnace (Matthew 13:42, 50); and being cut in pieces (Matthew 24:51), all terrible symbols of an even more terrible spiritual fate.

In Luke's account, remember that the nobleman's subjects hated him (Luke 19:14). Now as king, he acts decisively to protect his kingdom from future rebellion.

"Those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them -- bring them here and kill them in front of me." (Luke 19:27)

While this seems harsh to us, to first-century ears a newly crowned king could be expected to shore up his claim to the throne, and wipe out those who threaten his reign.

Interpreting the Parable of the Talents

I have deliberately resisted the temptation to jump too soon into these parables with interpretations and applications, but now is the time to apply this rather scary parable to ourselves.

Ultimately, this parable is not about the present. It is eschatological and applies to the time of Christ's Return. If you sense in yourself laziness or rebelliousness against God, there is still time to repent and change your heart -- but you can only count on "today" in which to do that.

Now let's ask some questions that guide us in applying this parable.

What Do the Talents and Minas represent?

A talent and a mina, we determined, is each a denomination of money, currency. In the case of these parables, money is the basic resource that the master gives his servants to advance his business interests in his absence. But money by itself is useless; it must be invested in the business to grow!

What does the money represent? I believe it represents the spiritual gifts, abilities, "talents," resources, family position, knowledge, etc. that Jesus bestows on his disciples -- to you and to me. What we have to "invest" in Kingdom work includes our station in life, our wealth (if we have any), our houses, our cars, our job, our network of contacts, and our personal friends. Clearly, these parables are about being stewards of what God gives us!

Each According to His Ability (Matthew 25:15)

In the Parable of the Minas or Pounds, the master initially gives each servant an equal amount -- one mina. But in the Parable of the Talents, the master gives different amounts.

"To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability." (Matthew 25:15)

This is complex. "Ability" (dynamis) here means "ability to carry out something, ability, capability."65 One's ability to carry out something is based on a number of things:

  1. Raw talent
  2. Drive, willingness to focus time to the task
  3. Faithfulness
  4. Moral character
  5. Resources at one's disposal.

When the master returns, those who had shown faithfulness and ability he rewards with greater responsibility.

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus answers the excuse, "I am not as talented as so-and-so." Jesus is saying in this parable that you are only responsible for what I give you. But you are fully responsible for that.

Many multi-talented people are extremely gifted, but selfish. They use their tremendous gifts to advance themselves and their family, but employ little or nothing to advance the Kingdom. They will be held responsible. Yes, they have been given much, but they also bear much greater responsibility. As Jesus taught his disciples in the Parable of the Wise and Faithful Steward (Lesson 5.3):

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48)

This is sort of like the idea expressed in the French phrase, noblesse oblige (literally, "nobility obliges"), "the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth."66 Except that in Christ's Kingdom, we are all brothers and sisters of the King. We all have responsibility.

How Will God Reward Us for Using our Talents?

One of the haunting lessons of these parables is the attitude -- and fate -- of the servant who had been given one talent and buries it in the ground, ostensibly for safekeeping.

I wonder how many of us "bury our talent" and do not use it or develop it? You can be an extremely gifted violinist, but if you do not practice, you won't improve. If you don't play regularly, you'll get rusty. If you aren't in the habit of both practicing regularly and playing often for others, you will have wasted a tremendous natural ability that can have powerful spiritual implications as well.

On Judgment Day, you and I will not be justified or condemned based on our works. Salvation is all by grace. But we will be judged -- held accountable -- for what we have done with our talents to build his Kingdom. Paul teaches:

"If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

We are justified by faith in the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. However, the scripture is very clear:

"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10)

This judgment is about rewarding Christ's servants for their faithfulness and obedience while here on earth. There are many verses that promise heavenly rewards for faithfulness.67

As mentioned, the reward does not consist in salvation. The reward for faithful labor is something else entirely. I wish I could tell you exactly what it is. I can't, but I know it will be wonderful when all is said and done. I expect that it is related to us ruling and reigning with Christ in the Kingdom of God, whatever that means.68

Q54. (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27) Why did Jesus give his disciples the Parables of the Talents and Minas? How are you using the "talents" Jesus has given you? What causes people to "bury" the talents they once used for the Lord? If it is not salvation itself, what is the reward for faithfulness? Why does God expect more of greatly gifted people?

