Summary: Jesus paints a masterpiece portraying the dull tones of death.
Creating a Masterpiece:
The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Part 2
An Picture Painting of Death (v. 22-23a)
We re-visit the story of Lazarus and the rich man once again this week. Last week we saw Jesus paint a vivid portrait of two men who led very contrasting lives. This week we stand and continue our gaze into the masterpiece of words Jesus is painting, and as we have beheld the vivid colors of life, so now we see those colors fading into the dull tones of death. The dull tones draw our attention as Jesus tells the story:
Death is such an unpleasant subject. Death un-nerves us because we understand so little about it, except that it seems so final. Death is one of those subjects that we just would rather not talk about, and so we reserve our talks to those times when someone has died, and we are confronted with death’s reality. If you are uncomfortable hearing me talk about death to you, please consider how uncomfortable I am talking to you about it knowing you are uncomfortable. But Jesus was not afraid to talk about death, and if we need to discuss the subject, what better way to discuss it than to learn what the Master teaches about death, for he is the only one who has experienced death, and overcame it. What does the Master teach us about death in this masterpiece of words? Look to verse 22 and the first portion of verse 23. A short passage, yes, but very instructive for our purpose of discussing death.
Finally, the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried,  and his soul went to the place of the dead.
First, Jesus teaches that death is the great equalizer. That death is the great equalizer is the reality we all must face. Some wise person once said, “There are two things certain in life—death and taxes.” Another, I think wiser person said, “Yeah, but death doesn’t get worse every time the state legislature meets.” Dr. Billy Graham made the statement in Shreveport, Louisiana back in the late 1950’s, that no war, no tragedy, no famine, no natural disaster has ever increased the death rate of humanity. The death rate has always been one out of every one person dies.
There really are two points around which all of life is measured—birth and death. We can even say that birth is but the beginning of death. The moment we are born, the dying process begins. Joseph Bayley writing in, The Last Thing We Talk About, used these words to describe what we’ve all felt.
“This frustrates us, especially in a time of scientific breakthrough and exploding knowledge, that we should be able to break out of earth’s environment and yet be stopped cold by death’s unyielding mystery.
“We may postpone it, we may tame its violence, but death is still there waiting for us. Death always waits. The door of the hearse is never closed.
“Dairy farmer and sales executive live in death’s shadow, with Nobel prize winner and prostitute, mother, infant, teen, and old man. The hearse stands waiting for the surgeon who transplants a heart as well as the hopeful recipient, for the funeral director as well as the corpse he manipulates. Death spares none.”
Another saying we have become familiar with through the years is “He who dies with the most toys wins!” That statement, as evidenced in the words of Jesus in this passage, should read: “He who dies with the most toys…still dies!” For death is the great equalizer. Both Lazarus and the rich man met the same end.
The way Jesus weaves the dull tones of death into the painting of words is also instructive to us concerning the nature of death. Jesus says, “Finally, the beggar dies…” Death often comes in expected ways. We, like Jesus original hearers, totally expect this outcome as a part of the story. After all, Lazarus was poor, sick, and had little food. He ate scraps, for heaven’s sake! No one who is malnourished and sick can last for long. His position and condition both indicate his impending death. So the words said around the town might have been something like this—“I’ve been expecting it for some time now,” or “He is out of his misery now, he’s better off.” When the community heard of Lazarus’ death…wait, that assumes they would have heard! More likely, someone stumbled over him one day found his limp, lifeless body piled among the rags. The street cleaners were summoned, and his body packed out to the city garbage dump. The certainty of his end was expected.
At times, the expectation of death is welcomed. One less beggar to soil the streets. Now life can go on. On other occasions, a terrible disease has taken its toll on a once vital life, and death is a welcomed relief from the pain and struggle. Life goes on with some minor adjustments, but victims and caregivers are relieved, for suffering and hardship has ended. Yes, Jesus teaches us in this passage that death may come in expected ways.