LUKE 16:19-31 APRIL 5, 2015
Last week I read an article about a couple who had faithfully followed the directions that their GPS system provided them. The driver followed the directions and chose to ignore the signs that informed him of the road being closed to all traffic and the numerous signs that indicated that the bridge was out. The bridge was torn down in 2009 and was not rebuilt. The driver had to go around the barricades before he drove off into the river. His wife was killed and he was severely injured. Jesus gave fair warning of what would happen if people chose to ignore his warnings. May the Lord open our ears to hear the warning and to also speak to others of the life saving message of redemption found only in Jesus Christ.
This is the only parable in which Jesus names someone. The name Lazarus was common and as such, Lazarus could represent anyone who was poor and sick and unable to provide for himself. The rich man represents every person who is well off and who chooses to close his eyes, ears, and heart. This story is vivid in detail and catches our attention and provides us necessary information on what happens after death.
Lazarus was a rich man who lived on a large estate in an enclosed compound with an entrance gate. I am reminded of the many gated communities that exist throughout our country as people want to be protected from the rest of society. We know that the rich man was quite wealthy as his clothing was of purple color and he also wore clothes of fine linen. Purple was usually reserved for royalty as the purple dye was very rare and hard to gather in sufficient quantities to die cloth. His purple garment was most likely a cloak which was his outer garment. Yet he was also rich enough to have linen undergarments instead of the homespun clothes that the majority of people had. Jesus also mentioned that Lazarus was able to dine well every day.
In contrast the beggar, named Lazarus, was of poor health with open sores and lived outside the gate of the rich man. Jesus noted that the dogs licked his sores. These dogs were not pets but wild dogs and because of their licking the sores Lazarus would be considered unclean and unable to participate in worship or associate with other people. It was the practice of the time for people to use bread to wipe their hands to clean off the grease. Then people would throw the bread out for dogs and anyone willing to eat scraps, which Jesus indicates Lazarus lived on these scraps.
As we all know nothing stays the same forever as death comes to all people. The story then changes to what happened after both men died. Luke 16:22-23 (NIV) 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.”
In the Old Testament righteous people were said to join the Patriarchs at their side. It also indicates that Lazarus was now at a banquet where he was being honored by being placed next to Abraham. The roles have been reversed. Lazarus is now enjoying eternity with God while the rich man has been sent to hell, where he is in torment. Notice how the rich man appeals to Abraham by claiming kinship. The rich man did not address God. Luke 16:24 (NIV) “24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’”
Even in death the rich man reveals his arrogance and pride as he asks for Lazarus to wait upon him as a servant. Also note that he knew his name which means he chose to ignore him while he was living and did not help the poor at all. The Old Testament scriptures make it clear that all who love God are to care for the poor and needy. Even in death the rich man did not have a change of heart but still expected Lazarus to wait upon him.
Listen to the correction of the rich man. Luke 16:25-26 (NIV) 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’” Abraham answers the rich man with compassion but reminds of him of the truth of what occurred. Abraham reminded him that while living he had his heart’s desire but now he was in torment because he chose to ignore Lazarus when he had the opportunity to assist him. It is also important to note that a great chasm exists between the two realms, between heaven and hell. One cannot cross over from one place to the other. When we die it is too late to have a change of heart and be welcomed into heaven. While living the rich man had plenty of opportunities to help Lazarus but chose to do nothing. We must come to Christ while we have the opportunity. After death nothing can change the result.
For the first time the rich man, knowing that nothing can help him, asks for someone to be sent to his brothers to tell them the hard cold facts by providing a warning to them from the dead. Listen to the last of the story from the Living Bible. Luke 16:27-31 “Then the rich man said, ‘O Father Abraham, then please send him to my father’s home- for I have five brothers- to warn them about this place of torment lest they come here when they die. But Abraham said, The scriptures have warned them again and again. Your brothers can read them any time they want to. The rich man replied, No, Father Abraham, they won’t bother to read them. But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins. But Abraham said, If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even though someone rises from the dead.”
The facts are these: many people do not want to listen to the truth of God’s Word. They did not listen during the time of the Old Testament and even since the resurrection of Jesus, people still harden their hearts to the truth and will not listen to God’s command to be kind to the poor and needy. How many times did we ignore the warnings of our parents when we were young and foolish? It is only as we mature that we begin to understand the dangers our parents were warning us to avoid. Very little changes when we close our ears, minds, and hearts to the truth of God’s words of warning that judgment is coming! Now is the time to hear the Spirit of God speaking to us.
Jesus has been raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf for those who have come to him by faith. The message of this story is two-fold: 1. Christ calls us to come to him by faith and accept his grace when we confess and repent of our sins. 2. Our faith will result in a changed heart where we see and then respond to help those in need. Every day we are tested by how we respond or not respond to the plight of the needy. I have noticed that many of those who live in large cities when they walk the streets will not make eye contact with the street people. They know that if they make eye contact then the homeless person will come up to them and ask for assistance. Have we grown so hardened that we do not even see those in need? Easter is the time when we praise him for his power to save us from death and lead us by faith to the gates of heaven!
Christ is risen!
Let us pray.