11.3 Showing Love and Mercy

Jesus taught his disciples love and mercy. Several parables bear on these themes -- the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lesson 1.1) and the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Lesson 1.2), which we've already considered. But here we'll examine another -- the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37; §144)

Vincent Van Gogh, 'The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix)' (1890)
Vincent Van Gogh, 'The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix)' (1890), oil on canvas, 29 x 24 in., Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands.

Of all Jesus' parables, none has worked its way deeper into Western consciousness than the Parable of the Good Samaritan, with possible exception of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The name "good Samaritan" is popularly used to describe any person who goes out of his way to help another.

But the Parable of the Good Samaritan says more than "It is good to help people in need." The parable is also about excuses. About self-justification. About racial prejudices. About letting oneself off the hook. It is also about love that goes far beyond the call of duty.

Testing Jesus

Somewhere in Judea, Jesus encounters a lawyer, Greek nomikos, "legal expert, jurist, lawyer,"69 a man skilled in interpreting the Jewish Torah (i.e., the first five books of the Old Testament, also called the Pentateuch). He and Jesus have had a dialogue about the greatest commandments, and the lawyer answers correctly, that the great commandments are loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. But the man's motive is flawed.

His goal is to expose Jesus' naiveté in contrast to his own sophistication and intellectual prowess. So he asks Jesus a "technical question" related to the command to love one's neighbor (Leviticus 19:18).70

"And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29b)

It is a picky philosophical question, a field in which the lawyer intends to exhibit his superiority. In general, Jews limited the application of this law to fellow Jews only.71 Love your own race and faith community and you have fulfilled the law. The lawyer's first motive is to "test"72 Jesus (verse 25). His second motive is to "justify himself,"73 to defend his own limited interpretation of the Torah (verse 29).

Dangers of the Jericho Road (Luke 10:30)

Jesus doesn't quibble about definitions, as philosophers often do. Instead, he answers by telling a story, a parable.

"In reply Jesus said: 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho....'" (Luke 10:30a)

Road from Jericho to Jerusalem
Road from Jericho to Jerusalem (larger map)

Jesus calls on his hearers' awareness of the dangers of traveling alone on the Jericho-Jerusalem road. The road is very real, of course, but the man is a fictional character, a hypothetical person whom Jesus employs to build his story.

"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead." (Luke 10:30b)

Jerusalem is located along the ridge of coastal mountains running north and south in Palestine. Jericho, on the other hand, is located in the plain of the Jordan River, a geological rift zone hundreds of feet below sea level. The 17-mile (27-kilometer) road that connects these two cities climbs some 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) in elevation through desert and rocky country with steep canyons that could easily hide brigands or bandits. Josephus notes that Pompey destroyed a group of brigands here and Jerome spoke of Arab robbers in his time.74

The robbers on the Jericho Road were desperate men. They would attack a man for the value of his clothing alone. Here they strip this man and then beat him, probably with wood staffs, to keep him from following them or perhaps to intimidate him from trying to identify them. They don't kill him, but he is severely wounded, "half-dead," as Jesus describes him.

Priests and Levites (Luke 10:31-32)

Jesus continues.

"31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side." (Luke 10:31-32)

The priest was perhaps going from Jericho to Jerusalem for service in the temple. Jericho was known as a principal residence for priests.75 In New Testament times, Levites were an order of cultic officials, inferior to the priests, but still a privileged group in society, responsible for the liturgy and policing in the Temple.76

In Jesus' story, both priest and Levite see the wounded man and pass by on the other side of the road. They see the man's need, but choose not to help.

Perhaps they were concerned about ritual purity. They wouldn't be able to serve in the temple without repurification if they touched a corpse.77 What if the man lying beaten by the side of the road were dead? One can't be too careful, you know. On the other hand, the law is crystal clear about helping those who are in need, both man and beast, friend and foe -- even if he is your enemy.78

Placing religious purity over helping an injured person is, of course, gross hard-heartedness and selfishness. And walking on the other side of the road displays a deliberate "I-don't-want-to-know" attitude. The less they saw of the man's condition, the less they would feel obligated to help him. I don't want to get involved, they tell themselves.

