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Trinity 1 – Luke 16:19-31

by pastorjuhl ~ June 23rd, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is not the basis for the classic TV mini-series “Rich Man, Poor Man”. If this were true, then all who live in comfort of money and possessions go straight to hell, while all who struggle to find their next meal and live in squalor will rest in the bosom of Abraham. Jesus’ parable is much deeper than the seemingly simple meaning.

Strip away all the camouflage of sumptuous food, purple linens, sores, and dog spit, and you begin to see what Jesus means. Another help is to consider to whom Jesus speaks the parable. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, who love to boast about all the wrong things. Earlier in chapter 16, Jesus tells a parable about a shrewd householder who, after being removed as householder by his employer, takes care of his future by shrewdly using what he managed. There’s more to say about that parable eight weeks from now.

The key verse in understanding what Jesus means in this parable is right before He tells the parable. Jesus tells the Pharisees: You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

The rich man highly esteemed everything man esteems. He ate well, dressed well, and lived well. Jesus is specific about the rich man’s life, but not too specific. It’s the same thing with Lazarus, the poor beggar who was laid at the rich man’s gate every day. The only things that cared for Lazarus were the rich man’s dogs that licked his sores.

Remember, the parable is not about being rich or poor. The parable is about these words of our blessed Lord: For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The rich man esteemed many things highly, yet there was one vitally important thing he did not, or would not, esteem. The last words of the parable serve as a reality check for the Pharisees and for you: If [the rich man’s five brothers] do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.

You could be the richest person in seven counties. You could be, like Lou Gehrig, the luckiest man on the face of the earth. If you don’t hear Moses and the prophets, if you don’t hear Who and what they preach, then the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the many signs that came before and after the Resurrection do you no good. Silk shirts do not save. Dom Perignon is not your ticket to paradise. Good friends and pious desires about world peace mean nothing on Judgment Day. The bottom line is whether you heed the preaching of Moses and the prophets.

Moses preaches repentance. His face shined brighter than the sun when he came down from Mount Sinai. He was in the presence of the Lord. The Israelites had to cover his face with a veil. They couldn’t stand the holiness of the Lord. Neither can you. You go crouching into a corner when Moses lifts the veil and speaks the holy words of the Lord: Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

The prophets also preach repentance. The prophet Hosea says to the foolish children of God: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Remember: For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

If the rich man did not highly esteem the preaching of Moses and the prophets, then Lazarus did. It was neither his sores nor his poverty that brought him to the bosom of Abraham. It was listening to the Word of God that preaches both repentance and forgiveness that brought him to the bosom of Abraham. The prophet James writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning…. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

You can’t be a doer of the Word by not heeding the Word. The Word is a gift from God. It is unchanging. It preaches repentance, showing your sin before your face like a mirror reflects your appearance. The mirror of Moses and the prophets show you the need for a Savior from sin and death, a Savior found outside yourself. However, Moses and the prophets are not the Savior. They prepare the way for the Savior.

Lazarus believes his name. Perhaps that’s the reason why Jesus gives him the name Lazarus. Lazarus means “God is my help.” The preaching of repentance leads to that realization. The prophet Isaiah preaches that God is your help when he writes surely [Jesus] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. Saint John in today’s Epistle agrees with Isaiah: God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.

There is no better Good News in the world than the News that you can do nothing to save yourself. God arranged everything to save you from eternal torment in hell. It isn’t dog spit or easy living that prepares a place in heaven for you. It is the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you could reverse Christ’s saying in Luke chapter 16: For what is highly esteemed by God is an abomination in the sight of men. That’s why so many Christian churches give up on preaching the Law. The Law doesn’t fill pews and offering plates. Nevertheless, the Law must be preached in order to prepare you for the Gospel.

The world cannot stand the pure Light that shines in the darkness. The Light from Above shines out of Abraham’s bosom, making those who hear the sound that comes from the Light innocent and righteous children of the heavenly Father. Nothing else persuades sinners to repent and believe in Jesus for forgiveness of sins and eternal life more than the Spirit-inspired Word of God, the Word that fills the ears, mouth, and lives of all who hear, eat, drink, and rejoice in it.

Come boldly to the throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it! Blessed are those whose treasure is in the Word made flesh.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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