Summary: Like an unwelcome intruder, death has made a rude entrance into many of our lives. When someone close to us dies, we can’t help but wonder what will happen to us when we stop breathing. Jesus told a story one day to help illustrate the suddenness of dea
What Happens When I Die?
Rev. Brian Bill
A little girl was standing outside her Sunday School classroom when the pastor noticed she was holding a big storybook entitled, “Jonah and the Whale.” The pastor wanted to have some fun with her so he asked her, “Do you really believe that Jonah was swallowed by a whale?” The little girl frowned and declared, “Of course I do!” The pastor pushed her a bit and said, “You really believe that a man can be swallowed by a big whale, stay inside for three days and then come out and still be alive?” The little girl said, “Absolutely. The story is in the Bible and we studied it in Sunday School today.”
Then the pastor asked, “Can you prove to me that the story is true?” She thought for a moment and then said, “Well, when I get to Heaven, I’ll ask Jonah.” The pastor was on a roll and asked, “Well, what if Jonah’s not in Heaven?” She then put her hands on her little hips and sternly declared, “Then you can ask him!”
This morning we’re addressing the final question in our “Glad You Asked” series: “What Happens When You Die?” Jesus addressed this question one day in Luke 16:19-31. In the first part of this chapter He established the fact that you and I are managers of all that He has given us. We are responsible to manage our time, our talents and our treasures for kingdom purposes.
Jesus then pulls back the curtain to help us catch a glimpse of life on the other side of death. This story is unique to the Gospel of Luke and is the only one to name any of its characters. Some commentators believe that this is not a true parable but rather a specific story much like the account of the Good Samaritan. The story is divided into three parts. I invite you to follow along in your copy of Scripture as I retell it.
Act I: A Contrast in Life (16:19-21)
In Act I, we’re introduced to a rich man. This guy is extremely wealthy. He lives in a home with a gate to keep others away from him. Jesus tells us that his clothes were made out of purple, which was normally reserved for royalty. The process to get the purple dye from shellfish was very expensive but this man didn’t care how much it cost. He wanted the very best.
In addition to his beautiful robe he had his T-shirts and underwear made from the finest linen available. He was not a “Fruit of the Loom” kind of guy! This linen was produced from the flax that grew on the banks of the Nile River. It was white, very soft, and kept him cool in the warm weather. Because it was so expensive, it was only worn by those who were really rich. Often it was just kings and queens who could afford it.
This guy had it all and lived in dazzling splendor every day. While some people are quiet about their wealth, this man strutted around like a peacock. While some are able to splurge once in awhile, he lived in opulence every day. He wanted everyone to know how rich he was. He was in love with himself. He had servants galore, bountiful food, and a gorgeous home.
As this rich guy left in his chariot to dine in the finest restaurants he drove right past a beggar named Lazarus who was sitting by his front gate each day. Lazarus was not able to walk so someone had to put him by the gate every morning. In contrast to the rich man, Lazarus was in need of everything. He had no home, his health was fading, he was an outcast, and he had no food. As he observed the rich man he longed to have the leftovers that were thrown away after each meal, or even just the crumbs that fell from the table.
His only companions were the stray dogs, who were themselves outcasts, who came and licked the oozing sores that covered his body. While the rich man ignored his plight, the dogs gave him some comfort as they cleaned the puss away from his festering blisters. While the rich man was clothed in purple, the poor man was covered with oozing ulcers.
He probably knew that this contact with these dogs made him disqualified from any religious service that he might want to attend.
Act II: A Contrast in Death (16:22)
While there was an obvious contrast in how the rich man and the poor man lived their lives, there was also a difference in their deaths. When Lazarus died his misery finally ended, even though he didn’t receive a proper burial or even a memorial service.