Samaritans, the Hated Step-Brothers

Three people or situations are often found in stories of that period79 and our own.80 And so Jesus introduces his third and climatic character, but this character comes as a shock. The third man is a Samaritan.

The Samaritans were particularly hated in Jesus' day. They lived in an area south of Galilee and north of Judea, part of the old Northern Kingdom of Israel. In 721 BC Israel was conquered by Assyria, and Sargon II conducted a mass deportation of the entire region, carrying off some 27,270 captives and resettling the area with non-Jewish colonists from other parts of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 17:24).81 Their descendants were looked upon as half-breeds and heretics by the Jews of Jerusalem. Though Samaritans believed in the Torah, they worshiped on Mt. Gerizim, rather than Jerusalem (John 4:20-22) and built their own temple there about 450 BC.

However, Maccabees fighters came to Samaria in bold raid in 110 BC and destroyed the Samaritan's temple. The Samaritans' rage at this affront was predictable. Sometime between 6 and 9 AD at midnight during a Passover, some Samaritans deliberately scattered bones in the Jerusalem Temple in order to desecrate it.82 The Jews were outraged! What remained now was disdain and hatred, as John observed: "Jews do not associate with Samaritans" (John 4:9b).

For Jesus to introduce the Samaritan as the caring person, after a priest and a Levite had neglected mercy, must have been intended as an especially biting commentary on what passed for "mercy" among the pillars of Judaism.

Taking Pity upon the Man (Luke 10:33-35)

"But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity83 on him." (Luke 10:33)

Love, sympathy, and mercy are each motivated by the need of another. Withholding mercy is essentially an act of selfishness, of self-protection.

"He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine." (Luke 10:34a)

The Samaritan binds up the wounds (Greek trauma) of the injured man, perhaps with his own head covering or by tearing strips from his garment. The Samaritan also pours on oil and wine as healing agents. Olive oil was widely employed to keep exposed parts of the skin supple, to relieve chafing, to soften wounds, and to heal bruises and lacerations (Isaiah 1:6).84 Wine, perhaps, was poured on for cleansing.85 Wine (typically 10% to 12% alcohol) would have had some disinfectant properties.

"34b Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'" (Luke 10:34b-35)

The Samaritan used his own supplies to cleanse and soothe the man's wounds, his own clothing to bandage him, his own animal to carry him while the Samaritan himself walked, his own money to pay for his care, and his own reputation and credit to promise payment for any further expenses the man's care would require. Love can be costly. But if we have the means to help, we are to extend ourselves.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:17-18).

There wasn't an emergency room where the Samaritan can take the man. Instead, he brings him to an inn, a hotel, and cares for the man himself that night. Edersheim sees the inn as a khan or hostelry, found by the side of roads, providing free lodging to the traveler. Such a hostelry would also provide food for both man and beast, for which they would charge.86 "Silver coins" (NIV), "denarii" (ESV, NRSV), "pence" (KJV) is dēnarion, "denarius," a Roman silver coin that represented about one day's average wage. Two denarii, perhaps $300 to $400 USD in our currency, would probably provide for food and care for several days.

It seems likely that the Samaritan is a merchant who frequently traveled this way and had stayed at this inn before. He trusts the innkeeper enough to advance him money to care for the wounded man. And he promises the innkeeper -- who also seems to trust the Samaritan -- to reimburse him for any additional costs when he returns from his trip. The Samaritan's mercy is a generous mercy. A mercy that doesn't just keep the letter of the law, but its spirit as well. The Samaritan pledges "whatever he needs" -- a blank check.

Who Was Neighbor to the Man? (Luke 10:36-37)

Now Jesus asks the expert in the law about the story.

"36 'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?'
37 The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.'

Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:36-37)

Who is my neighbor? By this parable Jesus is saying that my neighbor is not just "my kind of people," but anyone who has a need. Jews are not to love just Jews. White people are not to love only white people. We are to love everyone! Powerful!

