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The Departing and Returning Nobleman

Anthony Buzzard

On another occasion Jesus had thrown further light on the Kingdom of God by comparing himself to a nobleman who was destined to depart and later return to take charge of his father’s kingdom. Jesus told this parable in order to clarify, in the simplest terms, the stages of the divine plan in history. Since he and his disciples were in the vicinity of Jerusalem, approaching the city which everyone recognized would be the capital of the Kingdom, his audience — many of whom had accepted his claim to Messiahship — very reasonably expected “that the Kingdom of God was going to appear immediately” (Luke 19:11).

Luke’s account leaves us in no doubt that the Kingdom of God under discussion was a kingdom based in Jerusalem, and the geographical proximity of the king to the capital prompted the excitement that the hopes of the prophets and the nation were now finally to be realized. The parable which followed was to teach the lesson that the Kingdom was not to appear immediately. That it would appear eventually was not in question. Moreover its appearance would mean the destruction of Jesus’ enemies: “These enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence” (Luke 19:27).

Not for one moment did Jesus suggest that the people had misunderstood the nature of the Kingdom, or that they should look only for a kingdom “in the heart.” By means of a simple story about the nobleman, he made it clear that the Kingdom of God would not be publicly inaugurated until he returned from heaven after having received from the Father his royal authority. At his return he would exercise his royal power by executing his enemies for refusal to submit to his sovereignty (Luke 19:27). At the same time his faithful followers were to be rewarded for their productive service while the master had been absent, by being put in charge of urban populations in the Kingdom (Luke 19:17).

The parable made perfect sense as a confirmation of what the celebrated Psalm 2 had predicted of the Messiah, the Lord’s anointed. According to this Psalm, God has promised to give His Messiah “the nations as his inheritance and the very ends of the earth as his possession” (v. 8). The king was to “break them with an iron rod and shatter them like earthenware” (v. 9). In the same Psalm the world rulers whom the Messiah confronted at his return
were urged to “do homage to the Son, lest he become angry and destroy you” (v. 12). Both the Jews and Jesus recognized in Psalm 2 a forecast of the Messiah’s conquest of the world at his arrival in power. In Jesus, the Christian community saw “a male child who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5). Indeed the challenge to a position of “authority over the nations” was designed by the risen Jesus to spur the faithful on to the end (Rev. 2:26).¹

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¹ See Rev. 11:15; 12:5; 12:10; 19:15 for the application of Psalm 2 to Jesus; also Acts 4:25, 26; 13:33, the latter reference being to the conception/begetting of Jesus when God brought him into being (cp. Matt. 1:20, “begotten”; Luke 1:35). Acts 13:34, in contrast to verse 33, speaks of his resurrection. Acts 13:33 speaks of the begetting of the Son of God in the womb of his mother.

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