Too rich (Lk 18:23-18:23)

“But when he heard this,

He became sad.

He was very rich.”

 

ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας ταῦτα περίλυπος ἐγενήθη, ἦν γὰρ πλούσιος σφόδρα.

 

Luke indicated that when this ruler heard this (ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας ταῦτα), he became sad or grieved (περίλυπος ἐγενήθη), because he was extremely rich (ἦν γὰρ πλούσιος σφόδρα).  This story about the young man being sad and walking away can be found in Mark, chapter 10:22, and Matthew, chapter 19:22, but slightly different.  Luke did not explicitly say that the ruler went away, as in the other synoptic stories, just that he was sad.  Mark said that this man was shocked at these words of Jesus (ὁ δὲ στυγνάσας ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ).  Thus, he went away pained or grieving (ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος), because he had many possessions or a lot of property (ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά).  In Matthew, when the young man heard this saying of Jesus (ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ νεανίσκος τὸν λόγον), he went away pained or grieving (ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος), because he had many possessions or a lot of property (ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά).  This rich young man was willing to listen to Jesus but could not bring himself to totally commit his life, by giving up his worldly possessions.  Thus, he went away very sad, because he realized his own situation, that he lacked the urge to make that final commitment to Jesus, by getting rid of his earthly wealth.  Are you willing to make that big step?

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Fasting (Mt 6:16-6:16)

“When you fast,

Do not look gloomy,

Like the hypocrites!

They disfigure

Their faces

So as to show others

That they are fasting.

Truly,

I say to you!

‘They have received

Their reward.’”

 

Ὅταν δὲ νηστεύητε, μὴ γίνεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταὶ σκυθρωποί· ἀφανίζουσιν γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.

 

Once again, this saying of Jesus is unique to Matthew.  The phraseology and content are similar to the earlier comments on almsgiving.  When you fast (Ὅταν δὲ νηστεύητε), you should not be like the hypocrites (ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταὶ).  The Greek word “οἱ ὑποκριταὶ” originally meant actors or someone who sought praise, while acting deceitfully.  According to Matthew, these hypocrites were usually the enemies of Jesus.  In this case they looked sad, dismal or gloomy (σκυθρωποί) since they were deliberately disfiguring their faces (ἀφανίζουσιν γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν).  Thus, other people could see that they were fasting (ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες).  Some pious Jews would fast twice a week.  Jesus also fasted for 40 days, so his followers could fast also.  As usual, Matthew has Jesus give a solemn saying (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) concluding that these men who sought human approval have already received their reward here on earth (ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν).

No more pity for Jerusalem (Jer 15:6-15:9)

“Says Yahweh.

‘You have rejected me!

You are going backward.

I have stretched out my hand

Against you.

I destroyed you.

I am weary of relenting.

I have winnowed them

With a winnowing fork

In the gates of the land.

I have bereaved them.

I have destroyed my people.

They did not turn from their ways.

I have made their widows

More numerous than the sand of the seas.

I have brought

Against the mothers of young men

A destroyer at noonday.

I have made anguish fall on her suddenly.

I have made terror fall on her suddenly.

She who bore seven has languished.

She has swooned away.

Her sun went down

While it was yet day.

She has been shamed.

She has been disgraced.

The rest of them

I will give to the sword

Before their enemies.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, says that they have rejected and turned against him. Thus Yahweh stretched out his hand and destroyed them. He was tired of forgiving them. He tried to winnow them out to find the good ones. He made them sad by destroying them. They would not turn away from their evil ways. Thus they may have more widows than all the sand in the seas. That is quite a big hyperbolic number. The destroyer came at noon against young mothers. Even strong women who had 7 children were fainting. The sun was setting before the day was done since they were ashamed and disgraced. Anyone left over would suffer the hardship of the deadly sword.

The wicked (Prov 14:9-14:13)

“Fools mock at the guilt offering.

But the upright enjoy God’s favor.

The heart knows its own bitterness.

No stranger shares its joy.

The house of the wicked will be destroyed.

But the tent of the upright will flourish.

There is a way that seems right to a person.

But its end is the way to death.

Even in laughter

The heart is sad.

The end of joy is grief.”

Although the Hebrew text is difficult, it appears that fools do not see any value in the guilt offering. God scorns the wicked people, but he enjoys the upright ones. The heart knows the bitterness that no stranger can share in. The house of the wicked person will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will be fine. Sometimes we think that we are on the right path but it may actually lead to death. Even when some people laugh, their heart is sad, since the end of their joy leads to grief.

The distress of Sarah (Tob 3:10-3:10)

“On that day, she was grieved in spirit and wept. When she had gone up to her father’s upper room, she intended to hang herself. But she thought it over and said.

‘Never shall they reproach my father, saying to him.

‘You had only one beloved daughter

But she hanged herself because of her distress.’

I shall bring my father in his old age down in sorrow to Hades.

It is better for me not to hang myself.

Rather I will pray to the Lord that I may die,

So that I will not listen to these reproaches anymore.’”

Like Tobit, she is distressed and depressed. She even thought of hanging herself. However, she was an only child and did not want to disgrace her father. She did not want to make him sad in his old age and thus send him to Hades. She decided that she would pray to the Lord instead of listening to these reproaches. This work has a lot of talk about the afterlife, eternal life, and Hades.

Nehemiah and King Artaxerxes (Neh 2:1-2:8)

“At that time, I was the cupbearer to the king. In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was served him, I carried the wine. I gave it to the king. I had never been sad in his presence before. So the king said to me. ‘Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This can only be sadness of the heart.’ Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king. ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my ancestors’ graves, lies waste? Its gates have been destroyed by fire.’ Then the king said to me. ‘What do you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said to the king. ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, so that I may rebuild it.’ The king said to me, with the queen sitting beside him. ‘How long will you be gone? When will you return?’ So it pleased the king to send me. I set him a date. Then I said to the king. ‘If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may grant me passage until I arrive in Judah. Grant me a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, directing him to give me timber. Then I can make beams for the gates of the temple fortress, for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.’ The king granted me what I asked. The gracious hand of my God was upon me.”

The cupbearer to the king was an important position with royal power. This is a firsthand account of his conversation with the king, which he seems to know quite well. It does not say how long he had been the cup bearer. Anyway, Nehemiah had a sad face and seemed troubled. The king asked him what was wrong since he had never seemed troubled before this. King Artaxerxes wanted to help him. Then Nehemiah gave him his request. He wanted to go to Judah to repair the graves of his ancestors. The graves were not his main motive. Then the king immediately wanted to know how long he would be gone, as if to say I need you here. Nehemiah gave an unspecified date. He also wanted letters of passage to the Province Beyond the River. On top of that, he wanted the guy in charge of the forests to let him have some wood to build the gates of the temple, the city, and his own home. Notice that someone was in charge of the forests and the wood. They were worried about the environment. The king said fine, because the gracious hand of God was with Nehemiah.