Jesus the Nazarene was a very busy, hard-working man when on earth. He said, “My Father has continued to work until the present, and I also continue to work.” [John 5:17 NCMM] Any reader of the Gospels will marvel at the amount of walking he did. What work did he perform? In the little synagogue in Nazareth he read to the Jews assembled from Isaiah 61:1, “Yehowah’s Pneuma is upon me, because He anointed me to declare the good news to the poor.” [Luke 4:18 NCMM] About a day later he told a crowd in an isolated place, “Also, it is necessary that I declare the Good News of God’s Kingdom to different cities, because for this reason I was sent forth.” [Luke 4:43 NCMM]
Jesus was a preacher and teacher who called men and women to God. He made disciples. That was really the business he was about. At the end of his industrious three year ministry he related a parable to four of his hard-working apostles. It is called the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. In Luke 19:11-27 another illustration had been given by Jesus a bit earlier and it is called the Parable of the Ten Minas. Both parables are similar and deal with a nobleman, the master of a great house, who must leave to a distant land in order to receive a kingdom. The Parable of the Talents indicates it would be a long time before the return of the Master. [Matthew 25:14]
Before leaving on this long trip, the master entrusts three slaves with funds and tells them, “Do business until I return.” One slave receives 5, another 2, and yet another 1 portion of these funds. “After a long time” the master returns and settles accounts with the three slaves. The first and second slaves in both parables increase these funds to the pleasure of the master. They are rewarded with authority over cities.
In each case the last slave failed to increase the master’s business. When brought before the lord of the house, he claims he feared the master and so buried the money in order to have it on the master’s return. In both parables this slave is rebuked for failure to increase the master’s business and is so punished. The moral is stated: “The person that has will be given more, and the person who has not, even what he does not have, will be taken away.” [Matthew 25:29; Luke 19:26]
It is obvious to most readers familiar with the Bible that the noble Master is Jesus Christ. Before he ascends to heaven - that distant land - to receive his royal kingship, he entrusts to his disciples degrees of business dependent on individual ability. In the beginning these slaves were the Nazarene’s apostles. However, the instruction, “Do business until I return,” indicates a type of slave throughout the more than two millenniums until the Master’s Return.
The general meaning is that all slaves of the Master’s House - depending on their personal abilities - have been committed a portion of the Master’s “business” with the instructions to “Do business until I return.” So, the parables are easy to comprehend so that no Christian can miss the main point - increase the Master’s “business.” The question that arises is this: What is the Master’s business?
Simply put - Jesus was a disciple-maker. That is, while declaring his message of the Good News of the Kingdom, he drew men and women who later become Nazarene disciples. He describes his business: “I came to search for what was lost and to find the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” When he was about to ascend to heaven as that nobleman, prepared to journey to a distant land to receive his kingdom, he does in fact explicitly give the “minas” or “talents” to his apostles. This is recorded in Matthew 28:19, 20, “Therefore, go your ways and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing persons. … Teach them to observe everything I commanded you.” [NCMM]
Thus the Nazarene’s disciples knew their Lord’s “business” was that of making new disciples and teaching them what Jesus taught. No doubt when Christ gave them this commission, they remembered what he had told them at the beginning of his ministry: “I will make you fishers of men. From now you will be catching living persons.” So, for three years they were able to watch the master teacher at work in his business. They heard one of the greatest sermons ever preached on a mountain-side. They saw thousands gather to listen to him for three days without eating! They learned how to spread the word of a visiting Rabbi. They learned how to ask questions. They learned how to use parables. They learned how to treat women, children, and grieving parents. And, they learned how to deal with those who would oppose their work.
As a result of their imitation of the Nazarene and his own godly business activity, the Book of Acts records the enormous growth of the early Church. Thousands of people from all over the world and from many walks of life accepted the Word and were baptized as disciples of the Lord Jesus. [Acts 2:41; 4:4; 21:20]
That some kind of organized effort was started to teach others how to make disciples -- and thus do the Lord’s business until he returned - is shown by Paul’s instructions to Timothy: “As the instructions I gave you … transmit them to trustworthy men as shall be qualified to teach others as well.” [GDS, BER] This work was the result of certain “gifts in men” Jesus provided the Church after his ascension to heaven. Paul writes accordingly at Ephesians 4:11-13, “These ‘gifts’ given to humans include apostolic representatives, prophetic spokesman, missionaries of the good news, pastoral shepherds of congregations, and teachers within the Church. The purpose of these ‘gifts’ is to rearrange and perfectly equip all the Saints for the work of service to others; and, for the upbuilding and strengthening of the whole Body of Christ. And this until all of us attain a perfect unity of faith and a heightened relationship with the Son of God. Until we all together grow into perfect maturity measured by the full stature of the Christ.” [NCMM Paraphrase]
And so through the Gospel Age other godly men and women came and went, leaving behind disciples as a result of their preaching and teaching. This “business” was like a Dragnet lowered into earth’s ocean of humanity to bring up “fish of every kind.” Not until the harvest-judgment would these “fish” be separated into those fit and those unfit for the Kingdom. [Matthew 13:47-50]
Two-thousand years later many Christians across the international globe are still doing the Lord’s “business” with keen expectation for his future Parousia or Arrival. How can a disciple of the Nazarene today “do business until [he] returns”? Largely by making disciples. How can this be done?
Paul gave the key when he wrote, “I believed, therefore, I spoke.” [2 Corinthians 4:12, 13] Largely finding persons of interest or need relies on our speaking to others about our faith. It was the way Jesus did it. It was the way his apostles did it. It is the way Paul did it.
One way to begin doing this “business” is to have a home Bible study with one’s own family. Many of the Friends of the Nazarene do this regularly on Wednesday evening by a consideration of a chapter of the Bible. Disciple-making begins first at home. However, others may be invited to such a Bible Discussions and Devotions mid-week meeting. But, where can interest or need be found?
Many successful disciple-makers have found opportunities - or make opportunities - at work, at school, neighbors, or in other daily activities. Some are naturally gifted with this ability and have ten times more abilities than another with but one such. However, many who were very shy and withdrawn have learned to become more like Christ and Paul. They have been taught, or learned how, to start godly conversations with others. Often a piece of printed material is effective in expressing words one may not be naturally gifted with. Often it is a simple matter of mentioning that your family has a regular home Bible discussion, and then invite them to join you. Many have found some kind of warm hospitality creates a comfortable atmosphere.
Christians throughout the ages have preached on street corners, market-places, or even going from door to door. If a Christian has a regular weekly Bible discussion in a neighborhood, it will only benefit others if those who live within a few blocks know about such a gathering. Some have mailed out to the neighborhood a little announcement of study a meeting.
People will have questions on the Bible and not all Christians are at first capable of answering all of these. Such may find some printed material dealing with these questions of considerable help. Many people who first come to a local Bible study need individual help because all are at different levels of development. It is truly a blessing when one can conduct a Bible discussion with another.
Prayers in behalf of such disciple-making “business,” or trade, will no doubt cause honest-hearted persons in need appear out of no where. How one goes about this is a matter of person choice. What is important is that when the Master returns for the parousia-judgment on his own Household, each of us make speak freely about how we increased the Master’s business. Whether five, three, or one, we will not have buried our talent. Rather we may be surrounded by disciples of Christ whom we assisted on a course of ‘following the lamb no matter where he goes.’ [Revelation 14:4]
“Now, little children, continue to abide in [Jesus]
so when the time comes for him to be made visible
we all might speak openly and freely at his Arrival
and not experience embarrassment while standing before him
. . . on the Day of Judgment.”
[1 John 2:28;4:17 NCMM Paraphrase]
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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