They did not start from Jericho until near noon since they sat up late the night before while Jesus taught Zaccheus and his family the gospel of the kingdom. About halfway up the ascending road to Bethany the party paused for lunch while the multitude passed on to Jerusalem, not knowing that Jesus and the apostles were going to abide that night on the Mount of Olives.
The parable of the pounds, unlike the parable of the talents, which was intended for all the disciples, was spoken more exclusively to the apostles and was largely based on the experience of Archelaus and his futile attempt to gain the rule of the kingdom of Judea. This is one of the few parables of the Master to be founded on an actual historic character. It was not strange that they should have had Archelaus in mind inasmuch as the house of Zaccheus in Jericho was very near the ornate palace of Archelaus, and his aqueduct ran along the road by which they had departed from Jericho.
Said Jesus: “You think that the Son of Man goes up to Jerusalem to receive a kingdom, but I declare that you are doomed to disappointment. Do you not remember about a certain prince who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, but even before he could return, the citizens of his province, who in their hearts had already rejected him, sent an embassy after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us’? As this king was rejected in the temporal rule, so is the Son of Man to be rejected in the spiritual rule. Again I declare that my kingdom is not of this world; but if the Son of Man had been accorded the spiritual rule of his people, he would have accepted such a kingdom of men’s souls and would have reigned over such a dominion of human hearts. Notwithstanding that they reject my spiritual rule over them, I will return again to receive from others such a kingdom of spirit as is now denied me. You will see the Son of Man rejected now, but in another age that which the children of Abraham now reject will be received and exalted.
“And now, as the rejected nobleman of this parable, I would call before me my twelve servants, special stewards, and giving into each of your hands the sum of one pound, I would admonish each to heed well my instructions that you trade diligently with your trust fund while I am away that you may have wherewith to justify your stewardship when I return, when a reckoning shall be required of you.
“And even if this rejected Son should not return, another Son will be sent to receive this kingdom, and this Son will then send for all of you to receive your report of stewardship and to be made glad by your gains.
“And when these stewards were subsequently called together for an accounting, the first came forward, saying, ‘Lord, with your pound I have made ten pounds more.’ And his master said to him: ‘Well done; you are a good servant; because you have proved faithful in this matter, I will give you authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Your pound left with me, Lord, has made five pounds.’ And the master said, ‘I will accordingly make you ruler over five cities.’ And so on down through the others until the last of the servants, on being called to account, reported: ‘Lord, behold, here is your pound, which I have kept safely done up in this napkin. And this I did because I feared you; I believed that you were unreasonable, seeing that you take up where you have not laid down, and that you seek to reap where you have not sown.’ Then said his lord: ‘You negligent and unfaithful servant, I will judge you out of your own mouth. You knew that I reap where I have apparently not sown; therefore you knew this reckoning would be required of you. Knowing this, you should have at least given my money to the banker that at my coming I might have had it with proper interest.’
“And then said this ruler to those who stood by: ‘Take the money from this slothful servant and give it to him who has ten pounds.’ And when they reminded the master that such a one already had ten pounds, he said: ‘To every one who has shall be given more, but from him who has not, even that which he has shall be taken away from him.’”
And then the apostles sought to know the difference between the meaning of this parable and that of the former parable of the talents, but Jesus would only say, in answer to their many questions: “Ponder well these words in your hearts while each of you finds out their true meaning.”
It was Nathaniel who so well taught the meaning of these two parables in the after years, summing up his teachings in these conclusions:
1. Ability is the practical measure of life’s opportunities. You will never be held responsible for the accomplishment of that which is beyond your abilities.
2. Faithfulness is the unerring measure of human trustworthiness. He who is faithful in little things is also likely to exhibit faithfulness in everything consistent with his endowments.
3. The Master grants the lesser reward for lesser faithfulness when there is like opportunity.
4. He grants a like reward for like faithfulness when there is lesser opportunity.
When they had finished their lunch, and after the multitude of followers had gone on toward Jerusalem, Jesus, standing there before the apostles in the shade of an overhanging rock by the roadside, with cheerful dignity and a gracious majesty pointed his finger westward, saying: “Come, my brethren, let us go on into Jerusalem, there to receive that which awaits us; thus shall we fulfill the will of the heavenly Father in all things.”
And so Jesus and his apostles resumed this, the Master’s last journey to Jerusalem in the likeness of the flesh of mortal man.