Summary: What is the great gulf that separates Lazarus from the Rich man?
Lazarus and the Rich Man
Have a little ditty for your today
What bliss will fill the ransomed souls,
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls,
In quenchless flames of hell.
• This crisp little ditty set Christian’s feet tapping during America ‘s “Great Awakening”
• Author of which was no less than the famous hymn composer, Isaac Newton
• But Isaac Newton little ditty paled into insignificance when compared to the glowing rhetoric of the greatest of New England Puritan preachers Jonathan Edwards in his classic sermon entitled, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”
• This has been this traditional view of hell down through the ages and has been used very effectively to “scare” people into committing their lives Jesus Christ
Today we will be looking at a parable which seems at first glance to support this concept of Hell, a place burning with fire and brimstone, the Devil, complete with tail and pitchfork, and demons tormenting sinners day and night forever
• The story is found in Luke 16 and is known as Lazarus and the Rich man
• 19"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
• Two extremes of society, rich and poor
• One had the best his society had to offer, while the other was so poor and feeble he was licked by dogs
• Double insult, not only the indignity of dogs licking him but it also made him unclean
Before we go any further, let’s look at the background to the story
• V.14 gives us the context and the background to the Parable. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees about their love of money
• Jesus had just told them the Parable of the Unjust Steward
• 14The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.
• One of the concepts the Jews had and is still preached in many Western Churches today is the belief that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing on your life – they had their own health and wealth gospel going way back then
• But notice what Jesus says and doesn’t say, He totally sidestepped the issue of wealth and jumped straight to the true spiritual issue – the subject of justification
• What is detestable to God is when someone tries to justify themselves in the eyes of God
• So the context of the parable is not so much physical wealth, but spiritual wealth
• In fact as this parable shows, physical wealth can be a major obstacle to spiritual wealth
• Recognising how spiritually bankrupt one is, is the key to salvation, and wealth has a way of clouding ones thinking in this area
• So the real issue here is how one is truly justified!
• 22"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.
• No elaborate funeral, picked up, thrown on a cart and most likely thrown into the Valley of Gehenna outside Jerusalem
• The rich man also died and was buried.
• In contrast, the rich man would have had an elaborate funeral, all sorts of nice things would have been said about him, and he would have been laid to rest in a tomb close to the one owned by Joseph of Arimathaea
• So in the Jewish scheme of Heaven and Hell, the rich man was on his way to heaven
• But to his shock, wakes up in this terrible nightmare of fiery torment
• 23In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
• A complete role reversal, the one who should have been in Heaven is in hell and the one who should have been in hell is in heaven
• 24So he called to him, ’Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
• Again the roles are reversed, The rich man is now the beggar
• But notice he still regards Lazarus as someone to wait on his every need
• Another point that needs to be made is that the rich man recognises Abraham, he was a religious man
• 25"But Abraham replied, ’Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.