“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” Luke 16:19-31
Today’s parable has a lot to teach us. First we have the rich man who had all the creature comforts he could ask for. He lacked nothing. But all his riches could not keep him from dying. Now we have him crying out to Abraham for relief from his torment. Moses tells the rich man that he got his reward on earth. Hum. Does that mean those of us who are well off are destined to a bad place when we die? No, but is does mean that when we have so much here in this life we can start to believe that everything we have is by our on hand and we have no need for God. We can spend time patting ourselves on the back for all we accomplished not ever giving thanks to God for our fortune.
What about the Lazarus? Are all the poor and sick automatically going to a better place? Again the answer is no. The poor and ill can blame others. They can blame God and never accept Him. But those less well-off can also be thankful for the little they do have. They often realize that what they do have on earth is only through God’s grace. That is why Lazarus is with Abraham, he was obedient to God even though he was poor and ill. The rich man however never gave thanks to God so because he rejected God in their life God rejected him in the next life.
Jesus also had another reason to tell the Pharisees this parable. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn the rich man’s brother of the fate that awaited them if they did not change their ways. Abraham tells the rich man that they had Moses and the prophets to warn them and all they need do is listen to them. Then he says something that will come true in a very short while. Abraham tells the rich man that even if someone came back from the dead will the brothers be convinced. Thousands of Jews alive when Jesus was resurrected refused to believe their own eyes and missed the biggest event in man’s history as well as a chance to be with God for all eternity.
For the Jewish people there was little doubt that the Messiah was to come at the time Jesus was here on earth. Daniel had given them the timeline. Their problem is that Jesus was not the Messiah they wanted. They were looking for a warrior who would free them from the Roman oppression. They were concerned with an earthly kingdom while Jesus was telling them about a heavenly kingdom. They wanted the here and now solved and Jesus was teaching about the next life. Finally they could not conceive that God’s anointed on would be put to death. The Jewish people wanted to defeat the Romans and Jesus came to defeat death.
Now a change of subject. I have used today’s verses as a rebuttal of a Jehovah’s Witness belief. It was a Saturday morning a few years back. As is my habit on Saturdays I was enjoying a mug of tea while reading the paper. I was sitting in my chair wearing pajamas and my robe when the doorbell rings. There at the door in a suit was a man in his thirties Bible and watchtower in hand. He starts in using the Bible to prove his points. One of which is that when we die we are in a non-conscious state, total unaware of anything. We do not even dream. In fact they believe that when we die we enter a state of unconscious non-existence. When the man came to this belief he stated it as I did at first that we are unconscious. It was at that point that I asked him to turn to today’s verses in his Bible and read the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man.
I ask him if that did not seem to say we are conscious in death. He answered that it was just a story and was not real. I countered with the fact that Jesus’’ parable while they may or may not have actually happened did in fact convey the truth and that Jesus could not lie. He did agree with my point but then insisted that he needed to bring an elder to answer my objections. Unfortunately that never happened. Every Christian needs to be able to defend why we believe what we believe. When the doorbell rings we should at least be ready to ask questions and move the unbeliever to the parts of the Bible that underpin our faith. Also, it is okay to say you don’t know but will get back to them with an answer.
Have a blessed day,