Many thought that since Jesus was heading for Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:51) this meant the kingdom of God was about to be ushered in. The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem did present Israel with their Messiah, but it would not be until sometime later that the kingdom of God would be established. Indeed, we still await the coming of that kingdom.
Jesus had spoken to His disciples about His rejection, suffering, and death at Jerusalem (Luke 18:31-34), but they did not understand at that time. What Jesus had said to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:9-10) only intensified their expectations. In light of the Old Testament teaching it was understandable why (Isaiah 40:9 / Jeremiah 3:17, 33:16 / Joel 2:32, 3:16-17 / Micah 4:2 / Zechariah 8:3, 9:9, 13:1, 14:4, 14:8). They anticipated the immediate commencement of the kingdom (cf. Acts 1:6-11). While Jesus taught that we should desire the kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10 / Luke 18:1-8), He told this parable to correct wrong conclusions about the way people held these convictions.
In the story a wealthy man was going away to be anointed as king, and would be gone for a while. For the meantime, he gave some of his servants a sum of money, instructing them to do business until he returned. The citizens of the area were not fond of the wealthy man and sent word that they did not want him to return at all.
When the man returned as king, he sent for the servants to give an account of what they had gained. One did very well, obtaining a tenfold return. Another also did well, securing a fivefold return. Both were rewarded and made rulers in proportion to their faithfulness.
A third servant had no increase at all because he hid the money away, and so in a sense lost money that could have been earned. This servant personifies the problem which our Lord is addressing, the lack of faithful obedience. The wicked servant lost the rewards that could have been his, and they were given to the servant who had proven most diligent. If he was truly fearful of his master, he would have used the time he had to be obedient, not complacent.
The master’s final act was to deal with the rebellious citizens who rejected him. These enemies represent those Jews who would reject Jesus as their Messiah.
The departure to a distant land and later return of the king signaled a time delay in the arrival of the kingdom of God. Jesus had to go up to heaven to be crowned king (cf. Philippians 2:9-11), and the delay of the kingdom provided a time for the king’s servants to be tested. Their faithfulness in serving Him will be the basis of their rewards in the kingdom.
Christians must live with intention and also with investment. Christ could return tomorrow, but His return may not be as soon as we think or hope. We need both a short-term and a long-term view of life and ministry, living for today by having an eye for tomorrow.