Jesus' story is loaded with all sorts of religious, cultural, and historical baggage (priests, Levites, and a Samaritan). But the merciful response to need is so compelling that the lawyer is forced to admit that "the one who had mercy87 on him" is the neighbor.

Jesus' Parables for Disciples, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Available in paperback, PDF, and Kindle formats

One summary of godly piety is found in Micah 6:8:

"He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy,88
and to walk humbly with your God."

Mercy is required of us (Isaiah 58:6-7; Hosea 6:6). Jesus commands his disciples very specifically: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).

Q55. (Luke 10:30-37) Why does Jesus contrast a Jewish priest and Levite with a hated Samaritan? According to the parable, how do you think Jesus would define "neighbor," that is, someone we have a responsibility toward? How much does compassion move you to go out of your way and comfort zone to care for those in need?

The parables we've studied in this lesson reflect Jesus' training his disciples into serving humbly and showing mercy. God help us!


Father, I find it so easy to let my own concerns get in the way of yours. To value my own time and priorities more than the "coincidences" that bring me face to face with need and the opportunity to serve and show mercy. Help me to learn these lessons well! In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


References and Abbreviations

[1] Brown, John 2:564.

[2] Mekhilta §1 on Exodus 21:2.

[3] "Outer clothing/garments" (NIV, ESV), "outer robe" (NRSV), "garments" is himation, "a piece of clothing," here, of outer clothing, "cloak, robe" (BDAG 475, 2).

[4] "Wrapped around ... waist" (NIV), "girded" (KJV) is diazōnnymi, "tie around" (BDAG 228), from dia + zōnnymi, "gird," in verses 4 and 5.

[5] "Towel" is lention, "linen cloth, towel" (BDAG 592), in verses 4 and 5.

[6] Luke 12:37; 17:8. In both these verses the servant "girds himself" as Jesus did.

[7] "Dry" (NIV), "wipe" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is ekmasso, "to cause to become dry by wiping with a substance, wipe" (BDAG 306).

[8] "Basin" is niptēr, "(wash) basin" (BDAG 674), from the verb niptō, "to wash," used in this verse.

[9] "Realize" (NIV), "know" (NRSV, KJV), "understand" (ESV) in verse 7a is eidō, here in the sense of, "to grasp the meaning of something, understand, recognize, come to know, experience" (BDAG 694, 4).

[10] "Understand" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "know" (KJV) in verse 7b is ginōskō, "know," here, "to grasp the significance or meaning of something, understand, comprehend" (BDAG 200, 3).

[11] The Greek uses the double negative ou mē, with the idea of "to eternity, eternally, in perpetuity" (aiōn, BDAG 32, 1b).

[12] "Wash" is niptō, "to cleanse with use of water, wash" (BDAG 674, 1a).

[13] "Part" (NIV, KJV), "share" (NRSV, ESV) is meros, "share," here, "have a place with someone" (BDAG 634, 2).

[14] Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26.

[15] "Had a bath/has bathed" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "is washed" (KJV) is louō, "to use water to cleanse a body of physical impurity, wash, as a rule of the whole body, bathe" (BDAG 603, 1b).

[16] There is some confusion with John 13:10a in the manuscripts. A number of manuscripts omit the words "except for his feet," but Metzger (Textual Commentary, p. 240) concludes that these words "may have been omitted accidentally (or even deliberately because of the difficulty of reconciling them with the following declaration, 'his whole body is clean'), a majority of the committee considered it safer to retain them on the basis of the preponderant weight of external attestation," giving it a {B} "some degree of doubt" confidence level.

[17] "His whole body is clean" (NIV) is more literally, "entirely/completely clean" (NRSV, ESV), "clean every whit" (KJV). There are two words, the adjective katharos, "pertaining to being clean or free of adulterating matter, clean, pure" (BDAG 489, 1); and holos, "pertaining to being complete in extent, whole, entire, complete" (BDAG 704, 1bγ).

[18] Katharos, "clean," here in the sense of, "pertaining to being free from moral guilt, pure, free from sin" (BDAG 489, 3a).

[19] "Betray" is paradidōmi, "hand over, turn over, give up a person," as a technical term of police and courts hand over into [the] custody [of]" (BDAG 762, 1b).

