Luke 16:19-17:10 (KJV):
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
17 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Derek Leman’s comments:
NOTES: Luke has emphasized repeatedly Yeshua’s teaching about renouncing all attachment to possessions, about the importance of almsgiving, and about the kingdom perspective of reward and punishment. The rich man and Lazarus parable is not the place to find information about what the afterlife is like. Parables feature concrete images and unusual descriptions without needing to be taken literally. The term “Abraham’s bosom” reflects the tradition of viewing the afterlife as being “gathered to the fathers” (Johnson). As in a Greco-Roman symposium (banquet), the place of honor is to recline next to the head of the banquet, so Lazarus is pictured as reclining next to Abraham. See Matt 8:11 for the “table of Abraham”. See Luke 13:28 for the idea of people seeing the patriarchs in the kingdom. Many times Yeshua has taught the principle of reversal: those who make this life about riches are poor in the life to come and vice-versa. The whole parable is a denunciation of Yeshua’s opponents, Pharisees in this case, who Luke informs us are “lovers of money” and were scoffing at Yeshua. The Pharisees were a party seeking political power in order to enforce their notions of Torah purity on the people. Yeshua has said that their Torah teaching lacks the intensity of the kingdom ethic. They are not as good at Torah piety as they imagine. Almsgiving is an example of true Torah. So, in this parable, Yeshua makes the decisive point that Moses cannot help a person who refuses to submit to the announcement of the kingdom and to live for its coming. As Luke Timothy Johnson says of these Pharisees who opposed Yeshua, “In spite of their claim to hold the demands of the law, they reject the outcasts among the people.” So they will reject the one who comes back from the dead (vs. 31). Luke Johnson suggests that after a long section denouncing the comfortable and privileged, Yeshua now issues in 17:1-10 a demanding challenge for his followers. It may be true that as the poor or marginalized they tend to be humble, but they too need faith, must forgive, and in so doing are only doing their duty. In other words, Yeshua turns from excoriating his powerful adversaries to making hard demands of his followers. The marginalized followers of Yeshua should not rejoice in being a scandal to the power-mongers. Causing stumbling is never something to rejoice about. And if the scandal caused by the disciple falls on the “little ones,” likely a term taken over from Matthew referring to disciples of Yeshua, then the guilt for causing it is very high. In other words, we have a responsibility to assist the faith of others and not do anything to bring it down. Likewise, we cannot nurse the private satisfaction of wringing guilt from others, but must readily forgive offenses against us. These hard demands caused the disciples to say, “Increase our faith.” Yeshua replied that if they had the smallest grain of faith it would be enough to uproot trees. In other words, it is not the amount of faith but the power of the one in whom we have faith that matters. Focus on our own religious affections can be counter-productive whereas focus on the greatness of God and Messiah is paramount. Yeshua then continues his hard teaching. When we so live for others as to avoid causing scandal and to forgive repeatedly, we have only done our duty. The radical life of discipleship is not cause for high praise. To focus on our own greatness would again be counter-productive. It is the Master we must serve and not ourselves.