Jesus is the Son of Man
Rich man & Lazarus
All right! Turn with me, if you will to Luke chapter 16. As we continue our series through Luke, I ask that if you do not have a Bible or you need a Bible, please see me after the service and we can work on getting one into your hands.
We have been following and reading Jesus’ teaching and preaching to the pharisees, to the disciples, to tax collectors and sinners, to really, anyone who was around and would listen.
And its interesting, that unlike what we want to see, Jesus’ preachers’ different ways to different people and groups. He preaches one way to those who think they are good enough, who look down on those who did not act, believe, look like or live like they did.
To them, Jesus spoke and preached harshly. He still preached grace to them, but he emphasized that it was undeserved, it was unmerited, it was unearned, and it was totally divorced from their righteousness.
But when Jesus preached to sinner, to the oppressed, to those beaten down, those who were lowly, to those he preached grace and repentance, but he did so with grace (no pun intended) and with gentleness. He told them that they did not need to be burdened down, they did not need to earn God’s favor, they did not need to be good enough to achieve salvation, they just need to believe and accept God’s grace, believing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. He preached not obedience to the law, but grace faith and repentance as the way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Part of what he Jesus was preaching and teaching, to both groups, because he was preaching the same truth, sometimes harshly, sometimes gently. But one of the common parts of his teaching was a complete and absolute adherence to, and belief in the inspiration to, the Word of God.
We see back in verse 17, which was part of what we looked at last week, Jesus said, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. Now, it was usually directed at the Pharisees specifically, but we see everyone on the receiving end of Jesus pointing out that all, everyone has misunderstood, misapplied, misconstrued and mistook the purpose, the application of the Law, the inerrancy of the law and therefore the Word of God.
So, we will pick here in our continuation of Luke’s Gospel, reading Luke chapter 16, verses 19 through 31. As usual, I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation.
Luke was inspired by the Holy Spirit as he recorded the words of Jesus as we read Luke 16:19-31:
There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.[f] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 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.’ 25 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. 26 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.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 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.’”
May God Bless the reading of His Word.
So, we start here with another story that we can easily glide right past. Another story that we make assumptions that we know what it is saying, and we move right past it. More often, this is a story that we read and place our already set assumptions and beliefs and we lay them on top of this story, making it say things it never was trying to say.
AS we start here, this story reads like an actual event. It’s told like a story that actually happened, but scholars have agreed since Bible times that this is a parable. And why that’s important is that it means that Jesus is making a point. Not every detail is 100% transferable. For example, this parable does not tell us that in real life, Heaven and Hell are within speaking distance of each other. It also doesn’t tell us that there is or can be any communication between Heaven and Hell. Neither of those are Jesus’ point and so we have to be careful what details we pull out of this.
Now, we remember that Jesus is still speaking to the Pharisees at this point. He was making his point directly to them. They assumed their position in heaven and they thought it was because of their goodness, their obedience, their worthiness, their lineage and their righteousness.
And so, Jesus tells them this parable. And he starts with extreme contrasts. WE remember that this section of teaching started with the Pharisees getting upset that the sinners and tax collectors were spending time with Jesus, upset that they thought they might have a chance to be blessed by God. As if they were on the same level as the Pharisees who earned their blessing from God.
And so, Jesus uses that extreme contrast in his parable. This time between the rich and the poor. WE know of course that Jesus does not say anything as simple as Rich is bad, poor is good. WE see that there are righteous rich and righteous poor. There are unrighteous rich and unrighteous poor.
But we know that there are tendencies, which we see here. Wealth is often, not always, but often accompanied with arrogance and self-righteousness. We see some of this from the rich man when we see that he is clothed in purple, which is usually reserved solely for royalty.
We also see the context in which Jesus is saying this. First, we just saw Jesus talking about stewardship and how important that is. This is a story that shows very poor stewardship on behalf of the rich man.
So, we are introduced to this rich man first. Then we see the poor man, a man named Lazarus. He was poor, destitute, sick, couldn’t move on his own, was carried and dropped at the gate of the rich man in hopes that he may get the scraps from the table of the rich man. He would be seen by the man every time he left his home and came home. It wouldn’t even be a sacrifice on his end. But the rich man didn’t even care enough to see Lazarus plight, let alone to do anything that might help.
Scripture is clear:
1 John 3:17: But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
James 2:15 & 16:
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that?
And lastly, James 4:17:
So, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
In the end, both men died. Lazarus died and received a pauper’s funeral and went to Heaven. The Rich man also died. His riches couldn’t keep death from getting him. He received a fancy burial, his money providing him with at least that.
What we see is that what was on earth was not how it was in heaven. The Rich man has a fancy funeral and then he goes to Hell. He trusted his riches, he hoarded them. He was unloving and unrighteous. And now, he was being tormented. He looked and he saw that poor, diseased man, who was so obviously not blessed by God. He saw that Lazarus was with Abraham in paradise.