[20] "Returned to his place" (NIV) is anapiptō, "to recline on a couch to eat, lie down, recline" (BDAG 70, 1).

[21] "Example" is hypodeigma, "an example of behavior used for purposes of moral instruction, example, model, pattern" (BDAG 1037, 1).

[22] "Servant" is doulos, "male slave as an entity in a socioeconomic context, slave" (BDAG 259, 1).

[23] "Master" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "lord" (KJV) is kyrios, "one who is in charge by virtue of possession, owner (BDAG 572, II, 1b).

[24] "Messenger" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "he that is sent" (KJV) is the noun apostolos, "of messengers without extraordinary status, delegate, envoy, messenger" (BDAG 122, 1).

[25] "Blessed" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "happy" (KJV) is makarios, "pertaining to being especially favored, blessed, fortunate, happy, privileged," here, "privileged recipient of divine favor" (BDAG 611, 2a).

[26] In Jesus' Parable of the Watching Servants (Luke 12:35-39, Lesson 5.2), we see a role reversal. When the master returns from his trip, he will serve his servants at the table (Luke 12:37). This is a hint of the coming Great Banquet at the End of the Age. See Appendix 5. The Great Messianic Banquet.

[27] The phrase literally is: "He will not be grateful (charis) to the slave...." Here the phrase, literally "have gratitude" is used in the sense of "to be grateful" (Hans Conzelmann, charis, ktl., TDNT 9:391-402).

[28] Green, Luke, p. 614.

[29] In both verses 9 and 10 in the NIV we see the word "told." It renders the Greek verb diatassō, "to give (detailed) instructions as to what must be done, order." Here the verb is in the form of a participle meaning "the things ordered or commanded," in other words, "duty" (BDAG 237-238).

[30] "Duty" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "what we ought to have done" (NRSV) is opheilō, "be obligated," with a verbal infinitive that means, "one must, one ought" (BDAG 743).

[31] Achreios, BDAG 160.

[32] I remember listening to Pentecostal healer-evangelist A.A. Allen on the radio in the 1960s. Allen would quote the Bible: "Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me" (Isaiah 45:11, King James Version). A more accurate translation of this verse, reflected in the NIV, NRSV, RSV, and Amplified Bible, renders this as a question: "Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?" (Isaiah 45:11, NIV).

[33] "Noble birth" (NIV), "nobleman" (ESV, NRSV), "noble" (KJV) is eugenēs, "pertaining to being of high status, well-born, high-born" (BDAG 404).

[34] Just after the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC -- before his son had been made king by Rome -- Archelaus turned the army loose on the people of Jerusalem and slaughtered 3,000. Immediately, Archelaus went to Rome to defend himself from complaints -- from a delegation of his subjects and as well as from his brothers, who still hoped to be declared king by Emperor Caesar Augustus. Caesar declared Archelaus an ethnarch (a ruler of an ethnic group), with control over the bulk of his father's kingdom. However, in 6 AD Caesar deposed him for misgovernment and exiled him to Vienna. Archelaus' cruelty is reflected in the Parable of the Minas where the king has his enemies slain before him (verse 27). Sources: "Archelaus," ISBE 1:235- Wikipedia article, "Herod Archelaus"; L.I. Levine, "Herod the Great," Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday, 1992) 3:169; Morris, Luke, p. 274; Josephus, Wars, 2.10-13; Antiquities 17:188-90 (17.11); 17.340 (17.13.1).

[35] Snodgrass, Stories, p. 537.

[36] The "servants" here could very well be house slaves, rather than paid employees. That is the basic meaning of the Greek word doulos (BDAG 260, 1a). Being slaves doesn't mean they were ignorant. In ancient times it was common for wealthy people to own slaves who were well-educated and very skilled at business. On the other hand, in Luke's parable, when the nobleman arrives home as king, doulos could mean "subject" in a positive sense, of a servant in relation to a superior human being such as a king (doulos, BDAG 260, 2bα). Servants rewarded with cities to rule (Luke 19:15-19) aren't likely to be slaves. (For more see Appendix 6. Slavery in Jesus' Day.)

[37] "Entrusted" (NIV, NRSV), "delivered" (KJV) is paradidōmi, "to convey something in which one has a relatively strong personal interest, hand over, give (over), deliver, entrust" (BDAG 763, 1a).

