Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost
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18 And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
19 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
20 You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'"
21 And he said, "All these I have observed from my youth."
22 And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
23 But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich.
24 Jesus looking at him said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!
25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
26 Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?"
27 But he said, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."
18 Καὶ ἐπηρώτησέ τις αὐτὸν ἄρχων λέγων· διδάσκαλε ἀγαθέ, τί ποιήσας ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω; 19 εἶπε δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ Θεός. 20 τὰς ἐντολὰς οἶδας· μὴ μοιχεύσῃς, μὴ φονεύσῃς, μὴ κλέψῃς, μὴ ψευδομαρτυρήσῃς, τίμα τὸν πατέρα σου καὶ τὴν μητέρα σου. 21 ὁ δὲ εἶπε· ταῦτα πάντα ἐφυλαξάμην ἐκ νεότητός μου. 22 ἀκούσας δὲ ταῦτα ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἔτι ἕν σοι λείπει· πάντα ὅσα ἔχεις πώλησον καὶ διάδος πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι. 23 ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας ταῦτα περίλυπος ἐγένετο· ἦν γὰρ πλούσιος σφόδρα. 24 ἰδὼν δὲ αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς περίλυπον γενόμενον εἶπε· πῶς δυσκόλως οἱ τὰ χρήματα ἔχοντες εἰσελεύσονται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ! 25 εὐκοπώτερον γάρ ἐστι κάμηλον διὰ τρυμαλιᾶς ραφίδος εἰσελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν. 26 εἶπον δὲ οἱ ἀκούσαντες· καὶ τίς δύναται σωθῆναι; 27 ὁ δὲ εἶπε· τὰ ἀδύνατα παρὰ ἀνθρώποις δυνατὰ παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ ἐστιν.
Larger Thought Unit
The larger unit comprises Luke 18-9-19:10. The introduction to this section is the question posed in 18:8: “When the Son of Man comes, will he really find faith on the earth?” It ends with the story of Zacchaeus and the announcement of the coming of salvation to his house because the “Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” At the center of the discussion is the ruler, i.e., leader, who asks the ultimate question concerning eternal life. By the end of the discussion, he is exposed as an idolater when he chooses his wealth over giving to the poor, following Christ, and having treasure in heaven, while the rest of the unit brings to the foreground the blind beggar of Jericho and Zacchaeus (both outcasts and outsiders) who are quick to follow when given the opportunity.
What applied to the Jewish νομικός (Lk 10:25-37) applies to any, including Gentile leader (ἄρχων), i.e., to all leaders who are in charge of teaching others: in order to inherit eternal life, one must listen to God’s word as expressed in his Law. God himself is the only “good” teacher since his commandments were issued for our good, unto the inheritance of life, as it is underscored especially in Deuteronomy and the Prophets. Jesus here does what he did when answering the testing Satan, where he replied from the “words of God” as they stand in Deuteronomy (Lk 4:1-13). In the same vein, Jesus is offering his own path (“and follow me”) as a sure way for the leader and any disciple who is interested in a higher level of assuredness. And the sure way is to remember that the real divine treasury does not lie in the temple of Jerusalem or any other earthly temple (Lk 4:5-8), but in the temple of the Jerusalem above (Gal 4:21-27). And God is able to do the impossible: make of the followers of Jesus “children of the promise, like Isaac” (Gal 4:23, 28).
Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke, Smith & Helwys Publishing, Macon, GA 2002; pp. 199-206.
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.2: Luke and Acts, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2001; pp.143-44.