THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our previous two lessons, we have looked at several parables. Last time we looked at the parable of the unjust steward and a few other things Jesus spoke about such as not making your riches your master. Since we have had so many parables in a row, you might think our next story is a parable and some believe that it is. Of course, I am talking about the rich man and Lazarus. However, I do not believe this is a parable simply because it does not fit with what parable is, but I will talk more about that after we examined the text. Before I do, I want you to keep the following in mind about parables.
1. Bromling says that ďparables are often defined as earthly stories with heavenly meanings. (Brad T. Bromling, ďThe Definition, Nature, and Purpose of the Parables,Ē)
2. ďBernard Ramm points out that there are four elements to a parable. First, there is an earthly event, thing, or custom. This would be something very familiar to the audience. It might deal with business, farming, family, social events, etc. This earthly part of the parable must be rooted in reality. Events must actually happen or be capable of actually happening. Second, there is a spiritual lesson which the parable intends to teach. Third, the earthly element has an analogical relationship to the spiritual element. Fourth, because the parable has two levels of meaning, there is need of interpretation. (Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1970, pp. 278-279)
In other words, when Jesus names what He is teaching is a parable, you will always find Him using things the first century Christians could see and know. He would then use what understood to help them understand those things they cannot see or do not understand about spiritual things. I think after we go through the story of the rich man and Lazarus that you will easily see that it does not fit the definition of a parable. Many times those who want to make into a parable have a hidden agenda, but what they do not realize, that even if you tried to make it into a parable, it basically teaches the same message, and the events described have to be real. First, I will just read the parable through and then I will break down.
Luke 16:9 " There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.† 20 "But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,† 21 "desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.† 22 "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.† 23 "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.† 24 "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'† 25 "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.† 26 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'† 27 "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house,† 28 'for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'† 29 "Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'† 30 "And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'† 31 "But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "
This is a great story that teaches us a lot. So, letís begin by going back over it bit by bit.
Luke 16:9 Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day:
Here we have a contrast between a rich man and a poor man. This rich man was very wealthy, which is shown by the clothes that he had. To be clothed in purple and fine linen was only for the rich. In fact, notice what A.T. Robertson says about these items:
Purple (porphuran). This purple dye was obtained from the purple fish, a species of mussel or murex (1Macc. 4:23). It was very costly and was used for the upper garment by the wealthy and princes (royal purple). They had three shades of purple (deep violet, deep scarlet or crimson, deep blue). See also Mr 15:17,20; Re 18:12.
Fine linen (busson). Byssus or Egyptian flax (India and Achaia also). It is a yellowed flax from which fine linen was made for undergarments. It was used for wrapping mummies. "Some of the Egyptian linen was so fine that it was called woven air" (Vincent).
This rich man was living life to the fullest every day. He did not have a care in the world.
20 and a certain beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table; yea, even the dogs come and licked his sores.
Though the rich man is not named, this poor man is. Lazarus was a common name and this was not the brother of Mary and Martha. You will notice that he was laid at the rich manís gate. This implies that he could not get around on his own. We do not know what kind of sickness he had or in what specific way he was disabled, but we do know that he had sores because the dogs came and licked them. Whoever laid Lazarus there, was apparently hoping that the rich man would be gracious enough to have mercy on him. We can see that Lazarus was so hungry that he would be happy to just have the crumbs from this rich manís table. Our text does not specially state that he received anything from the rich man.
One thing we know for sure is that the rich man was more concerned about himself than one lone beggar at his gate. Can you image being as helpless as this beggar? I mean you cannot get around, you have open sores on your body and you are receiving more compassion from these dogs who are licking your sores. What a miserable life. Nobody likes thinking about being a such a condition, but it happens sometimes. Even though Lazarus was poor and was having a really bad time, we are about to see that he was a faithful man of God.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham's bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried.
Whether you are rich, poor, a Christian or a nonChristian death comes to us all. When you die, you cannot take any of your riches with you no matter how hard you try.† As Paul said:
1 Timothy 6:6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain.† 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
Ecclesiastes 5:15 As he came from his mother's womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labor Which he may carry away in his hand.
While nothing will change the fact that we will all die unless Jesus comes back while we are still alive, we can make a difference to what happens to us after we die. For example, it is obvious that Lazarus was a faithful Jew who had not given up on God despite his condition. As we read, when he died, the angels carried him away to Abrahamís bosom. Of course, they did not carry away his physical body, but his spirit. All we are told about the rich is that he was buried. Next, we read:
23 And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted and thou art in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us.