[38] "Property" (NIV, NRSV), "goods" (KJV) is a participle of hyparchō, "exist, be at one's disposal," here as a substantive, "what belongs to someone, someone's property, possessions, means" (BDAG 102, 1).

[39] Pragmateuomai, BDAG 859.

[40] Mna, BDAG 654; H. W. Perkin, "Money," ISBE 3:409.

[41] $150 or $200 x 100 days = $15,000 to $20,000.

[42] "Ability" is dynamis, "power," in the sense of, "ability to carry out something, ability, capability"
(BDAG 263, 2).

[43] Talanton, BDAG 988.

[44] "Gained" is kerdainō, "to acquire by effort or investment, to gain" (BDAG 542, 1a).

[45] This idea of immediacy comes from the Aorist tense of the participle poreuomai, "go, proceed, travel" (BDAG 853, 1).

[46] Ergazomai, "work," here in the specific sense of a financial enterprise, "do business/trade with" (BDAG 389, 1).

[47] The verb "settle" is synairō, used here in a commercial sense of "settle accounts, cast up accounts" (BDAG 964.) The word "accounts" is the common noun logos, used in a special sense here as "computation, reckoning" (BDAG 603, 2b).

[48] "Gained" (NIV), "gained by doing business" (ESV), "gained by trading" (NRSV, KJV) is Greek diapragmateuomai, "gain by trading, earn" (BDAG 235).

[49] "Well done" is Greek eu, an interjection that pertains to meeting a standard of performance, "well done! excellent!" (BDAG 402, 2).

[50] "Faithful" (NIV, KJV), "trustworthy" (NRSV) is the common Greek word pistos, "worthy of belief or trust, trustworthy, faithful, dependable" (BDAG 820, 1aα)

[51] "Take charge of" (NIV, NRSV) or "have authority over" (ESV, KJV) in Luke 19:17 centers on the Greek word exousia, "the right to control or command, authority, absolute power, warrant" (BDAG 352-353, 3).

[52] Agathos, BDAG 2aα.

[53] Chara, BDAG 107, 2c. Enter into" (NRSV, KJV), "share" is eiserchomai, "to enter into an event or state, come into something = share in something, come to enjoy something" (BDAG 294, 2 and 4a).

[54] Jeremias (Parables, p. 61, fn. 51) notes that according with rabbinical law, anyone who buried a pledge or deposit immediately upon receipt of it, was free from liability if it went missing (b.B.M. 42a). In Luke 19:29, "laid away" (NIV, ESV), "wrapped up" (NRSV), "laid up" (KJV) is apokeimai, "to put away for safekeeping" (BDAG 113, 1).

[55] Sklēros, with the basic meaning of "rough, hard to the touch." Here, used figuratively (BDAG 930, 4a).

[56] "Severe" (ESV), "hard" (NIV), "harsh" (NRSV), "austere" is austēros (from which we get our word "austere"), "pertaining to being strict in requirement, punctilious, strict," used especially of persons who practice rigid personal disciple or are strict in the supervision of others, here imagery of a tough, uncompromising punctilious financier (BDAG 151-152).

[57] Ponēros, BDAG 851, 1aα.

[58] Oknēros, BDAG 702, 1.

[59] "Put on deposit" (NIV), "invested" (ESV, NRSV), "put" (KJV) is ballō, "throw," here, "to entrust money to a banker for interest, deposit money" (BDAG 163, 5).

[60] "Bankers" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "exchangers" (KJV) is trapezitēs, money changer, banker" (BDAG 1013), from trapeza (from which we get "trapezoid"), "table," specifically the table on which the money changers display their coins, hence simply "bank" (BDAG 1013).

[61] M. W. Call, "Bank, Banking," ISBE 1:408.

[62] Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19; Ezekiel 18:18.

[63] R. J. Ray, "Interest," ISBE 2:860.

[64] Snodgrass, Stories, p. 538, cites John Nolland, Luke (Word Biblical Commentary; Word, 1993), Vol. 35B (2), p. 798.

[65] Dynamis, BDAG 263, 2.

[66] Merriam-Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary.

