Summary: The rich man and Lazarus had quite different lives and quite different deaths. What does this teach us about where to look for happiness?
Text: Luke 16:19-31
Theme: Angels Carried Him to Abraham's Side
A. Beware the alternative
B. Find comfort in the promise
Season: Pentecost 19c
Date: October 3, 2010
Web page: http://hancocklutheran.org/sermons/Angels-Carried-Him-to-Abraham_s-Side-Luke16_19-31.html
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit comforts us in Jesus is Luke 16.
"Now there was a rich man. He would dress in purple and fine linen, making merry day after day in the most splendid ways. A beggar named Lazarus was laid out at his gate, covered with sores and wanting to be fed from the droppings of the rich man's table. In fact, even the dogs kept coming and licking his sores.
"It happened that the beggar died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's lap. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell he lifted up his eyes, tortured, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus on his lap. He called out, "Father, Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger into water and cool my tongue. For I suffer in these flames.
"Abraham said, "Child, remember that you received your good things in your life, but Lazarus similarly bad things. Now here he is comforted, but you suffer pain. And in all these things a great chasm is fixed between you and us, so that those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot, nor may they cross from there to us."
"He said, "I ask you, then, father, to send him to my father's house. For I have five brothers, so that he may testify to them in order that they too may not come into this place of torture."
"Abraham said, "They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them."
"But he said, "No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead would come to them, they will repent."
"He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded, even if someone rises from the dead." " (Luke 16:19-31)
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
"He was loved and admired by his community. A model of success and a good family man. He cared deeply for his brothers who are with us here today. He loved entertaining people, and friends who visited never left disappointed. What a tragic lose as we mourn his passing, here today."
I could imagine words like that spoken as a eulogy if the rich man in Jesus' parable had lived today. What an elaborate funeral it would be! The finest casket and vault; the largest headstone, so many flowers; so many wanting to pay tribute. But what a tragic funeral! For we do not have those words of comfort that angels carried him to Abraham's side.
But Lazarus, whose dead body may simply have been thrown into an unmarked, common grave with few if any mourners -- what a wonderful funeral that was! For we are told: "[T]he angels carried him to Abraham's side" (Luke 16:22 NIV). Which will your funeral be?
A. Beware the alternative
1. What's wrong with focusing on earthly things for happiness?
That eulogy I started with, may not strike you as fitting the rich man well. It makes him sound too good. But sometimes to ease our own conscience, we like painting others as extra bad. That way we feel good by comparison. So maybe we like picturing this rich man as kicking Lazarus when he tries to beg for food or making him the butt of his jokes. Maybe we justifies ourselves by thinking, "Well, I'm not rich like he was, so I don't have to care about helping the poor." But those lines of thought harden our hearts to Jesus' message.
Notice, how even in hell the rich man respectfully addresses Abraham, calling him father. No doubt, during this life he had learned his religion and carried out his religious obligations. He did his duty. And even though we're not told whether Lazarus was fed, why would they keep bringing him to the rich man's house if he didn't get something? I'm not saying that the rich man cared about him. Maybe only the servants dumped the scraps by him. At any rate, the rich man seems to have fulfilled his social obligation. He did his duty.
So why then did he end up in hell? Let's see how the parable answers that. Jesus' description shows that the rich man focused on the earthly. How much could he get out of life? How much could he enjoy himself? "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen" (Luke 16:19 NIV), the designer clothes of those days. He knew what was fashionable. And he "lived in luxury every day" (Luke 16:19 NIV). He knew how to enjoy himself.