So while living on the earth the rich man had it good and the poor man had it bad. But we learn from this story that is much more to life than just living it up here on earth. Like Lazarus, the rich finds himself in Hades, but he is in a different area where he is being tormented. In fact, he describes it as a place where there is fire, and it is making him full of agony.
I donít know of any worse pain than that of being burned or any worse torment than being surrounded by unending fire. Now we to keep in mind that God can burn something without destroying it. For example, when the Angel of the Lord spoke to Moses out of the burning bush one of things that Moses observed in Exodus 2:2 was that the bush was full of flames yet the bush was not consumed or burned up. Then you add the fact that a personís soul never dies shows us how a person can continually be tormented forever.
We also learn from our text that in this waiting place, we are conscious. The rich man was able to see Abraham and Lazarus. He was able to speak and cry out to Abraham. So, when we die and our souls go to one of these two places, we can see that our senses will work just fine and we will be fully aware of what is going on around us. For example, the rich man was able to experience the torment of the fire, and he even desired to have his tongue cooled by a drop of water from Lazarus. Please keep in mind we are talking about spiritual bodies here and not physical ones.
We also learn that Lazarus was able to experience what true comfort felt like after the hard life he lived while on the earth. Here we see a role reversal because now the rich man is begging for just a drop of water just like Lazarus had begged for the crumbs from the rich manís table. The difference is that Lazarus cannot give the rich man anything because there is a great gulf that separates them. This proves that there is no way to change your fate after you die. So, teachings about purgatory are false.
We also learn from Abraham that the rich man is going to have to think about how he lived his life for the rest of eternity. Can you even begin to imagine how it would make you feel if you realized that you could of done things differently while you lived on the earth that would have kept you from being in that awful place. Those who have made poor choices are all going to have plenty of time to think about those mistakes they have made.
27 "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house,† 28 'for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'† 29 "Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'† 30 "And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'† 31 "But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "
Since there was no hope for him, he thought he might be able to help out his brother because he knows they will suffer the same fate as him if they do not change their ways. While it was great that he was thinking about more than himself it was too late. Abraham lets him know that his brothers have the same opportunity he had, which was listening to Moses and the prophets. That is all that was needed. Besides, his brothers would not be convinced by Lazarus coming to them. I could just imagine Lazarus knocking on their door telling them that he had died, but came back to life and had a message from his brother. They would probably laugh in his face or try to kill him for speaking about their brother whom they probably thought died a righteous man because he was just like them. Anyways, this was not going to happen.
This story of the rich man shows that idea that we simply soul sleep when we die is false. We will be aware of surrounding and will be able to feel things like agony or comfort depending on what part of† Hades we are in. If you are interested in learning more about this place called Hades, I would suggest you go to our website and read my sermon on the Reality of Hell.
Letís consider some of the things we learn from this story.
1. Our material possession and daily comfort can be deceiving and cause us to think that we are blessed and right with God when we are not.
2. We can become so concerned about ourselves, that we neglect those who need our help, which will not be good for our eternity as Jesus points in the last part Matthew 25.
3. Just because you have done well to be prepared for the future on this earth, it does not mean that you have done well to prepare for your future in eternity.
4. Just because we have not done well here on earth, does not mean that we have done well in preparing ourselves for heaven.
5. Death comes to us all, rich and poor.
6. When we die, our spirit will be taken to either Abrahamís bosom also called Paradise, or we will end up where the rich man is in the place of torment also called tartartos. Once we are there, there is no leaving until the final judgment day. Those like the rich man will find their final home in hell for eternity and those like Lazarus will be in heaven for eternity.
7. Finally, we learn that Godís Word is sufficient for us and it tells us everything we need to know to be right with God and to make sure that heaven will be our home.
Now that we have examined this story closely and gleaned many great things from it, I want to give you several reasons this is not a parable but was an actual event that took place that Jesus knew about.
1. If this is a parable, it is the only one that names a person, which is Lazarus.
2. As noted earlier, a parable was an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. However, Jesus describes Hades, which no one would have a clear understanding of because it is something beyond that of the physical. So, Hades does not in any way fit the criteria of a parable. However, Jesus knows about Hades and He is giving a real glimpse into this place through this actual event He tells us about.
3. What exactly would Hades represent other than Hades itself? If it were a parable, it would represent something else.
These are the reasons I do not think it is a parable. Now, letís move on to Chapter 17
Luke 17:1 Then He said to the disciples, "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!† 2 "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
Jesus is warning us and His disciples about how easy it is for us to stumble when offenses come. Jesus has talked about this before in greater detail about how some can cause the young of faith to fall away. Of course, Jesus also says it would be better for a person to have milestone put on their neck and drowned than to have to face the consequences of causing a faithful child of God to stumble. This should stand as a strong warning against false teachers, and it also teaches us to be careful so that we are not the ones causing someone to stumble.