[67] Ephesians 6:8; Matthew 6:4; 10:42; 16:27; Luke 14:14b.

[68] 2 Timothy 2:11-12a; 1 Corinthians 6:3; Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:4, 6; 22:5; Romans 8:17.

[69] Nomikos, BDAG 676, 2.

[70] "One of your people" (NIV, cf. NRSV), "sons of your own people" (ESV), "children of your own people" (KJV) in verse 18a is parallel to "neighbor" in verse 18b. "Neighbor" is rēaʿ, "comrade, companion, friend, fellow" (Holladay, 342, 1).

[71] The Jews typically interpreted "neighbor," meaning "one who is near," in terms of members of the same people and religious community, that is, fellow Jews (as in Matthew 5:43-48). The Pharisees tended to exclude "ordinary people" from their definition. The Qumran community excluded "the sons of darkness" from their definition of neighbors (Marshall, Luke, p. 444). Marshall cites 1QS 1:10; 9:21 for the Qumran sect's interpretation and Strack and Billerbeck I, 353-364 for common Jewish interpretations.

[72] Test" (NIV, NRSV), "put to the test" (ESV), "tempted" (KJV) is ekpeirazō, "to subject to test or proof, tempt," here, "to entrap someone into giving information that will jeopardize the person, entrap" (BDAG 307, 2).

[73] "Justify" is dikaioō, "show justice," here, "justify, vindicate" (BDAG 249, 2a), to show that his opinion was the correct one.

[74] Marshall, Luke, p. 447, cites Josephus, Wars of the Jews 4:474, Strabo 16:2:41; and Jerome, in Jerem. 3:2. Joachim Jeremias (Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (Fortress Press/SCM Press 1969), p. 52) discusses additional incidents, including whole villages around Jerusalem known to be nests of thieves.

[75] Marshall, Luke, p. 448, cites Strack and Billerbeck II, 66, 180.

[76] Marshall, Luke, p. 448.

[77] The Mosaic law stated that the high priest "must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother" (Leviticus 21:11). Even a regular priest "will also be unclean if he touches something defiled by a corpse" (Leviticus 22:4; Ezekiel 24:25).

[78] Exodus 23:4-5; Proverbs 24:17-18; 25:21-22.

[79] Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; 14:18-20; 20:10-12.

[80] Three Blind Mice, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Three Billy Goats Gruff.

[81] D.J. Wiseman, "Samaria," NBD, p. 1061-1062.

[82] Josephus, Antiquities, 18.2.2.

[83] "Took pity" (NIV), "had compassion" (ESV, KJV), "was moved with pity" (NRSV) is splanchizomai, "have pity, feel sympathy with or for someone" (BDAG 938), from splanchnon, literally, "inward parts, entrails," figuratively of the seat of the emotions, in our usage "heart." In verse 17, "Has no pity" (NIV), "closes his heart" (ESV), "refuses help" (NRSV), "shutteth up his bowls of compassion" (KJV), is literally, "shuts his splanchnon."

[84] Roland K. Harrison, "Heal," ISBE 2:640-647.

[85] Edersheim (Life and Times 2:238) cites Jer. Ber. 3a and Shabb. 134a as indicating that oil and wine were the common dressing for wounds. N. Angelotti and P. Martini ("Treatment of skin ulcers and wounds through the centuries," Minerva Med. 1997 Jan-Feb 88(1-2):49-55) note that Hippocrates washed ulcers with wine and after having softened them by oil, he dressed them with fig leaves. Marshall, Luke, p. 449, affirms that the use of wine and oil as healing agents is well-attested, citing Shab. 14:2; 19;4; Strack and Billerbeck I, 428; and Theophrastus, Hist. Plant 9:11:1.

[86] Edersheim, Life and Times 2:239.

[87] The Greek word used is eleos. In classical Greek eleos is the emotion roused by contact with an affliction which comes undeservedly on someone else. The New Testament meaning of eleos draws on the Hebrew concept of hesed, faithfulness between individuals that results in human kindness, mercy, and pity (Rudolf Bultmann, oleos, ktl., TDNT 2:477-487).

[88] Hebrew hesed, Greek Septuagint eleos.

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