Summary: how Lazarus looked like a loser when the Rich Man lost it all in hell
October 14, 2001 Luke 16:19-31
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So 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.’ 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. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 ”‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
In the 1980’s the Boston Red Sox were poised and ready to win the World Series. Mookie Wilson stepped up to the plate and hit a dribbler down the right field line. It was a routine play that any professional would make 99 times out of 100. As fate would have it, Billy Buckner did not make the play. As he put his glove down to make the easy out, the ball went right beneath his glove - right between his legs - giving the opposition a second chance. The Red Sox went on to lose that game and the series. Bill Buckner had an excellent career. I was a big fan of his. I think I even have his rookie card. Unfortunately, everyone remembers Bill Buckner for the error he made. He is constantly remembered as a “loser,” even though he was actually a gifted athlete with a good career, except for one mistake.
In today’s seeming parable, Jesus gets us to think about this question - who’s the true winner and loser in life - as we look at the life of the rich man and Lazarus. So we’ll ask the question -
Who’s the Loser Now?
I. On earth it appeared to be Lazarus
Since our church is located right off of the interstate, we tend to get a lot of people stopping in and asking for money or help. We also get a lot of phone calls from people asking for help. It’s amazing some of the stories that people come up with - “someone stole my car. I lost my job. My father died. I’m on my way to Colorado - and someone I got a ride with took my clothes.” As I listen to these stories, I can’t help but be skeptical as to whether I am being told the truth or not. I wonder to myself whether a lot of their problems are not due to drug and alcohol problems or just plain laziness. You want to feel sorry and help people in genuine distress, but you can’t help but wonder if these are problems they have brought on themselves. Most people would seem to judge them to just be “losers” after taking one look at their appearance.
What about Lazarus? Was he a winner or loser? According to his earthly appearance, I think most people would have pegged him to be a loser. How did Jesus portray him? 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. Lazarus was a “beggar.” He had to ask people for money or just some spare food. The Greek says that Lazarus literally “had been thrown” at the gate of the rich man. Perhaps he couldn’t walk - so they “threw” him there. What is worse was that Lazarus had sores all over him - which may have been ulcers or some skin disease. Not only was Lazarus possible crippled, but he was also probably not a very pretty looking man. Out of no fault of his own, he couldn’t work and he was difficult to even be loved. So he was left to begging for money at the gate of the rich man. The only friends he had were a bunch of stray street dogs who liked to lick the puss out of his sores. When he died, Lazarus probably had no proper burial. He probably had no mourners. In the eyes of the world, Lazarus was just a waste of space, a loser.