Summary: Rather than comparing ourselves to the rich man or Lazarus, congregation members are invited to see themselves through the five brothers of the rich man. Jesus’ parable reminds us we have all we need, God’s Word.
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus, who is the Christ
I want to start off today’s message with a little pop quiz for you. Now don’t worry this isn’t something that either myself or pastor will but I want to test your Biblical literacy. In other words…how well do you know the Bible. Question #1 can you name the 4 gospels? Well believe it or not but a Time Magazine survey found that only 50% of American Adults can correctly name those 4 Gospels.
Question #2 what is the first book of the Bible? Well even more striking that same study reported that less than half American Adults could correctly identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible.
Question #3: Can you name the 10 commandments? Can you name half of the 10 commandments? Unbelievably only 60% of people could even name half of God’s commandments.
Final Question, Sodom are and Gomorrah are…(a) two cities destroyed because their wickedness (b) a married couple from the Bible (c) a law firm. Believe it or not but when American high school students were asked to identify who or what Sodom and Gomorrah were….over half of high school students when asked by a Gallop pull believed Sodom and Gomorrah were married. Kind of scary. Our Biblical literacy certainly seems to be slipping. We see the Late Night shows regularly using people’s Biblical ignorance as a comedic shtick as they tape people fumbling to come up with answers on their Christian faith and scripture.
Well likely our parable from Jesus does not make you feel any more comfortable this morning. I don’t want today’s sermon to be all doom and gloom but if you’re like me as you listen to the parable this morning this parable can be terrifying.
I imagine this brings to mind something we don’t like to think much about…hell. Jesus lays before us a very striking scene. We read that Lazarus is taken to the very bosom of Abraham by God’s very own angels! And the rich man. Well he is in agony. He is suffering. The rich man is unable to get to Abraham and Lazarus because a great chasm separates the two places. Images of heaven and hell are absolutely impossible for us Christians to ignore as we hear this parable from Christ.
What is Jesus trying to tell us in this parable? Was Christ trying to tell us this is what happens immediately after death? Well maybe. But it’s important to remember that this is a parable. A parable is a story told by Jesus in order to teach us…hearers a deeper truth. A deeper meaning to life and of eternity consequences as this parable seems to indicate. A parable is meant to shatter conventional wisdom and teach truth that only Jesus can provide.
Let me assure you this parable would have shattered the common thought of Jesus’ day. Because the Jewish Rabbis and people at the time Jesus told this parable believed that God blesses those in this earthly life he has favored in this very life. The Rabbis would have believed that a person who is fat, rich, and happy in this life had found favor with God. But this parable, along with all the other parables Jesus tells, tips that understanding upside down.
It is Lazarus, not the rich man, who ultimately finds favor and God’s blessing. It is Lazarus, the one who suffered hunger, pain, humiliation in his earthly life that ultimately is lifted up by the Father. This was appallingly radical for all those gathered to hear this parable from Christ.
So what do we as Christians now do with this parable. We have heard before that riches do not indicate God’s blessing. We know that it is not one’s wealth in this life that leads to eternal life in heaven. But a question I imagine many of you are asking yourself right now is..can I relate with Lazurus. Can I relate to the poor one…covered in sores, just longing to eat the scraps off the table of the wealthy. Or do you find yourself relating more easily with the wealthy man. The man who doesn’t have the heart, time, or desire to help out even the one who lies dying at his very gate.
An interesting side note to Lazarus is that he is the only character in Jesus’ parables that is given a name. Even more interesting is what the name Lazarus means. Lazarus means “God helps”. When no one on earth, not the rich man, not those that walked by him at the gate, not even the dogs would help the poor man. It is God who helps Lazarus. It is God that gives Lazarus the help and lift that no one on earth could have possibly given.