Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
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19 "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.
20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores,
21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried;
23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.'
25 But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'
27 And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house,
28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.'
29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'
30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"
19 Ἄνθρωπος δέ τις ἦν πλούσιος, καὶ ἐνεδιδύσκετο πορφύραν καὶ βύσσον εὐφραινόμενος καθ᾿ ἡμέραν λαμπρῶς. 20 πτωχὸς δέ τις ἦν ὀνόματι Λάζαρος, ὃς ἐβέβλητο πρὸς τὸν πυλῶνα αὐτοῦ ἡλκωμένος 21 καὶ ἐπιθυμῶν χορτασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν ψιχίων τῶν πιπτόντων ἀπὸ τῆς τραπέζης τοῦ πλουσίου· ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ κύνες ἐρχόμενοι ἀπέλειχον τὰ ἕλκη αὐτοῦ. 22 ἐγένετο δὲ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πτωχὸν καὶ ἀπενεχθῆναι αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀγγέλων εἰς τὸν κόλπον Ἀβραάμ· ἀπέθανε δὲ καὶ ὁ πλούσιος καὶ ἐτάφη. 23 καὶ ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ, ὑπάρχων ἐν βασάνοις, ὁρᾷ τὸν Ἀβραὰμ ἀπὸ μακρόθεν καὶ Λάζαρον ἐν τοῖς κόλποις αὐτοῦ. 24 καὶ αὐτὸς φωνήσας εἶπε· πάτερ Ἀβραάμ, ἐλέησόν με καὶ πέμψον Λάζαρον ἵνα βάψῃ τὸ ἄκρον τοῦ δακτύλου αὐτοῦ ὕδατος καὶ καταψύξῃ τὴν γλῶσσάν μου, ὅτι ὀδυνῶμαι ἐν τῇ φλογὶ ταύτῃ. 25 εἶπε δὲ Ἀβραάμ· τέκνον, μνήσθητι ὅτι ἀπέλαβες σὺ τὰ ἀγαθά σου ἐν τῇ ζωῇ σου, καὶ Λάζαρος ὁμοίως τὰ κακά· νῦν δὲ ὧδε παρακαλεῖται, σὺ δὲ ὀδυνᾶσαι· 26 καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσι τούτοις μεταξὺ ἡμῶν καὶ ὑμῶν χάσμα μέγα ἐστήρικται, ὅπως οἱ θέλοντες διαβῆναι ἔνθεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς μὴ δύνωνται, μηδὲ οἱ ἐκεῖθεν πρὸς ἡμᾶς διαπερῶσιν. 27 εἶπε δέ· ἐρωτῶ οὖν σε, πάτερ, ἵνα πέμψῃς αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ πατρός μου· 28 ἔχω γὰρ πέντε ἀδελφούς· ὅπως διαμαρτύρηται αὐτοῖς, ἵνα μὴ καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔλθωσιν εἰς τὸν τόπον τοῦτον τῆς βασάνου. 29 λέγει αὐτῷ Ἀβραάμ· ἔχουσι Μωϋσέα καὶ τοὺς προφήτας· ἀκουσάτωσαν αὐτῶν. 30 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· οὐχί, πάτερ Ἀβραάμ, ἀλλ᾿ ἐάν τις ἀπὸ νεκρῶν πορευθῇ πρὸς αὐτούς, μετανοήσουσιν. 31 εἶπε δὲ αὐτῷ· εἰ Μωϋσέως καὶ τῶν προφητῶν οὐκ ἀκούουσιν, οὐδὲ ἐάν τις ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστῇ πεισθήσονται.
Larger Thought Unit
Chapter 16 is a single unit with the two main parables with totally different emphases beginning with the phrase: “There was a certain rich man.” The first one emphasizes the shrewd steward who acts decisively to secure his future when faced with coming judgment, with the warning to disciples to do likewise. The latter attacks the Pharisees and those who think that their wealth (however defined) provides them with a certain status all the while neglecting those who have no status at all.
This parable is about the centrality and the perennial value of the Law and the Prophets, i.e., the word of God as embedded in the words of the Old Testament, for Jesus’ followers. This is corroborated by the introductory assertion: “"The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void.” (Lk 16:16-17)
It is this word, according to Paul, that teaches through and through that the love for the neighbor is the epitome of God’s will and is therefore the key to our inheritance of the kingdom (Gal 5:6, 14, 21-23). Furthermore, according to the same Paul, the central expression of this teaching is table fellowship (Gal 2:1-14).
In this parable, the Jew, rich in that the Law and the Prophets were delivered to him (notice that he is aware of their content, Lk 16:29-31; see also Rom 3:1-2), does not want to share even the crumbs of his table with the Gentile Lazarus (notice how he lives with the dogs; see Mt 15:6, 26-27; Mk 7:27-28). However, Lazarus (whose meaning in Hebrew is ‘God is [my] help’) is saved through God’s mercy, as the gospel teaches, whereas the rich man incurs the curse of the Law because he contravenes it. Not even the resurrection from the dead will be of help for him, since the function of the resurrection is not to save us but to bring us into judgment. It is only our abiding by God’s will that allows us to inherit the kingdom.
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.2: Luke and Acts, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2001; pp.143-36.
Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke, Smith & Helwys Publishing, Macon GA, 2002; pp. 183-188.