The Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, #32

Luke 16:19-31, LB

19 “There was a certain rich man,” Jesus said, “who was splendidly clothed and lived each day in mirth and luxury. 20 One day Lazarus, a diseased beggar, was laid at his door. 21 As he lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. 22 Finally the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham in the place of the righteous dead.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went into hell.[b] There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham.

24 “‘Father Abraham,’ he shouted, ‘have some pity! Send Lazarus over here if only to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in these flames.’

25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us, and anyone wanting to come to you from here is stopped at its edge; and no one over there can cross to us.’

27 “Then the rich man said, ‘O Father Abraham, then please send him to my father’s home— 28 for I have five brothers—to warn them about this place of torment lest they come here when they die.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘The Scriptures have warned them again and again. Your brothers can read them any time they want to.’

30 “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.’

31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even though someone rises from the dead.’”[c]

Luke 16 is the “Fort Knox” of the Bible. The entire chapter deals with money, and golly, I could use more of that. The chapter deals with the disciple and his wallet, and how it relates to God’s kingdom. The passage that we read is a parable (a story) that seems long, but when Jesus shared it the listeners must’ve been alerted that what wealth a person had was a real issue.

Verse 19 is the crux of the story, ““who was splendidly clothed and lived each day in mirth and luxury.” Although the average Jewish person might be able to pull this off 2-3 times a year (during feast days). This particular man lived this way, every single day. He ate very well, and his clothing was very nice. The rich man was the cream of the crop, the upper 1% of society.

I can see him throwing bones over his shoulder!

Laying just outside his gate was a “diseased beggar” whose dream in life was just to grab one of two of those bones for his dinner. To push Jesus’ story even further, we see the dogs (apparently hungry too) coming to lick the sores of the beggar’s body. The whole scene, the stark contrast between opulence and poverty made a very definite impact. I can just imagine that Jesus’ listeners grasped this terrible scene quite easily.

Quite suddenly both died. The afterlife separated them both, and those explosive words “a place of the righteous dead” and “hell.”

Jesus used them, and it makes me uncomfortable. We see the rich man trying to negotiate the situation. From the text we find a deep chasm separating these two men. We discover in the passage a real existence of an afterlife. This is not an easy truth to accept, and I wish it was otherwise. The text uses the word “flames,” and it appears that these are real.

I believe with all my heart in God’s love for us. Perhaps it’s our own sin that separates us from eternal life.

The rich man, whose eternal destiny has been fixed, desperately wants his family to see the truth. Hell is real. He wants them to understand this before it’s too late. It’s Farther Abraham who replies (and he pays an integral part here.) Reaching thw rich man’s family is not possible, even someone resurrected from the dead wouldn’t matter.

  • It’s obvious that consciousness exists beyond the grave.
  • The way that a person lives his life has eternal consequences.
  • Wealth has an accountability to it.
  • God’s word is the standerd by how a person is judged–for good or bad.

The parable, if interpreted literally, must be a factor in the way we live. We’re aware of the danger that wealth matters. The idea of repentance, “they will turn from their sins” is critical. So what do we do with all of this?

“The rich man wasn’t lost because he was rich. He was lost because he did not listen to the law and the prophets. Many will also be lost for the same reason.”

David Guzik

Sobering, isn’t it?

Art by Eugène Burnan

The Parable of the Wedding Feast, #22

Luke 14:16-24, Message

16-17 Jesus followed up. “Yes. For there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the food’s on the table.’

18 “Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses. The first said, ‘I bought a piece of property and need to look it over. Send my regrets.’

19 “Another said, ‘I just bought five teams of oxen, and I really need to check them out. Send my regrets.’

20 “And yet another said, ‘I just got married and need to get home to my wife.’

21 “The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, ‘Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and down-and-out you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.’

23-24 “The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.’”

There is danger here, and it gives this parable an edge. It seems that there are two kinds of people in this story: the well to do, and the misfits. Each plays an integral part–something that must be understood. We may not like what we see.

But the edginess that cuts in this parable is the real frustration of a man who has invited the respectable as guests to a wedding feast. But there’s nothing but good excuses. On the outward, they seem appropriate. In this story; three men justify their absence with what seems like reasonable.

But there’s more here. To refuse a wedding invite—was never done. It was the ultimate snub.

The overseer is outraged (obviously) by the conduct of these men.

He directs his servants to do something quite radical. He knows that the feast must have guests; the quantity reflects the quality. He orders that the servants scour the city, the streets and the alleys. He must have guests.

He doesn’t really care whether they’re misfits or not.

He’ll take misfits and rascals, losers and the homeless—it doesn’t matter, he wants warm bodies. He’ll take anyone at this point. He has decided that there will be guests, no matter what.

It’s grace—pure and simple.

The parable is a direct indictment of the religious situation of his day. Since the Jewish leaders have decided to reject Jesus, to spurn the invite to join in—he’ll invite the outsiders, the Gentiles. That is the first and obvious interpretation.

The second would be the “open door” given to the undeserving. We’re the ones who get to eat bbq lamb, and drink the best wine. It’s grace—pure and simple. And guess what, Jesus has room for more. There is a place at his table for you!

“Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!” He also said to me, “These words of God are true.'”

Rev. 19:9

A Father Who is Running, #10c

The Father Runs

Luke 15:20-24, (part three of four)

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

“Cursed is the man that feeds the swine.” That’s the commentary on Jewish ritual cleanness. The prodigal knew this, but when you’re starving, tradition is thrown out the window. It’s really hard to be spiritually correct when your stomach is growling. In verse 17, we see that the prodigal suddenly realized his condition. Notice the change:

It took sometime for this to happen. But it was a true and a complete repentance. A total alteration of his mind and heart took place at that point. And I must assume, when he finally made the decision to return, he didn’t even say ‘good bye’ to the pigs.

It’s the Father’s reaction that fascinates me.

How does God see us? Is he angry or frustrated? And yes I suppose, there is ample reason for him to treat us with caution. Deep down, we know exactly how dark we are, and on a superficial level we realize our dirt doesn’t belong in heaven. And yet the father is in a party frame of mind. That isn’t rational.

And there were no tests given to evaluate the son’s sincerity. Did he really repent, or was it all for show? The text tell us that he was hungry, maybe he just wanted a hand-out? Did he meet the criteria needed for reinstatement? It amazes me, there wasn’t a 30 day waiting period to determine whether the prodigal had truly repented. No, the party started when the father hugged his son.

Do you see the “suddenness” of this part of the story?

At least for me, the pace quickens, and I imagine the whole household jumped up to get in the act. Verse 10 explains the joy that reverberates through heaven at this, Just so, I tell you, “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Joy seems to be the key thought to really “get” these verses. If we can’t see it saturate (like a sponge) we’ll never understand this parable. Its not hard if you can read it with excitement and anticipation. If you decide to do so, it’ll make a lot of sense, and it’ll be less mysterious.

This story is as much about the father as it’s about the son.

In it we see the character of the Father revealed. We see his joy, and excitement over his son’s return. Right from the start we see him running, (v. 20) moving to his son. I can see a weeping father giving his son a big bear hug and lots of kisses. He has hoped and dreamed about this moment.

Golly, there is so much to be said: there’s rings and shoes and roasted calves. But I think that the tremendous lesson is the joy of the father. It tells me much about what he’s like–and he’s not at all what I thought he’d be.

He’s the Father who is always moving, and he runs to meet us. He’s the One who is filled with joy at our return. And honestly, aren’t we always returning?

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