D.A. Carson on Luke 16:19-31

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I got the chance to hear a noted New Testament Theologian speak, whose books I have read and sermons I’ve watched and heard online, here on the shores of Malaysia. Some might pose a smile as they have heard other well-known speakers but for someone living on the East Side of Malaysia, chances like this is posed as rare. Anyway, the night services were free so what the heck, it was an opportunity of a life time. Well that was overstating it, but for me it was really.

Carson spoke on the parables, and with the night I attended being the final night, he spoke on Luke 16:19-31. Here are some notes I scribbled while listening.


-Was Jesus talking about a change of status in the life to come depicted in the parable? No.

– How then should we integrate this parable in the gospel of Luke?

Contextual proofs to the text:

*Preceding the given text (16:19-31) in v.13, talks about two masters, allegiance the context here talks about money being the idol.

* v.11- God gives us worldly wealth the question is what one does with wealth.

*v.15ff- Sub theme in Luke- self justification vs God’s justification. The pharisees sought a justification of self that was mirrored in their success.

Two divisions when reading this parable: The Narrative and The dialogue:

1. The Narrative

*Note the constant mention of contrast between Lazarus and the rich man.

*purple cloth expensive, used by rich people, designate their status

*gate- a hedge, protection- this gives us the idea that the dogs mentioned in the parable were guard dogs.

*a beggar named Lazarus which means one who God helps. Note the comparison with the rich man? He was laid at the gate and unable to walk. This depicts his condition being really ill. He was probably laid there by villagers so that the rich man might show kindness to him. This was the practice and understanding of people during that time.

*rich man gave food to the dogs but left nothing to Lazarus, a fellow human being.

*Lazarus, when he died went to Abraham’s bosom. Some understanding of this can be gained by remembering John’s depiction of the last supper where there he leaned on Jesus’ bosom. In this understanding we note that Lazarus now was dining at the feast in heaven with Abraham.

*Note the reversal of positions.

*Rich man also dies. There is no talk about angels carry him like Lazarus. He wakes up in torment.

*Somehow in this parable he is enabled to converse with Abraham.

2. The Dialouge

*v.24- 1st cycle

-rich man doesn’t even speak to Lazarus- he was concerned about his own suffering (asking for water and making no mention about him being sorry or repentant)

-we see that he ignored Lazarus on earth and even at the point of eternity.

-the rich man was still holding his own self importance even at this point

*v.27- 2nd Cycle

-rich man is still not repentant- concerned only for his own.

-Abraham tells him that they have the scriptures to warn them

*v.30-31 3rd Cycle

-rich man even tries to correct Abraham’s theology in that he tells Abraham to send someone from the dead. Surely he thought that the will hear this person.

-still the rich man tries to justify himself in the grim reality of hell.

Theological Reflection:

  1. Things we are tempted to take pride in may actually blind us of our need for grace. Note on who is the one that God hears in the parable? We are to beware of the love of money.
  2. Implicitly in this parable, what Jesus calls the standard two point of the commandment (love God, love Neighbor) the rich man fails in fulfilling even one of the two.
  3. We are to listen to the witness of scripture or we are damned.
  4. There is a place of rejoicing to pursue. There is a place of torment to avoid. Think in terms of eternity.

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