Summary: What is the truth about Heaven, Hell and Faith? Join us as we look at the story of the rich man and Lazarus and the lessons Jesus is teaching us through their story. Ends with a communion service.
The Truth of the Matter - Luke 16:19-31 - October 28, 2012
Many, many years ago, a man once spoke to his friend saying, "There is one thing that mars all the pleasures of my life." "And what is that one thing?" asked the friend. The first man answered, "I am afraid the Bible is true. If I could know for certain that death is an eternal sleep, I should be happy: my joy would be complete! I would not fear. But here is the thorn that stings me. This is the sword that pierces my very soul, -- if the Bible is true, I am lost forever."
The last couple of weeks we have been speaking a bit about truth. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) The way of truth is the way of God. Jesus is the truth and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Truth is what God looks for in His people - in you and me. And it is this truth – God’s truth - that sanctifies us, that helps us grow in our faith and that guides us into God’s presence. It’s the truth that sets us free! But this man feared the truth of the Bible saying, “If the Bible is true I am lost forever.” He heard the word of God’s condemnation in the pages of Scripture, but he failed to hear the words of hope and love and mercy and grace. Still, in his words we find a grain of truth for there are some that will be lost forever. Not that God desires that it be so, but because they reject the very truth that would set them free.
Would you open your Bibles with me this morning to the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Luke 16, beginning in verse 19. Jesus is speaking to the people and this is what He tells them …
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.” (Luke 16:19–21, NIV84)
Purple cloth and fine linen were a symbol of great wealth in Jesus’ day. The rich man in this story was very well off. Nothing he desired was beyond his reach or his ability to buy. His house was significant enough that it had its own gate to keep out those he would have deemed to be riff-raff - people like this fellow Lazarus who lays at his gate. If you have seen some of the gated communities in the larger cities - places where huge wrought iron gates block the road up to the houses – houses that many would term mansions - you will have an idea of what Jesus is describing in this story. This man is well off - the Donald Trump or Bill Gates of his day perhaps. The point is this - he lacked nothing that money could buy and he lived the good life - the life that many people of our day dream of living.
In stark contrast to him is this beggar named Lazarus who is laid at his gate. Now don’t confuse this Lazarus with the one that we recently read about whom Jesus raised from the dead. Different men. This story that Jesus tells is the only one recorded in Scripture where He actually gives one of the people in it a name. And the name He gives to this character is “Lazarus” - a name meaning “God is my helper.” And that’s hard for us to imagine. It’s kind of an odd name for this man – ironic even. He is apparently crippled because he has to be laid at the rich man’s gate in the hopes that he would be able to beg and receive enough handouts to survive another day. His health is obviously poor - he’s covered in festering sores. The dogs that lick his wounds are not pet dogs but wild dogs which he can not fend off. He longs to eat the food that falls from the rich man’s table. A greater contrast between two men can not be found. One has everything - the other has nothing – except a name which proclaims, “God is my helper.” When we think of the Lazarus’ of our world we think of the homeless, we think of those living in third world countries. But to those who are the living Lazarus’ of our day we, you and I, who have so much, are often the rich man. Let’s keep reading, verse 22 ...