Paul says that in the end, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every single one of us, once we die, we will stand before Jesus, and we will know and acknowledge the truth.
The rich man sees Lazarus, in Heaven, greeted and enjoying fellowship with the saints who went before him. To the Israelites, there was no one bigger than Abraham, he was the literal father of their faith.
Lazarus was poor, he was oppressed, he was sick, he was forgotten, he was alone, he was hungry. And now, he was hanging out with Abraham. All while the Rich man was being tormented in Hell.
SO, the rich man cries out to Abraham and he either starts by begging for mercy or by still trying to order people around. He asks for some water to help quench his torment. He does want mercy from the pain he was going through.
God does grant mercy, but his mercy is not infinite. He tells us who is going to receive mercy in the Sermon on the Mount. Those who mourn will be comforted, those who are poor in spirit will enter in the Kingdom of Heaven. And those who are merciful will receive mercy.
The Rich man refused to be merciful in this lifetime. And now was being denied mercy. Regarding this passage, Augustine observes:
Jesus kept quite about the rich man’s name and mentions the name of the poor man. The rich man’s name was thrown around, but God kept quiet about it. The other’s name was lost in silence, and God spoke it…You see, God who lives in Heaven kept quiet about the rich man’s name, because he did not find it written in heaven. He spoke the poor man’s name, because he found it written there, indeed he gave instructions for it to be written there.
Lazarus was in Heaven because he received mercy from God. He did not receive mercy because he was in heaven. The rich man was in Hell because he was denied mercy, he was not denied mercy because he was in hell.
Abraham tells the rich man that he has already received all his mercy on earth, and that Lazarus was now receiving all his mercy that was denied to him on earth. He also says that there is no crossover between heaven and hell. There is a chasm too great that none may crossover.
Once you are in one place, there is no chance to move to the other. There is no repentance after death. There is no appeal, no reversal of the judge’s decision. What’s done is done, once it is done.
This is why choosing faith, choosing repentance, choosing Jesus are so important to do here in this life. There is no such thing as too late in this life, but we don’t know when this life will be over.
Hebrews 9:27 it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
The Rich man realized that he was judged and that there was no hope for him. And then he has, what appears to be compassion for some brothers that he still has left alive. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus back from the grave to tell his brothers the truth and give them a chance to not be in hell when they die, but instead to be with Abraham in Heaven.
Abraham’s response in one that we need to remember and cling to. The Word of God is sufficient. He says that the brothers already have the truth in front of them. They have no excuse. They have the Law and the prophets; they have the writings. In our time, we would say they have the Bible. They have all they need in order to believe.
One of the applications that we need to recognize is that there is no such thing as so-called Heaven Tourism. Nobody comes back from Heaven. Many books are out there that claim to have done so but the Bible says no. First it says here that there is no point. Second, as we read a moment ago, Hebrews 9:27. And also, this world would be just about a literal hell to anyone that had experienced heaven and had to come back.
The rich man responds to Abraham, “nu-uh! My brothers will totally believe.” If only they had signs, wonders, miracles! Somebody risen from the dead! Then they would totally believe!
But we have scriptures that tell us the truth.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse.
We are spiritually blind, suppressing the truth until God opens our eyes. Romans 3 says that no one chases after God, no one pursues God, no one makes the first move to believe. Jesus says that he is the truth and the truth, that is He will set us free. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, Romans 10.
The point is that People reject what they don’t want to believe. We see it with all variety of subjects. Aliens, scandals of any sort, sports, guilt and innocence, every theme and subject of politics imaginable, whose lives matter, different opinions of the meanings of different passages of scripture, doctrinal and interpretational differences, God or no God, what must I do to be saved, the authority of scripture, heaven and hell.
All of it, we will reject the side and view of those subjects that we don’t want to believe, regardless of the evidence. God will change minds, and he can use discussions that we have to do so, but people will never be convinced, no matter how strong the evidence, no matter how strong the reason, we cannot convince anyone of changing their beliefs.
Dave Ramsey says, “Someone convinced against their will, is of the same opinion still.”
Abraham makes it clear that if they don’t believe all the evidence that scripture provides, neither will they believe any signs or wonders, it is not the lack of evidence that produces unbelief or a lack of faith, but a hard heart.
The solution is simple; read the Word of God, Believe the Word of God, apply the Word of God. To do one with out the others is null and void. James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Jesus lays it all out in one statement, summed up in John 5:24
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.
Lazarus believed despite his circumstances in this life. The rich man didn’t believe despite his circumstances in this life. Make sure you believe, in season and out, during the best of times, during the worst of times, in all times, God is on the throne and in control of it all.