November 8 - Luke 16:19-31

Friday, November 8, 2013

Luke 16:19-42 – Rich Man and Lazarus

To fully understand this story, we have to remember the context in which Jesus is speaking. He has been dealing with the Pharisees and their intentional refusal to follow their own Scriptures – the Law and the Prophets (Luke 16:16, 29). There were in exactly the same straits as the rich man’s brothers. They had Moses and the Prophets to guide them, but rather than live according to the scriptures and in their professed belief in the future and in future judgment, they were much more interested in being extremely comfortable while on earth. It was wealth and good things that they pursued while on earth, just as the rich man did.

Jesus tells his listeners that our attitude to God is confirmed in this life and cannot be changed in the next life. The decisions we make today will affect our eternity.

This rich man is identified by wearing extravagant clothing and living sumptuously every day. His comfort was of utmost importance, to the exclusion of everything else. Every day he saw the poor beggar named Lazarus at the gate of his home. The man was covered with sores and starving … willing to eat whatever fell from the rich man’s table. He was given nothing. The rich man ignored the image of poverty which was right in front of him.

Both men died. Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s side. God cared enough for him that he wasn't even buried. The rich man, however, was buried and then ended up in hell … the place of the dead.

In today’s culture, we often misunderstand the reference to the place of the dead … Hades, Sheol, Hell. We assume that all die and sometimes this wording doesn't make sense. But, the truth of it is, heaven is where those who are Christians go. They may die on earth, but in that split second between life and death while on earth, we are translated to eternal life.

Hades may be the home of the dead, but though we die on earth … as Christians we will never see it because we remain alive.

The most difficult part for those who have died, been buried and then gone on to hell is that they are fully aware of the fact that there is a heaven, where life is good and God continues to care for those who love him. The deep chasm between the two is unpassable.

In the afterlife, those who refused to offer mercy will not receive it. This life is when we make our choices on how we live in eternity and Jesus makes it very clear that caring for those who are in need is a primary indicator of how we will make that choice.

By the time Luke was writing this Gospel, the Resurrection had already occurred. There were still those who disbelieved, even though it had practically happened in front of them. The final verse of this pericope speaks to those people:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31).

Even if someone rises from the dead, they will not be convinced. The Law and the Prophets, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. None of this is enough to convince people.