What we pursue: reflections

Lazarus-Rich-ManFrom Alan R. Culpepper [319-20]

Did the brothers ever get the message? We are not told, for that is the question the parable leaves us to answer. Each of us will write our own ending to the story.

1. Archbishop Richard Trench, writing on this parable more than a century ago, compared the diseases that afflicted the two characters:

The sin of Dives in its root is unbelief: hard-hearted contempt of the poor, luxurious squandering on self, are only the forms which his sin assumes. The seat of the disease is within; these are but the running sores which witness for the inward plague. He who believes not in an invisible world of righteousness and truth and spiritual joy, must place his hope in things which he sees, which he can handle, and taste, and smell. It is not of the essence of the matter, whether he hoards [like the rich fool, 12:16–21] or squanders [like the prodigal son, 15:11–32]: in either case he puts his trust in the world.

The rich man, therefore, characterizes the life of one who serves mammon because he has no confidence in God (cf. 16:13). Continue reading

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What we pursue: Act 3

Lazarus-Rich-ManAct 3 – The Dialogues. To a first century hearer of the parable, the fates of the two would have been surprising for it went against the grain of the common wisdom: blessings in this life were a sign of God’s favor while illness, poverty, and hardship were a sign of God’s curses. Yet the one well “blessed” in his lifetime is now tormented in the netherworld (see the Note on 16:23 below) where he can see Lazarus and Abraham across the great chasm that divides them (v.26).

The First Exchange. 24 And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ 25 Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. 26 Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ Continue reading

What we pursue: Act 2

Lazarus-Rich-Man22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

Act 2 – The Rich Become Poor and the Poor Become Rich. The Act is briefly told and simply describes the fate of our two characters. “When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment…” (vv.22-23a). We are not told how Lazarus died. Was it starvation? Again we are reminded of Jesus’ admonition to the Pharisees. “Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (14:12-14).  Was it exposure and hypothermia while the rich man slept nearby? Infected sores while the rich enjoyed baths and healing ointments? Perhaps weakened and unable to defend himself, the dogs took his life. Continue reading

What we pursue: Act 1

Lazarus-Rich-Man19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.

Culpepper well describes this parable as a drama in three acts (Luke, 316):

  • Act 1 – a tableau during which the characters are introduced and their way of life is described, but nothing happens
  • Act 2 – the rich become poor and the poor become rich as each character has died and received their eternal reward
  • Act 3 – narration give way to dialogue, but between the rich man and Abraham, in three exchanges:
    • about the finality of judgment
    • about the witness of Moses and the prophets
    • about the blindness that prevents even the Resurrection from leading to conversion

Continue reading

Lazrus: dialogues

Lazarus-Rich-ManAct 3 – The Dialogues

To a first century hearer of the parable, the fates of the two would have been surprising for it went against the grain of the common wisdom: blessings in this life were a sign of God’s favor while illness, poverty, and hardship were a sign of God’s curses. Yet the one well “blessed” in his lifetime is now tormented in the netherworld (see the Note on 16:23 below) where he can see Lazarus and Abraham across the great chasm that divides them (v.26). Continue reading

Lazarus: the reversal

Lazarus-Rich-ManCulpepper well describes this parable as a drama in three acts (Luke, 316):

  • Act 1 – a tableau during which the characters are introduced and their way of life is described, but nothing happens
  • Act 2 – the rich become poor and the poor become rich as each character has died and received their eternal reward
  • Act 3 – narration give way to dialogue, but between the rich man and Abraham, in three exchanges:
    • about the finality of judgment
    • about the witness of Moses and the prophets
    • about the blindness that prevents even the Resurrection from leading to conversion

Continue reading

Lazarus: context

Lazarus-Rich-Man19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. 22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ 25 Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. 26 Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ 27 He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’” Continue reading

Empathy

empathy2Three short verses that paint quite a picture.  “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.”  Three short verses that have been captured in artwork across the ages. Three short verses have enough vividness to conjure an image in our own mind’s eye.  Can you conjure the image for yourself? “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.”  What part of the imagery draws your mind’s eye? Is it the rich man?  Does he look smug? Happy? Oblivious?  Unaware? Occupied with more weighty matters? Continue reading

Lazarus and the Rich Man – Act 1

Act 1 – The Tableau

The first three verses contain a sharp contrast in description between Lazarus and the unnamed “lover of money.”

  • The rich man is clothed in purple and fine linen where Lazarus is covered with sores or ulcers
  • The rich man “dined sumptuously each day” while Lazarus longed to eat what fell from the table, but can’t.
  • The rich man lives a privileged life while Lazarus ebeblêto pros ton pulôna, literally, “had been thrown before the gate” of the rich man’s house.

It is perhaps noteworthy that the first word in a Greek phrase is a position of stress, as is the last word in a phrase.  Even the Lucan grammar seems to stress the contrast between the two men: Continue reading

Lazarus and the Rich Man – context

Притча о Лазаре. 1886Luke 16:19-31

19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. 22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angles to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Continue reading