Luke 17:3 "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.† 4 "And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him."
Not only are we to watch out for one another we are to take heed to ourselves. We have to be an example to others daily, so we must watch our attitudes and our actions. We also learn that our own brethren can and will sin against us. We all have our weak moments and we sin. Jesus tells us clearly that if a brother or a sister sins against us, we are to rebuke them.
While this can be difficult to do, this something that we should do. In fact, I would say that we do each other a disservice when we simply ignore sin. The whole purpose of this rebuke is not to †scream at them or belittle them, but to get them to think about what they did so they might repent. Jesus goes on to tell us that even if they sin against you 7 times in a day and return 7 times saying they repent that we must forgive them. Please notice it did not say just forgive them if they sin, but if they repent. God does not require us to do what He does not do. He requires us to repent as well. If we just forgave our brother or our sister, then there would be no need for the rebuke.
Luke 17:5 And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
This verse shows the apostlesí humanity. Even though they have been following Jesus around and seeing His great faith and all the awesome miracles He did, they still lacked the faith they needed to be so forgiving. I also find it interesting that Jesus never spoke of His disciples as having a great faith. However, He did mention their lack of faith on may occasions such as in Mt. 14:31; 17; 14-23; Mk. 4:40 and John20:27. John 20:27. ††
Luke 17:6 †So the Lord said, "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
Jesus† is not saying that they didnít have any faith, but if they would just have the faith of a mustard seed, which was a very small seed, they could accomplish great things for the lord. Next, Jesus speaks another parable.
Luke 17:7 "And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'?† 8 "But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'?† 9 "Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.† 10 "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' "
This short parable is rich in content. Jesus wants his disciples to imagine themselves as a master having a servant. This master represents God and the servant represents those who serve the Lord. Every Christian is represented by this servant.
There are only 2 kinds of servants today servants of righteousness and servants of sin as can be seen in Romans 6:16-18. It is the servants obligation to first care for the master, then he may take care of his own personal needs. This teaches that we are obligated to serve God first in our lives. This is exactly what is meant by Matthew 6:33 when Jesus said seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.
Unlike our story about the rich man and Lazarus, this story fits the criteria of parable. Jesusí disciples certainly could understand the master slave relationship. They knew that a servant would do all his duties for his master first. He would work in the field and then come home and cook, clean or whatever else needed to be done. After his master was taken care of, then he could take time to eat and to care for his own needs.
Jesus asked the question Does the master thank the servant for doing what he was commanded? Jesus answers His own question and says, I think not.† Jesus wants them to understand that they and we have a duty to do as servants of the Lord, and the Master is not going to thank us for what our duty is to do.
Since we are servants of God, we are supposed to say that we are unprofitable servants who have simply done what was our duty to do. We are unprofitable in the sense that we cannot earn or merit our salvation, yet God demands obedience and service from his servants. Hebrews 5:9 tells us that salvation only comes to those who obey God. This is not a temporary service, but a lifetime of service.
How many times have you seen people get busy in the church teaching classes and getting involved for several years and then they stop and do nothing except warm up a pew? How many times have you seen Christians get involved in a good work for a little while, but then they start making excuses why they cannot help any more and how there are others who should do the work instead?
Could you imagine how slow the church would have grown in the first century, if they had this kind of attitude that once we have done so much, they could rest and do no more. Just imagine Paul after he finished his 1st missionary journey retiring from His Christian duty telling himself something like, ďI have already traveled many miles, and I was almost killed, I donít think I can do any more, so I think I will just hang out here in Antioch.Ē Is that the message that Bible teaches?
Absolutely not! As Christians, we are not supposed to look back, we are to keep our focus on moving forward Lk 9:62 †We are patter of good works Titus 2:7. We are to be zealous for good works Titus 2:14. We are to maintain good works Titus 3:8,14. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works Ephesians 2:10. Faith without words is dead James 2:20.
Donít ever think that you can retire from Christianity because you think you have done enough. We all need to realize that we should serve God with our talents and our abilities until it either becomes physically impossible or we die. As John wrote:
Revelation 14:13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."
We can get plenty of rest after we are dead. Those who keep growing and serving God will get to hear these wonderful words: Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. Mat 25:23.
I hope this lesson has shown just how important it is that we be faithful servants of God because if we allow ourselves to get distracted and have the wrong attitude like the rich man, then we are going to find ourselves right next to him when we die. My hope is that no matter what this life throws your way that you will always do your best to serve God and trust in Him so that heaven will be your home.