A few days before Jesus was brutally crucified in Jerusalem in AD 30, his close followers asked him what it would be like on the day when he would return at the end of time. His answer was quietly to give them two parallels – two stories to describe what that end day would be like. Shall we think about his first parallel today? Speaking to his followers he described a wealthy Lord who would go away for a long time and would leave talents - all that was at his disposal – with his contracted apprentices until he returned to settle accounts.
Yes, contracted apprentices (Jesus is recorded as using the Greek word doulous meaning bond-slaves – translated servants above) were the ones to receive what their Lord could give them – everything of his which could benefit them.
This Lord – in the parallel – gave: to one, five talents; to another, two; to another, one. Then this Lord, in the parallel story, went away for a long time.
Imagine if the Lord in Jesus’ parallel was President Assad of Syria. If he was going away for a long time, what kinds of talents would he be distributing to his contracted apprentices? And if it was Prime Minister Theresa May going away for a long time but coming back, what valuable talents would she give to her contracted apprentices – for them to make full use of until she returned to do the accounting?
In the parallel these talents weren’t necessarily money – but the talent given to one apprentice in the story was a talent of silver worth 20 years earnings. Around £500,000 today. So these talents in the parallel story told by Jesus just before he died and rose again – were of great worth to his contracted apprentices.
How did this parallel Lord decide what to give to each apprentice? Jesus did explain that each was given according to his or her abilities. It seems that the boss of these contracted apprentices knew that the abilities of each apprentice differed and gave them wonderful talents not only to add to those abilities but also to make up for missing abilities and even disabilities.
But the key question is this. What if the Lord to whom Jesus was referring in the parallel was really him? What talents would he give? Could the answer be that he would give them the talents – the very wonderful talents – that he clearly had within himself? Kindness, compassion, love of righteousness, forgiveness, love-in-action even, in fact especially, towards his enemies, the ability to die himself so as to bless others, the talent of giving to others (as he did) what they don’t deserve.